Thursday, 10 December 2009

Otra Cosa Network - New Name, New Faces

Otra Cosa Volunteer Agency is getting a new name, Otra Cosa Network, and is welcoming some new faces to our management team. The new shorter name reflects our main purpose of connecting up willing and capable volunteers with worthwhile projects seeking appropriate volunteers and developing a network for the future. We also have a new e-mail address,, although the old one will continue to function.

The new team includes Najin Kim who has joined us from South Korea as our new Operations Manager and Miguel Fernandez from here in Huanchaco who has started as Assistant Operations Manager. Between them they will be running the local operations here in Peru from this December when Peter and Juany leave to go back to England to live, via a six month round the world tour with their three boys. Any ex-volunteers interested in meeting up with Peter & Juany during their world tour or with any good local contact for recruiting volunteers (e.g. your University) just send us an e-mail at the usual address. As well as Asia we'll be visiting Australia (including Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide), New Zeland, Canada (Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal) and the USA (California, Seattle, Colorado, Chicago, Boston, New York and Washington DC)

Peter and Juany will still devote themselves part-time to Otra Cosa Network from back in England, but more to developing the organization, including contacts in the UK, Europe and elsewhere and providing general guidance to Najin and Miguel, leaving them to run the day to day operations and develop opportunities here in Peru.

Otra Cosa Network has recently been approved as a Peruvian registered NGO with great help from Laura Gutierrez, a final year law student from UPN University in Trujillo. We have also applied for UK Registered Charity status. This is quite a paperwork process but we’re working through it with help from Peter Reynolds, an Irish ex-volunteer and trainee solicitor in London. We hope to be officially registered on both sides of the world by year end. Peter and Laura have agreed to work with us as Trustees (’Asociados’). Maribel Cancino from Santo Toribio School for Special Needs Children, one of our most popular and worthwhile projects, has agreed to join us as a Trustee and Emma Platt, an ex-volunteer currently studying for her Master's in London, has also agreed to be a trustee.

So from Peter and Juany running something small and informal, Otra Cosa Network is quickly growing into something bigger and more official with more of a management team to look after things. As Peter says, “It’s an exciting new phase for us. We’re delighted to have the new team in place. As we’ve grown and continue growing we want to have a more professional team whilst retaining the friendly, personal approach and I’m sure we’re now well placed to do this”.

Juany sees it a bit more personally, saying “The Otra Cosa Volunteer Agency was our unplanned baby but now it is growing up and we’re leaving it safe in someone else’s hands, but we’ll still be there from miles away keeping an eye on things and helping and no doubt interfering from time to time.”

Either way, things seem to be in place for an interesting new stage of growth and development for Otra Cosa Network.

Las Lomas Library Project - Imara Gray

My first day at the library project at Las Lomas School was a first day like no other. Timo (the volunteer who works alongside me) and I arrived to find that we were locked out of the school compound.

Moreover, it turned out that no one inside the school had the key to let us in! I began to wonder whether we were actually going to be welcome at our project or not.

After climbing over the school gate by step-ladder, however, I quickly knew the answer to this question. Immediately, a swarm of small children ran across the yard and jumped on us with such enthusiasm they almost knocked us over! With children hanging from every limb we greeted the smiling headmistress and teachers, and made our way over to the classroom to teach our first lesson.

We have now been teaching at Las Lomas for two weeks. Some things have changed very little. The children still have as much energy and enthusiasm as on the first day, which is fantastic to see. A lot of our work has been about trying to channel this energy into learning English, which we have achieved using a variety of techniques including lots of interactive tasks, games of Bingo (which the children love), and a bit of constructive bribery! It is a process we still struggle to keep on top of every day, but I hope that we are getting a bit better at it.

Some things have changed a little more. Recently, Timo and I gave two of our classes exams (yes, we are that evil!). Some of the children did very well, some of them a little less so, but I can honestly say that when marking the exams, I was proud of every one of them for what they have learned so far. I hope that Timo and I will be able to help the children further expand on their progress. They are a great group of kids!