Friday, 11 November 2011

News from the Project Coordinator: Skate Ramp Construction Day

My name is Emily Skinner and I am the project coordinator for Otra Cosa Network. I have been working with the team for over three months and it has been an exciting ride.  I would like to share my experience from Skate Ramp Construction day.  From the donation from a past volunteer for the skate ramp, we designed and built a small open air room.  We built a roof, a long table, and two benches.  This room is now used for work room to do workshops, art projects, and future projects. After weeks of research, budgeting, and price hunting we were ready to start.

I arrived at 8:30am with my first load of materials. There were already 9 kids waiting for me at the door.  They all helped me unload the truck.  I had 4 five year olds carrying a log that I couldn't even pick up myself!  Rosita (one of the younger and most fiery ones) carrying two 5 gallon jugs of water that for sure weighted more than she did.  I had to go back home to get more stuff and when I returned with the second load they help just the same.  They were thankful and understood the value of what was happening there.  I had the girls sanding the tables and chairs and painting.  Then the other volunteers started to arrive so we go started on the roof structure construction.  We sawed, nailed, hammered and worked! It took us six hours, but we got it all done. 

The girls were impressed with watching me work all day in the construction and Milly told me, "wow Emily your worked soo hard today! Thank you!"  I continue going to the skate ramp every Saturday and Sunday and the kids are so full of life and fun.  I’m sure I learn more from them then they do from me.

In the new room, we have made necklaces and crowns, written stories, and painted.  The kids are advancing at their skateboarding skills and more than half can drop in from the half pipe. The skate ramp is a great place for the kids to have a safe place to socialize and share.  The kids respect the ramp and it is exciting to see the possibilities that are there for them.   

By Emily Skinner from the USA (OCN Project Coordinator, July 2011 to present)

Friday, 4 November 2011

Michalina's Volunteer Experience: ¡Viva el PerĂº!

My name is Michalina and I was working for Otra Cosa Network during the summer of 2011. I was working as an office assistant and I managed to update and translate the majority of the ‘Volunteer’s Bible’.

I have to say I had been planning my long awaited experience in Latin America for a few months and the fact that I always received a quick reply from Najin (Operations’ Manager) to every single email I had sent gave me a positive impression about the organization. My intuition wasn’t wrong! I had made the right decision. When I came I was given the induction and a tour around the small village and introduced to the new volunteers. Then the time just flew by. Working in the office was a good experience and I knew I was doing something helpful but it was when we went for the project tour (that takes place every month) that I really understood what difference each and every volunteer makes. There are so many things that people could do to make this world a better place. Even if OCN only gives one child a reason to smile everyday it is totally worth it!

However, the work in the office was just a small part of the whole experience! I am studying Latin American culture and history so it was wonderful to be able to be part of it. From the moment I got on the plane I knew it was going to be a great adventure! Throughout my stay I was constantly surprised in at the least expected moments. I could write quite a long essay about it all but I would like to concentrate on the aspect that made this trip different from others.

I have done quite a lot of travelling in the past and I have lived in a few countries on different continents. What I have learnt through those years is that PEOPLE MAKE PLACES and one of the things that struck me most in Peru is the generosity of the people.  They share with you whatever they have, no matter how little they have. They are very open and love when you speak Spanish but also eager to practice their English.

I was shocked when the girl whom I met on the plane offered to give me a tour around Lima the following day even though she had not seen her family for 2 years! What is more, after a long day of sightseeing she invited me to her house to meet her family and try some Peruvian food, as her mum had already cooked the dinner for us. The family was lovely and so welcoming, they really touched my heart. There is a big contradiction though, because the majority of the people I met were extremely generous, but on the other hand you quickly realise that you also have to be very careful. It is not an exaggeration that South America is one of the most dangerous places of earth. Nothing ever happened to me but keep your eyes open!

Other wonderful people who I met once I settled in Huanchaco were Nilda and Cristhian. We did language and culture exchange, and again the experience was very positive. They were nice, helpful and went out of their way to make me feel happy! They helped me to organise private salsa classes (I enjoyed every single minute of it, every single step I mean! J), they taught me to cook some traditional meals and showed me some interesting places. I was introduced to their whole family and we all used to spend lots of time together. Every time I went round to their house it was filled with the aromatic Peruvian coffee – just because they knew how much I loved it!

Meeting Peruvian people was without a doubt a fantastic experience but I have to say that the other volunteers played an important part of the whole experience too. I met a lot of interesting people from many different countries and I know that with a few of them we will be friends forever. We organised a trip to Cusco and climbed Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu with other volunteers and it really was a special moment (and an exhausting work out!) to share with them!  Huanchaco is a small place and you quickly get to meet and know everyone and I was looking forward to doing something fun with them every evening.

Above all, I think my stay wouldn’t have been the same if I hadn’t stayed with a local family. They were great people. We really did get on like the house on fire and we hit it off from the very beginning. It was a wonderful experience to live with them and share everyday life.  Just spending time around them was nice, we used to cook, shop at the local market and talk forever about anything. They told me so many interesting things and I really felt as if I had known them for ages. Being typically Peruvian they often offered for me to taste some traditional dishes and drinks. Yummy! Lifestyle in Latin American is so different from fast-paced Europe, and people there are so much more cheerful! It was so nice to dance salsa in the kitchen as a little distraction from cooking J I have to say we got really close with the family and it was hard to leave. They prepared a surprised goodbye dinner for me and we cried when we said goodbye. I know that it wasn’t the last time I saw them. I am sure I will go back and I do hope that they come to visit me one day too!

Wouldn’t you like to help to make this world a better place, get to know some wonderful people and be a part of Peruvian culture? Opportunity seldom knocks twice, I'm SO glad I didn’t miss out on mine!

By Michalina Madra from Poland (OCN Office, July - September 2011)