Wednesday, 26 September 2012

My return to Peru

I am Juany Murphy the International Liaison Manager of Otra Cosa Network. I wanted to take this opportunity to share a bit about the work I have been doing over the past 2 and a bit months. Since I started work with OCN in 2005 we are now a well-established Peruvian NGO and English charity where I have had the privilege to be able to work in both England and Huanchaco- Trujillo, my place of origin. I am now based in England with my family and wanted to share with you the time I spent back in Huanchaco and Peru where I welcomed and inducted our new management team in Peru.

Going back to Peru every year is a fantastic opportunity to see the projects and the work in action. Part of my role is to disseminate the work of OCN and create awareness of the political, social and economic issues facing Peru through our projects. This year I took my 7 year old boy Joseph with me.  It was very hard to leave my husband Peter and my other two boys behind as we have never been separated for longer than a week.

I arrived in mid-June with both the new Manager from North America and Assistant Manager Laura from England. We were so excited to start our new phase at OCN. The first week went so quickly just introducing them to their new life and taking them to as many projects as we could fit in.

The second week of training included a trip to Yanasara, a small village in the middle of a valley 6 hours up in the Highlands of La Libertad department. We were welcomed by the school as dignitaries. The Head teacher organised the Official Welcoming Ceremony with one of our volunteers working there. This special welcoming ceremony included the National Anthem and greeting our national flag with singing and dancing. They also took this opportunity to express their gratitude towards the help that OCN has provided them with. It was such a special and emotional ceremony.

We had a beautiful day with all the students who wanted to talk to us and get to know us. In Peru we demonstrate affection through food. And no matter how poor the ‘campesinos’ are they prepared a nice ‘cuyada’ - Guinea pig roast dinner. Many families have learnt to grow guinea pigs so this is the most exquisite dish here.

We were appointed ‘Padrinos’ (godparents) for the ‘promocion’ (high school graduation). This means that the 14 students of fifth year will receive some kind of economic support providing them many opportunities in the future.

We left on a lorry on a Sunday because there were no “micros” (minibuses) to go back and we could have missed our bus from Huamachuco to Trujillo. So there we were travelling in a lorry. The panoramic view is just amazing and after 4 hours we took our bus to Trujillo. The bus broke down twice but finally we took another bus. After a long journey we finally arrived home at 4:30 in the morning. Expedition achieved!

The third week we started with the Skate Ramp, an OCN project where we work with more than 25 children in a tiny shanty town, Cerrito de la Virgen. They go there to learn skating and also once a week we take them to the beach to learn to swim, surf and enjoy the beach. We also use this as a space to help the children with their homework as most of their parents only have primary school education.

We work in this community with more than 250 families. The children have absolutely nothing. With the initiative of one volunteer we decided to create a space where the children could be supervised and play freely and protected as many of them were just been left alone in the streets all day long while their parents go to work. This has proved to be an incredible success. For instance the Surf school has made surfing a sport accessible to the children of Cerrito.

Week 4: We went back to Cerrito de la Virgin a community of more or less 250 families where we have had a presence here for 2 years now. We are trying to create a women’s space with a group of mothers there where they can feel free to talk about women’s issues. One of the sisters from the Catholic Church told me that their local Priest had been given a sewing machine. We had one of our volunteers willing to fund the women’s project. I felt so excited and spoke with the other women in order to assess their needs and what they would like to do. We had the centre, the sewing machine, the willingness to learn something that can help not only to make their uniforms for schooling next year but maybe create a little income. Therefore, we decided - yes let’s go ahead.

Week 5: We commenced the preparations such as purchasing the materials and finding the sewing teacher. Nanna, a Danish student volunteering with us, was appointed to look after and help organise the micro-project which has now continued to grow into a project much more than just sewing classes. It is a place where we can help empower women.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Paul & Lucy Volunteering in Huanchaco …!

Six months into our travel through South America, we were lucky enough to find ourselves in beautiful Huanchaco. After spending a few days in town we were seduced by the long days of sunshine and relaxed atmosphere and decided to look into some volunteer options, as it´s such a perfect spot to stop for a while and enjoy life by the beach.  We emailed Otra Cosa Network and had a reply from the lovely Laura within half an hour, enough said a few days later we were all organised with volunteer positions to suit us both. Paul in the office 4hours a day, as his background is online marketing. I (Lucy) am a nurse in Australia, and was keen to be working with children. I was placed in a Wawa Wasi a daycare project for 4 hours each morning (20hrs a week).

Paul had a great time in the office, helping the Otra Cosa Network team with new ideas to spread the word and encourage more volunteers to come and help in this great part of the world. Wawa Wasi is a fantastic government funded project, which selects a mother living in a disadvantaged area to provide daycare for 8 children every day, so their parents can try to find much needed work. The children are aged between 6months to 4 years, and as you can imagine, that is quite a handful for any one person. I was able to get involved and help straight away as there was always something to be done. The children were absolutely gorgeous and a pleasure to spend time with, as was my Madre (mother) Anita, who was running the Wawa Wasi I was volunteering at.

An important part of the Wawa Wasi was mealtime, and the food provided is fantastic. The children get breakfast, a hot lunch, and lots of fruit and snacks in between. For most of the children this was the main food for their day, as they may otherwise have been eating white bread and rice, not what growing bodies need! I soon learnt not to look the other way during mealtime, otherwise their hands would be straight into the bowl of food and suddenly it was across the table, chair and any other child nearby!

After traveling through South America for so many months, we had been through poor areas but it was quite different to be involved and see the poverty first hand. An eye opener, especially for Paul as he had been in the office, was the day trip to visit all the volunteer projects Otra Cosa Network are involved with, which included many schools, homes for orphans and the rubbish tip, where there are many families actually living, or surviving amongst the rubbish.  This was such an important day, and I encourage all volunteers to go along.

When I finished I gave the children a book, which they absolutely loved, as they only had one other book there to read, and they wouldn´t put it down! I felt empowered whilst volunteering at the Wawa Wasi and it was a nice change for us to have a break from traveling, help and be a part of the community. This is what volunteering is about, an experience that Otra Cosa Network was able to provide. THANK YOU!

We are now continuing our travels north towards Canada, feel free to check out our travel blog here:

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Diego's time teaching English in Huanchaco

My name is Diego, I was born in Brazil and raised in Spain. After finishing my bachelor in Economics I decided to travel to Peru to volunteer as an English teacher for 6 weeks. So, I arrived in Huanchaco on the 17th of July and the day after I had my induction with Otra Cosa Network (OCN).

On my first day of work the OCN’s assistant director, Laura, walked with me to the school I was supposed to teach at, Escuela Primaria Maria del Socorro which was two blocks away from the office. I was introduced to the school principal who offered me a working schedule after a long and interesting conversation. In the beginning I was supposed to work only three days a week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, from 8h15 until 12h00 and teach 3rd, 5th and 6th grade. At the end my schedule was changed so I could teach every class of every grade but I still worked less than 20 hours per week.

By that time, I had never taught English before and it was a challenge for me to be able to control a class of around 20 students in Peru. I was surprised to see that the children behaved really well and were delighted with my Spanish accent. Soon after, I was known in the neighbourhood as “el teacher Diego” and I was really pleased with their eagerness to learn.  I would say that if you want to be an English teacher in Huanchaco, the better you speak Spanish the more control you can have over the class but, in the other hand, I truly believe that the most important characteristic needed in this case is the teacher’s personality and his/her charisma with the kids. In fact teaching English in Peru is an excellent way for non-Spanish speakers to improve their Spanish.

A few weeks after my arrival, I was invited by some other volunteers to have a look in the afternoons at another local project, called the SKATE RAMP in the humblest part of Huanchaco, called El Cerrito de la Virgen. Our goal was not only to keep the children away from the streets but also to help them with their homework, take them surfing or to the cinema. Gradually I was seduced by the existent freedom to create any activity we wanted over there. As money was the biggest barrier to our ideas, we decided to raise some funds by ourselves. As an example two volunteers, Agathe (France) and Andy (England), decided to sell juice on the beach and raised more than 100 soles. Some weeks after, Andy and me, we thought of doing a charity quiz at a local hostel by the beach and we raised 146 soles. The quiz was a success in every way and we will repeat it every two weeks. Right before I left we were meeting up with all the volunteers implicated in the project in order to decide how to invest our own funds. Probably we will build a ping pong table and a play house at the ramp.

On weekends we are free to discover the surroundings of Trujillo, the biggest city near Huanchaco. Two places that no one misses are the Chan Chan Ruins and the Huaca de la Luna Ruins. The first belonged to the Chimues culture during the fifth century and the second belonged to the Moches culture 10.000 years ago. It is also possible to travel to other important cities over the weekend, like Chiclayo (3 hours trip) or Huaraz (8 hours trip). I’ve been to both and I loved them. Chiclayo is famous for its Señor de Sipán Ruins and Huaraz for having the highest mountain in Peru called Huascarán. If you are planning on doing a bigger trip, you can always ask permission from OCN and to your school and take some time off from your project to travel. Usually what most people do is to finish their project one week before their departure day, so they take some holidays.

Where to stay in Huanchaco? Basically there are two options. First is to stay in a local family house and second is to stay in a hostel. I would say that hostels are the best option to socialize with new people while a family house is recommended if you want to get more involved with the local culture. During my stay, I was very lucky to contact a previous volunteer from Mexico who recommended me a hostel called Mc Callum. I could not imagine my stay in Huanchaco without Mc Callum as almost every single day I met new interesting people, however I understand it is not the best choice if you want silence from 10 o’clock in the evening. It is not the cheapest option either (single room is 20 soles a day while others charge 10 or 15) but it offers 24 hours a day internet connection and all day hot water shower. Besides it is very safe, has a good location and the owner, Patricia, is a sweetheart. Referring to family houses I would recommend Luis’ House as the owner is a very interesting person and the volunteers staying there are very happy.

My experience was very positive. I feel that I learned more from the kids than I taught them. I tried to make them associate learning English with something really fun and I would like to believe that I succeeded on making them see that there is life outside Peru and English would be a key to many future doors.  Please feel free to ask OCN to give you my contact details if you would like to contact m with any questions. And as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said: “Treat a man as he appears to be, and you make him worse but treat a man as he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be.”

Click here to apply and find out more about teaching English in Huanchaco. Or click here to apply and find out more about the Cerrito Skate Ramp project.