“Being a volunteer was a unique experience, full of learning and stories that will stay with me forever”.
From a very young age I wanted to be a volunteer, but because of studies and work I found it difficult to do so. In 2016 I finished college, and as everyone knows, the next step is to make a living. By that time I was fortunate to have a part time job and have some money saved up, which gave me the opportunity to do something else, and the first thing that came to mind was to volunteer.
I volunteered for Otra Cosa Network at the skate ramp, located in the shanty town Cerrito La Virgen-Huanchaco. I had a great time on this project and the ramp became my second home. To me, the ramp was like a fairground in which all of us could play and enjoy the things around us. At the ramp I learned lots about children and met very nice people. When we’re on the ramp, we all seem to forget the worries, anguish and problems that we go through in everyday life and we get lost in the pleasures of learning, smiling, playing and eating. For the children, this is especially important as many have ongoing domestic issues.
A day on the ramp
Children are always waiting at the door when we arrive; keen to get the best skateboard, or get their hands on the lego set. Others choose to do crafts, while the smallest prefer to play with the volunteers.
As volunteers it was almost impossible to say no to the children, because if you did they would get sad. Personally, I loved being able to run, smile, sing, jump and scream with them as it took me back to my childhood. One of their favourite games was “Shark”, in which a person, designated the “Shark”, has to “eat” the other players as they run between safe zones. If they catch someone, they then become the shark.
We close the ramp at 6pm. Some children complain that this is too early, but that’s because we don’t want children to be late home. Honestly, I think they feel that way because for those three hours they get our undivided attention.
One Friday each month, we hold a small event or party with competitions and prizes.
The benefit of my volunteer work
The sheer range of activities available at the ramp; from books to paints, legos to crafts, allowed me to do something for all the children, whatever their preference. Personally, I enjoyed working with recyclable crafts, because it allowed the children to be creative while developing an appreciation for environmental issues.
I also had the opportunity to practice and improve my English with native speakers from Europe or America. This gave me more confidence and helped me overcome my fear of speaking English.
My time as a volunteer has come to an end, which is a shame, but I am happy to know that there are volunteers playing and teaching the children as I once did. For me it is rewarding to be able to contribute to their creative and recreational development.
It’s the simple things I’ll really miss; when they ran up to me for hugs and kisses and even just asking them about their day at school.
This blog was written by Maria Flor Alvarado Reyes.