Huanchaco is a small yet thriving seaside town; tourists from all over the world come to try the renowned Ceviche, admire the traditional reed fishing boats (Caballito de Totora), and to go surfing on some of the best waves in Peru. However, living and volunteering here for three months enabled me to see another side of Huanchaco.
Being involved in a community project allowed me to immerse myself in Peruvian culture, and by working at a local school on the HELP English project, it was enjoyable to get to know the children and watch their progression. Walking down the streets with the familiar beat of reggaeton music coming from all the shops and restaurants, recognising and being able to converse with locals, and having my students call out to greet me, became part of my daily routine.
Nevertheless, it soon became apparent to me that Huanchaco was one of the more prosperous towns, compared to some of the neighbouring communities, where, following the floods earlier this year, many families are still in temporary accommodation.
A day that has really stayed in my mind was when volunteers were taken to the nearby area of El Milagro, where people face extreme hardship every day, sorting and burning rubbish for a living. I couldn’t believe the contrast to Huanchaco, despite only being a few miles away, and I would never have realised this place existed. It made me realise that many people are greatly disadvantaged and marginalised in this society, and seemingly receive little support from the state. It helped to contextualise the work of Otra Cosa Network, and made me appreciate the extent of inequalities.
My time spent with Otra Cosa Network was challenging yet highly rewarding. Not only did I find Huanchaco to be a welcoming and characterful town, but volunteering allowed me to become part of this community, and I feel very privileged to have had this experience.
This blog was written by Isabel Bates