Six months, three projects, one volunteer


Six months, three projects, one volunteer.

I usually start my introduction at the volunteer lunches this way, so why be different.

Hey everybody, my name is Terry and I am from the States. Apparently it’s a bit uncommon for an American volunteer to be a part of an organisation that’s a registered charity in Peru and the UK but I and we fit in just fine.

I’ve previously worked in auto insurance and I essentially sat in front of a glowing rectangle and spoke to voices in my head, that is to say that I had a boring desk job. My experiences thus far leaves me with no regrets regarding coming here and leaving a stable job with good benefits. In regards to the regret that is perceptible prior to undertaking such an endeavour, one may say “just wait.” But I’d rather do something like this so that I may at least taste what retirement is like.

Help English

When I arrived in Huanchaco in January, I was placed in the Help English program. The program is exactly what it sounds like, but the program has arms. Those arms are wearing a shirt, and that shirt has sleeves. Up those sleeves were surprises and challenges. I was expecting challenges. The typical rowdiness of social children was the biggest one, but if you split them up, then you have a problem solved.

The majority of the time, especially since this was a summer program, the children, and adults sometimes, were happy to be in the class. The summer session was totally optional for the children and the fact that they came to class in room-filling numbers, even on Saturdays, was moving. I just try not to think about the parents who instruct their children to go to the class. I like thinking it was the kids all along.

Activities filled the summer session. They operated a bit as a pilot program for the school-year Help English program.

I am not certain if the schools were doing this particular activity. It was fun. I think the students learned a lot, but I also think they had an unforgettable experience, especially since pictures last longer.

We Pull Together!
Sometimes, bad things happen to good cities. In March, the town experienced a historic flash flood, concurrent with El Niño. This lead to widespread flooding in the area, causing damage to areas closest to the so aptly named Rio Seco. That’s sarcasm and it was very ironic that the Rio Seco, i.e. “Dry River” in English, was the bringer of the majority of the water-based destruction in the area. I wasn’t able to take many photos and I wish I did. I can, however, tell you what happened following the archetypal apocalyptic flash flood.

As the heading explicitly states, we all pulled together, all hands were on deck to move water away from walkways, sewage from the streets, and kittens from the currents. The multi-day effort also included cleaning out family homes. This would prevent additional damage from the prior water intrusion as well as fortification by way of sandbag stacking.


Help Youth

This is where the kids come out to play, at least in the ramp where I am assigned. La Rampa is the skate ramp where children can skate and engage in other games. The ramp seemed to have games especially crafted for it, such as Zombies or Tiburon. The ramp offers an exciting opportunity to see how bad your skateboarding skills. Also how fast you fall on your butt. But do be careful because if opportunity knocks, the wall may fall over. As daunting as a wall falling over may sound, there is never a dull moment in La Rampa.

La Rampa is full of amazing characters. Time in the ramp has a different, almost surreal, quality. It is like when you vacation in another city and Seinfeld comes on at 11 instead of 11:30. But don’t listen to Homer Simpson when he says “Volunteering is for suckers. Did you know that volunteers don’t even get paid for the stuff they do?” Volunteer is totally worth every second.

Help Environment

This project is actually my favourite. We aren’t creating awesome animal hybrids or reversing global climate change, but we are making a local impact in the community. We visit local schools and present information to the students and teachers about the importance of a healthy ecosystem and environment as well as the dangers of climate change on a local and global scale.

Additionally, we maintain compost bins in the schools and the volunteer house and it doesn’t even stink. There is a compost collection project in an area that brings to mind the image of where a journey of 1000 miles would begin. There is a hydroponic garden where the seedlings grow at lightning speed. I often consider a similar setup in my own home when I ultimately return. Having a hobby like hydroponics can balance the extreme sports and high-octane activities that I currently pursue. What I am trying to say with all of this is that the volunteer experience here has been unforgettable. With luck, it will continue to be.

For more information on the specific positions available please visit our website at

This blog was written by Terry Thornton

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