Written by our Peru Team
Our first group of Australian volunteers arrived on the 2nd November. Their trip got off to a flying start as they went on a tour around Cusco lead by Professor Juan Carlos. They were indeed almost flying when we visited Puka Pukara and walked through the ruins of the ancient hotel which receives a chilly breeze being on the edge of a mountain. Juan Carlos taught them a lot about Pachamama and the architecture of the Inkas. He showed them the ‘ilyas’ that he discovered in Saksaywaman. These are the shapes of female alpacas which represent the energy of life. The volunteers left their worries in the womb of Pachamama in Q’enqo and took selfies with llamas at Tambomachay. He taught our volunteers very valuable lessons about their global citizenship through learning from the Inkas and living their lives in balance with nature.
Griffith Spanish Language Program takes the Sacred Valley!
The Spanish Language Programme with Griffith University kicked off with a trio of cultural activities. Antonio guided them on a casual 5 hour hike from the incredible terraces of Moray through the fields over to Maras and the saltmines.
The next day, 4 of the team hiked up with Benino to the archeological site of Chinchero. The hike definitely challenged these Aussies abroad however it was well worth it and is the highlight of the trip for those who participated. They were awarded with a beautiful waterfall and a musical rendition on the flute in one of the Inkan healing spaces. Once at the top, they reunited with the rest of the team and went for lunch at the guide’s house where several of them tried some cuy(guinea pig) and ALL of them tried a shot of Anis Liquor. This incredible day was finished off by a trip to the textile centre where they learnt about the natural dyes of the wool and the different patterns in the materials.
On the third day they reunited with Juan Carlos who took them on a Sacred Valley tour where they visited Ollantaytambo. Here he explained how the stones were transferred from the quarry on one mountain, through the mountain to the waqa. After a delicious meal in Yucay they went to visit the stunning landscapes and ruins of Pisaq. Many bought ponchos, purses and fabrics galore in the market streets before they headed home.
Volunteering was a vital part of the experience for Griffith. They ran debate classes with the older students encouraging them to think critically. With the younger years they ran STEM classes where the children made vehicles that could move out of recycled materials and pots to plant spring onions. The volunteers were passionate about the environment and this really shone through in their lessons which had a great impact on the student at Pucruto. We are sorry to say goodbye to them but are sure they will enjoy the Salkantay trek!
A sweet lesson
The Health Promotion Challenge group have spent a very productive 2 weeks in Chichubamba school working with grades one to six. They prepared and presented workshops on nutrition, hygiene and hydration and designed and painted a mural in three languages (Spanish, Quechua and English). They brought magazines from home which the children LOVED! One of the nutrition workshops looked at the amount of sugar in local drinks and even the teachers were shocked to learn that a small bottle of the local favourite, Inca Kola, contained 12 teaspoons of sugar!
Playing Agatha Christie
School closures on the last day of our first Australian Challenge’s volunteer time, created an opportunity for the Peru Hub Coordinators to get creative. They developed a scavenger hunt for the volunteers that covered cultural, historic and food elements and ended in a picnic together for lunch. The volunteers were put into mixed teams and set off 5 minutes apart and they quickly became highly competitive . The winners were those who climbed the stairs to the second floor of the local market to get a shot of the potato aisle and therefore photographing the most number of potato varieties (earlier in the week we had visited a farm with 400 varieties!)
The runners up had the best one sentence summaries of Inkan philosophy (our sensational tour guide and local anthropologist Juan Carlos had explained it in our tour with him on their first day). Here are the two best examples:
“In this world, we are all brothers and sisters and it is our ancestral duty to give back to Pachamama – Mother Earth“
“We can find a greater purpose in life through a focus less on ourselves and more on the community, only then can we fully embrace the message of Pachamama”
Welcome to Harley!
“Challenges Abroad and I go back a while! I completed a Challenges Abroad program in Romania in 2014 during my undergrad and had an incredible experience working with some amazing local partners. After travelling for 7 months in South America, I completed my Masters Development Studies at the University of Sydney. I focused on sustainable development and took part in a sustainability field school in Laos, that investigated the impacts of hydropower developments on local communities, the natural environment, and the Laos economy. After graduating I worked for a year with Challenges Abroad Australia as the Student Engagement Manager for NSW and the ACT, before coming to Peru as a VMPC. I am passionate about making a positive difference in the world however I can, and am keen to develop my experience and build a career in international development!”