“Volunteering will change you in ways you never thought possible”, says Frank Hiebert, who has recently returned from a volunteering trip in Peru, organized by Developing World Connections. Frank was part of a group of eight, ranging in age from mid 20s to over 60, based in Lima to carry out volunteer work on construction projects in the nearby slum areas.
Frank’s accommodation was in a hostel-type hotel in Lima, and every day the group would be picked up at around 8am in the morning for the 45-minute trip to the construction site. There, they would work, rebuilding a section of the school that is used for teaching local kids to bake and cook goods to sell to make money. The work involved tearing down and rebuilding some of the walls and the roof, making windows and doors and painting. The group returned back to the hostel, after a hard day’s work, at around 5.30pm.
‘The volunteer trip allowed me to see first-hand how other people existed. Lima has quite an advanced culture compared with other developing countries, so it wasn’t as big a culture shock as I expected. However, there is a lot of poverty, and many people live in shacks in the slums on the dusty hillsides. Without any welfare system, people somehow manage to get by on so little. The most shocking experience of the whole trip was meeting a seven-month pregnant woman with two young children, whose husband had left her. She had no way to care for her kids other than working for neighbours in exchange for food. We gave her our left-over lunches every day, and she was so grateful”, says Frank.
“However, my biggest surprise was how happy the children were compared to children in Canada. We take everything for granted and we waste so much food and clothing”, he adds.
It was Frank’s first time in Peru, and he loved the culture, the weather and the diverse scenery, ranging from dense jungles, to mountains, and even deserts. The only thing he didn’t enjoy was that the drivers were constantly on their horns and drove very aggressively.
“I really enjoyed my time in Peru and we are making plans to go back and visit this great county in the very near future. The volunteering experience was life-changing and the people we met, especially the children, were very friendly and they made us feel like rockstars. I think that if more people volunteered like this, the world would be a better place for us all.”
Developing World Connections is a Canadian non-profit organization that supports sustainable development projects in Asia, Africa, and the Americas through international volunteer experiences.