At LLI, our volunteers hail from just about everywhere. You pick a spot on the world map and chances are that we’ve had a terrific trooper volunteer for us from there.
Today we are going to talk about what brings these fantastic people together, nonstop, from different walks of life and places. Wanderlust, love of speaking Spanish, desire to give back, step out of comfort zone, urge to explore the Peruvian culture, or plain impulse for a change in pace; no reason is too small, no dream is too trivial. What’s yours? Discover with us the reasons as to why they fly from faraway lands, and keep coming back, to volunteer in this small town of Huaycan. Maybe while reading their reasons, you’ll find yours…
In this article, we are talking with our frolic, dedicated, passionate and brave volunteers from five different countries: Jessie LSweet, Karolyn Krol, Karen H. Lee, Samantha Florence, Rachel Marcus , Carlos Cruz, Pushkar Dixit and Nicholas Hess.
Jessie comes from Chicago, IL, US. She just graduated from Marquette University early this year and studied Business & Communications. “I wanted to live abroad before settling down in Chicago, and LLI fit my needs perfectly.” She says. “I am able to work with women (as I am interested in gender studies), improve my Spanish, empower others through education and live in South America!” As for the experience, she says, “ Nearly every interaction and conversation I have with the women, kids, or others in Huaycán gives me the opportunity to look at things from a different perspective, and so I feel like I learn something new literally every single day. I even learn so much from the fellow volunteers- I love that we come from a variety of nationalities, races and ages, with completely different interests and backgrounds and still all get along so well.”
Apart from ‘Take the risk’, she dispenses another useful tip for future volunteers: Kids can always be bribed/persuaded/won over with tres leches cake. 🙂
Karolyn hails from Chicago, IL, US. She met Lara during her student teaching experience at the Andrew High School. After hearing Lara talk about the LLI, Karolyn dreamt of part taking in such an organization soon. She finished college and began teaching Spanish. Three years later she found herself yearning for something more and that’s when Lara received an email from Karolyn. A long term committed volunteer, Karolyn has been working as our new English Program Manager. “Growing up bilingual (I speak Polish!), my parents have also fostered learning about different cultures and exploring different parts of the world.” She adds, “In high school, my favorite subject was Spanish, so in college I majored in it. I worked as a Spanish teacher in the city of Chicago for three years. I really wanted to find an opportunity where I could speak Spanish daily and immerse myself with people who share a similar mindset of helping those in need. I think I have found my perfect work environment! “
About her favorite class, she says, “I really enjoy teaching my adolescent class. All of the students are very eager to learn and give it their all every class period. After every class, I feel so grateful for what I do in Peru and makes my time here even more rewarding.”
Her advice for future volunteers is, “Try to get to know as many zones as possible. Each zone offers a different dynamic and it is so rewarding to experience every zone. The kids are a blast to be around!”She continues, “ Take advantage of every weekend you have off! The weeks fly by so if you have the time and money, travel! On a different note you must try tres leches cake and of course the sweet bread!”
Karen says Hi! From Seoul, South Korea. She’s graduated with a major in sociology and Spanish. For karen, it was her desire to work in international development that brought her to LLI. When asked about her favorite thing about LLI, she says, “ LLI’s flexibility allows a lot of new ideas to become reality. The organization encourages the individual talents of volunteers, takes chances, learns from mistakes, and continues to morph into an even stronger organization each year.
She continues, “there’s something very special about being in a house full of immensely diverse people that are united by a simple desire to do something good. You can’t help but be in a good mood with all the awesomeness in the air!”
My message to future volunteers would be to soak in everything you can while you are here. Put your whole heart into your classes. Make new friends! Talk to locals. Travel if you can. Disconnect from your normal life as much as possible.
Our next volunteer Rachel comes all the way from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She is currently in her final year of undergraduate degree in Gender Studies at the Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. “I have always enjoyed working with people and I wanted to put myself in a volunteer experience that not only allowed me to help others but also to learn more about the world” she says. “First and foremost, what I love most about LLI is all of the wonderful people I am able to meet (both people I teach as well as other volunteers). This program is organized and scheduled in a way that allows me to experience all of the many wonderful zones in Huaycan as well as being a part of a variety of classes such as English, Art, Library and Sports!”
Rachel’s words of advice for future volunteers: Come into this experience with open hearts and minds. This opportunity is one I will never forget especially because I put myself in a living environment very different from my own and will be leaving with a whole new perspective on life and happiness.
Another volunteer who flew to Huaycan from Toronto, Canada, is Samantha. An English major from the Queen’s University, she comes from a big family. “I have always wanted to volunteer and teach in an underdeveloped country, and after years of research I really thought volunteering in Huaycan would be an interesting place to focus my attention to,” she says. “I know this may sound cliché, but I really didn’t know much about Huaycan or Peru to begin with, and neither did a lot of people that I know (who have volunteered abroad), so I thought it would be a good place to start. I learned some Spanish in high school, and have always been intrigued with the culture, so I thought coming here with LLI would be an amazing opportunity, and it definitely has been.”
“I love that LLI is more than just a non-profit. I feel that all of the volunteers have really been able to get to know each other, kind of like having our own little community. I also like that we get so involved with the people and culture around us, and that we aren’t secluded from Huaycan culture. I find that everything is so organized within the organization and that everyone is always more than happy to lend a hand.”
A travel tip from Samantha for future volunteers: Do not hold back and to just take everything in and really let the experience impact your life in the long run. Also, always be cautious while traveling, and always research the cultures/traditions/languages before going to foreign places! It will make the transition easier!
From the Mexico City, Mexico, Carlos came aboard LLI because he wanted to leverage his English and Spanish speaking skills to help children in Latin America and try to provide them with the tools to be able to have alternatives to their current situation. Sharing his reason for becoming a volunteer, he says, “ I lived in Mexico during my childhood and grew up in the United States, primarily outside of Philadelphia. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame, I spent almost 14 years working at a private chemical and mechanical products company where I became sales and marketing manager. In mid-June, I decided that I wanted to change my life since I wasn’t happy and this led to finding the opportunity provided by LLI.”
For future volunteers, Carlos has a message: The people of LLI are focused on helping the Huaycan community. Please come keeping this in mind and you will find an unmatched feeling of happiness. Moreover, it seems like an opportunity to help out a community in need by teaching various skill sets, it is the people of Huaycan that are the true teachers. The less material possessions that people have, the more they give which is an excellent example for all of us to follow.
Pushkar, our next volunteer, hails from Mumbai, India. He’s a management graduate from London School of Economics and works as a business consultant for a fortune 500 company in Netherlands. He found out about LLI while searching for educational volunteering opportunities in SA. “I was impressed by the work LLI is doing in Peru and so I decided to contribute,” he says. “I think the most important thing I like about LLI is the freedom it gives to its volunteers to teach their classes. Volunteers are encouraged to take a leadership role which is a good skill to develop.”
Pushkar’s neat tip for future volunteers: Travel Peru before joining the LLI team. That way you can be with your LLI friends till you catch your flight back home 🙂
Nicholas is our Swiss/American, friendly fellow, from Texas. He recently received his MA in International Development from the University of Sheffield, UK. “Why am I here? Well, the Program Development Internship at LLI offered a good opportunity to learn some valuable career skills.” Sounds good Nick, but we know that it isn’t entirely true. There’s another reason that has anchored this travel bug for long term volunteering at LLI. In his own words, “A room full of reading children… many of them, especially the younger ones read slightly out-loud and the sound of children reading like this is a symphony to my ears. When a child understands something new, this is most evident in math when they finally understand a new concept and their face lights up with excitement and joy.”
And we end this article with some earnest advice for future volunteers, straight from Nicholas: Make mistakes, laugh at yourself. Laugh. Be a role model to the children. Don’t be afraid to be strict, they wont hate you for it. In fact they will get more out of class if you have control and discipline in the class, but don’t forget they are children and children love smiles and energy.