My volunteer experience at a center for victims of family violence in Peru
I am grateful for the time I was able to spend volunteering at Hogar de la Esperanza Mama Victoria, Lima, Peru, 2015-2016, and thankful to have met and been so inspired by Nelly, the women who founded and continues to make this center of hope and sanctuary a reality. In the beginning I helped support micro-business ventures through word of mouth advocacy of their fresh eggs, home-made tamales, chocolates, and various ‘handy crafts’ the women made and painted. I also assisted in teaching fun and worldly classes with many other talented individuals who also volunteered. Teaching language classes ranging from Japanese to English, and various others from meditation to music; I refer to these classes as ‘broader experience classes’. We constantly tried to teach them something new and fun to activate their minds and have them enjoy learning. During the second half of my time volunteering at the center, I helped coordinate, introduce, and establish long-term, structured, and creditable English courses for free at the center.
The excitement in the children, the moments when you could see how succeeding in learning was building self-confidence and motivation, and all the hugs are some of my most beloved memories. The fulfillment of seeing your productivity benefit others beyond expectations is by far the greatest experience I have had to date. I will never forget the reflected smiles and the feeling of sincere care and respect I received from those children and mothers.
How did it start and how was this experience possible, you ask.
One day I decided to move to Peru. It just felt right. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I knew it would be an adventure. I had previous experience working and volunteering abroad, and felt it would be okay to show up with no contacts, no knowledge of the country, culture, language (yes, I didn’t know any Spanish), and no idea where to go or what to do. I would not suggest this route for everyone, and must point out it is much safer to do your homework, connect with a company/NGO/group/network and have contacts for volunteering/work/accommodations before you set off to another part of the world. That being said, I am an advocate and suggest that everyone set off for another part of the world at some point in life.
After a few months, and a few adventures in Peru, I met the amazing woman (and friend), Brenda. She lovingly helps Nelly at Hogar de la Esperanza Mama Victoria, which is a center for victims of family violence to find refuge, through fundraisers for center improvements, and volunteer projects. During our first meeting, I verbally signed up to start volunteering one day a week, with a few other friends, teaching ‘broader experience classes’. About a year later I met a fellow Canadian in Lima, Gerard, who had an idea for a business venture. He wanted to open an English Language Training Center, and he wanted to name it One2One. He chose this name because his concept was to invest a portion of each enrollment to offering credited English classes for free to children and women who otherwise would not have the means to afford such level of English education. He was looking for a center to work with.
“I think I can help you.” I said.
Hogar de la Esperanza Mama Victoria: Facebook
About the author:
Rhianna Upton was born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. She has worked and volunteered in numerous other countries besides her own; including China, Kenya, and Peru. Working as a teacher, project manager, coordinator, or consultant everywhere she travels, her goal in life is to enhance situations where ever she is, in which ever ways necessary and possible, while having a great time doing it. She loves learning and considers knowledge the fruit of life.