Giving back matters – The Peruvian Experience

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Generally in helping other countries which are suffering, we tend to think of monetary avenues, i.e. sending money for a cause, however I decided to do something different. I decided to go out and see what my money was actually used for with a volunteering programme called Adra connections. As a result, from ending July to beginning August, I had the privilege of travelling to Cuzco, Peru, to help 20 families. The aim of this trip was to build 20 ecological stoves, a solution selected to solve the increasing risk of respiratory disease due to the inhalation of smoke faced by the villagers whilst cooking in their less ventilated kitchens. Boarding the plane at Heathrow, I was indeed excited and not sure what to expect but nonetheless eager to see a different country, experience a different culture and meet different people.

Finally arriving at the airport, we were warmly greeted by Adra’s Peruvian counterparts and transported to our place of stay for the trip. With surrounding mountains, fresh air and warm temperature, our accommodation felt like paradise. God’s handiwork was demonstrated through nature and with every waking morning we could hear nature talk through the birds chirping and the river splashing. Our stay was made better by the great cooking of the wife of house, Hilda. Every breakfast was complimented with fruits, every dinner with salad; this coupled with other healthy ingredients and the change in altitude, built us up for the job ahead.

First day at work in the hot, yellow sun was tough and demanding but I loved every bit of it. From lifting bricks, mixing cement and learning a bit of Spanish and Kichwa (the native language) I gained a sense of fulfilment, something greater than just sending money over. With every completed eco-stove, the smiles on the faces of our families grew and the great thing was we weren’t helping just one generation but ones to come and that thought alone kept me going each day.

All work and no play makes Kwarteng a dull boy and Adra definitely understood that. By the end of my trip, I had completed river rafting, visited Machu Picchu (one of the seven wonder’s of the world) and completed the sungate trail in an hour! In addition to this, I got myself a cardigan made from Alpaca fur for the winter that is coming and for a good price too (using the bargaining and sweet talking skills my African mother taught me).

There is a lot more to my experience than this short piece which would go on for many pages but I have kept it as short as I can. Through this fortnight of experience, I have indeed learned quite a few things:

  • I am more grateful for things such electricity and the option of having hot water immediately – something that was a rare commodity in the villages we worked in
  • I am grateful for the teaching of hygiene and safety that we take for granted in the UK and found it fulfilling to pass on such knowledge to the people in the villages
  • I have learned how to use a spirit level, mix cement and even layer bricks a useful skill that many of us don’t have but through Adra I have the opportunity to acquire
  • I have gained new friends
  • I have come to appreciate nature much more
  • Most importantly I have learned what impact my money and a bit of fundraising can do!

All in all I would urge you to take every opportunity to travel somewhere else and make an impact in someone else’s life. If you’re scared of the amount you would have to raise, try a Gofundme page, you will be surprised how many people are willing to support you. The era of just sending money to suffering countries is over; go out there and see the impact your money will make and maybe you will not just help one family but generations to come!”

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