Tag Archives: Hogar

Cusco Round Up

I wasn’t able to keep my blog going in real-time whilst I was volunteering, so here’s a round‑up of my last six weeks in Peru.


When I reached the half-way point of my 12-week stay, I was at a crossroads. The microfinance project I went to South America to volunteer on hadn’t worked out, so I had to decide how to make the most of the rest of my time in Cusco. Fortunately, I wasn’t short of options.

In my previous posts, I mentioned that I’d met an Australian guy called Steve who had decided to embark on a very ambitious and exciting project in Cusco. When he first told me about it, I didn’t hesitate to say “let me know how I can help!” and from that moment I was part of the project that has come to be called Home for Hope.

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The idea was born within a week of me introducing Steve to the existing home, Juana de Aza, where I had been volunteering. It wasn’t just the experience of spending time in the Hogar, but also learning about the extent of the problem in Peru (and Cusco in particular).

To start with, we tried to work out the details and whether we could pull this off. Juana de Aza was our starting point, but we want to do it better. The more we thought about it, the bigger the task became, but one thing in particular gave us belief and that was the overwhelmingly positive reaction we got from everyone we mentioned it to – several people even offered to support the project straight away.

Hope for Hope is an NGO that will operate in Cusco, Peru. Its mission is to provide a safe home for teenage mothers who have been victims of abuse, where they can raise their children, rehabilitate, receive an education and develop skills.

Home for Hope will support these young mothers and their children as they transcend past traumas and embrace bright futures. The girls will range from 13 to 18 years old, each having fallen pregnant with a child while still a child themselves.

Up to 10 girls and their children will be taken in by Home for Hope at any one time and, with the help of the local community and donations from abroad, they will have the opportunity to rebuild their lives and forge new futures for themselves.

In my last few weeks in Cusco, we were able to complete a lot of the paperwork to become a registered NGO in Peru and I am actually on the Board of Directors as Vice-President. I addition to Steve as President, the other Board members are Maria and Laura (my Spanish teachers in Cusco) and Ursula (a local lawyer who specialises in cases involving domestic abuse). We also have three committed team members who each volunteered in Cusco but weren’t in Peru to sign the paperwork: Loretta from Australia, Michaela from England and Shalomy from New Zealand.

This project is probably the biggest challenge I’ve taken on in my life and I/we will need as much support as possible. Fundraising is absolutely key to the success of Home for Hope, so you can expect to hear plenty more from us – especially once our website is up and running later this month.


Working with Steve took up a fair amount of my time, but I still volunteered on a number of other projects:

Juana de Aza

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I continued to help out at the existing Hogar whenever I could and I continued to enjoy my time there. When I returned with my sister in the week before Christmas, we visited Juana de Aza and the reactions of the children were really nice. Once inside we noticed that there were actually lots of people, as well as boxes full of stuff everywhere. It turns out that they had actually been featured in the local press that week and received a huge number of donations as a result.


Helping Audrey

Although Home for Hope was the most important thing I worked on, I did actually spend a couple of weeks working on another project in November. In a Cusco café at 9pm on a Thursday night, I was unexpectedly swept up into the world of Audrey Evans and it was virtually non-stop for the next two weeks. As an example, that first evening Audrey took me and Paula from the café to meet with a biology professor/entrepreneur at his house and we talked about the project into the early hours.

Audrey has big plans in Cusco and, as she’s been part of the community for the last decade, she’s very well-connected. I quickly learned that there was an important upcoming event: the inauguration of the Mercado Tipico de San Blas as an organic market (featuring the mayor and local press).

My role was never particularly well-defined, but I chipped in where I could and did my best to help make that event a success. Paula and I tagged along to numerous meeting all over the city, with government officials, local business people and even the head chef from one of Cusco’s most exclusive hotels. Audrey’s no stranger to dealing with the media and she also made TV and radio appearances to promote the event.

We were working right up until the last minute to get everything ready – I was at the printers for our banners until 11:30pm the night before and the inside of the market was still being painted the next morning. Nonetheless, the event went well after the mayor eventually turned up and hopefully it is the start of great things to come for Audrey, the organic markets and much more.

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Everything else

The other project I was volunteered on was with Genesis, the microfinance organisation, but although it was a much better fit than Arariwa, I wasn’t able to get stuck into anything meaningful as the other projects required more of my time. It was still a worthwhile experience as I made some good friends and I think I impressed on the one occasion I joined the guys to play football.

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In addition to playing football, I discovered an athletics track that only cost 2 soles (50p) a time, so I tried to get down there in the mornings when I could. I also left my mark on Cusco by setting some Strava records on the streets.

At the end of October, Mila welcomed a group of a dozen Australian biology students. They were due to spend a month in the Amazon, but their induction was in Cusco and Mila asked if I could come along to support her. In addition to the free meals, it was actually pretty interesting as I joined them at the local university to learn about the history of Cusco as well as the jungle and what they could expect from their project.

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The last touristy thing on my list was to visit the salineras in Maras and I was accompanied by my friend Lizie. We got a great day for it and not only did we enjoy seeing the unique salt terraces, we walked through the beautiful and peaceful Sacred Valley.

We got the bus back to Cusco from Urubamba via the scenic route and the driver took the opportunity to ask me whether or not I was interested in buying a 70-odd acre plot of land outside the city – the main selling point being that it had a waterfall!

The long bus journey meant I was late to the stadium for Cienciano’s final game of the season. Unfortunately their previous results meant that they started the day in 4th place, but there was still a small chance of winning the league so crowd was really up for the game. Despite beating the league leaders on the day (making it 3 wins out of 3 when I attended), they finished the season 3rd and there was an air of what-could -have-been after the game.

Finally – and I know you’ve all been wondering – my Spanish didn’t improve as much as I’d hoped. I wasn’t able to have as many lessons as I would have liked, but mainly it was that I didn’t put in the time outside of the classroom. That just means there’s more work for me to do back home – no giving up now!

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Peru, Week Six

I’ve now reached the half-way point of my stay in Cusco and this week marked a bit of a turning point (which will become clear later!)

I started the week at the Hogar on Monday morning and was immediately thrown in at the deep end. The mothers had an art class, so I was left in the toy room with eight babies. For an hour!

It went surprising well, but there were some frustrating moments. For example, I got one of the babies to go to sleep, but five minutes later the Señora woke him up to give him some banana and he just cried for the next ten minutes instead. Giving all the babies banana wasn’t ideal either – a lot ended up on the floor or their hands/faces.

It was André’s first birthday, so we sang happy birthday and had cake and jelly and then I didn’t leave until 3pm because of some torrential rain.

Feliz cumpleaños André!

After a quick lunch I went to the Arariwa office and helped my colleagues by printing out Experian credit reports for them. I didn’t know it then, but it would be the last time I worked with Arariwa.

On Tuesday I was back in my Spanish school before going back to the Hogar. This time I was accompanied by a fellow Spanish student, an Australian guy called Steve. This will become more significant later…

In the afternoon, I went to Mila’s office with Paula to discuss the other prospective projects. She told us that one of the new microfinance places had fallen through, but one was still on the table, plus another opportunity had come up – an agriculture project run by an American woman (which sounded perfect for Paula).

We went to meet with Genesis, the microfinance company, and we were immediately impressed. They were professional and seemed interested in our skills, plus one of their staff (Jimmy) speaks English. I agreed to start the next day. 

On Wednesday morning all of the staff arrived promptly for 8:30am – already a welcome change from Arariwa – and everyone gathered in the upstairs meeting room. Héctor, the boss, introduced me to the room and then said a few words in honour of Jimmy’s birthday. We had cake and some other snacks and there was a tight-knit, family feel between the staff (something which they talk about often).

When it was time to get to work, I was paired with Samantha to promote the company’s loan products in San Sebastián, a community a couple of miles out of the centre. Jimmy joined us (even though he works for the consultancy part of the Genesis Finance Group, and not the microfinance business) and, as well as help me pick up what was required in the task at hand, he asked a lot of questions in a friendly interview style. Far more engaging than Arariwa.

After only an hour or so, it was my turn to approach a street vendor and explain who we were and what products we offered. I was a little reluctant but it was fine and overall it was a very positive first morning.

Lunchtime was perfectly timed so that I could watch Manchester City play Barcelona, but the less said about the match the better. I was back in the office for 4pm, but was basically just left on my own whilst the others dealt with clients downstairs. At least this place has wi-fi for those times.

On Thursday I had a Spanish lesson before going back to the Hogar with Steve. After lunch I went to the Genesis office, but it was another quiet afternoon – although we did make a quick trip to another market to visit some prospective clients. As we were leaving, the guys asked if I had my football kit with me, but unfortunately that would have to wait for another day.

Friday morning’s work was the same as the first morning, although Samantha and I split up to hand out the leaflets. We finished a little early so I went for a run in the long lunch period. I ran around the airport, which wasn’t the nicest route and was also a few kilometres longer than I had anticipated. I did manage to take a couple of nice pictures though. 

Saturday morning’s work followed an already familiar pattern as we went out to the market to hand out more leaflets.

In the evening, there was a party at the house for Guillermo’s birthday. Friends and family came round, we had a meal and drinks (including homemade pisco sours), and the birthday boy got the traditional cake-in-the-face.  

Later on, Guillermo and his friends went into the city to go dancing but I was extremely tired so I stayed home.

I was having a lie-in on Sunday until I got a message from Steve, the Australian from my Spanish school. It was quite a bombshell, as he’d attached a dozen page document outlining his plan to set up an organisation in Cusco! I’m not going to go into detail here – it deserves a post of its own – but suffice to say, a fair bit of my remaining time in Cusco will be taken up helping Steve on this project.

That afternoon we braved the rain to watch Cienciano take on Willy Serrato. The interesting thing about the away side is that they have copied the club crest and kit of my own side, Manchester City.

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The game was even more one-sides than the previous one I went to. Cienciano hit the woodwork three times in the first 15 minutes and cruised to a 4-0 win. The three points gave them a cushion at them top of the league with five games left and the city’s hopes are high. 

Peru, Week Five

I went back to the Hogar on Monday because I knew that there weren’t going to be any other volunteers and they need all the help they can get. In the afternoon, I went to the Arariwa office, but like last Monday, there was basically nobody there.

Tuesday followed a similar pattern to Monday, but after work I stayed in the city to watch Peru play Chile. They’re pretty fanatical here (the previous week’s 2-2 draw vs Argentina was celebrated like a trophy) and almost all restaurants and bars had the game on – either on TV or radio. They scored a late equaliser, but still went on to lose; something they are a bit too used to. 

On Wednesday I joined Sankiyo on a long trip to a village near Urcos. We set off at 2pm by bus and then travelled the last couple of miles by motorbike. I thought he was joking when he first told me, but he borrowed it from a friend when we got to Urcos. 

The meeting followed a similar pattern to one from the previous week and dragged on even longer, so we didn’t get home until 9pm. A seven hour round trip for little reward.  

I didn’t even venture out of the house on Thursday, for two main reasons. First was because of the cold I almost certainly picked up from the kids at the Hogar; second was the weather, which has taken a turn for the worse recently:​

​​On Friday Paula and I returned to the rural village near Chinchero to make another cocina. We helped make the first one a fortnight ago, but this time it was all us! All things considered I think we can be pretty pleased with our efforts!

Saturday was a big day for Arariwa as it was their Día de Confraternizacion de la Familia Arariwa (the annual staff party). I joined them at 8:30am, after meeting up with our Spanish school at 6:30am to visit a local market (it’s only on until 8am on Saturdays). 

The staff party meant that all of Arariwa’s different offices come together for a day of fun, involving sports, food, drink and dancing. Most people brought their families and we were lucky to get some beautiful weather for the occasion. 

It was an amazing setting and we started with each office parading around while everyone else applauded. Different offices went to different amounts of effort, but one person actually dressed up as the Arariwa pig:
The main focus of the morning was the sports – football and volleyball in particular – and this was the venue:

The football was tricky for a few reasons: the pitch was very small for 6-a-side; I didn’t know the rules from the start (can only score from in the final third, can’t throw to people in certain positions etc); and my team wasn’t very good (age and temperament were against us). 

Nonetheless, our match started well enough. I set up a goal that was disallowed (and I still don’t know why) and then scored one of my own, so it was 1-0 at half-time. At this point we changed goalkeepers to accommodate Sankiyo’s late arrival and he took the blame for what happened in the second half, (which I thought was very unfair). 

A combination of fatigue and a couple of decisions going against us led to two of our players losing their heads (one was booked for retaliation) and basically giving up, so we finished as frustrated 4-1 losers. 

I was immediately called on to the volleyball court to join the girls. It seems to be a really popular sport here and I wasn’t really up to speed with all the positions and tactics, but that didn’t stop me from becoming a crowd favourite after a fun couple of minutes. 

It started with me chasing a high ball on to the adjacent football pitch to keep it alive (I ran through both crowds and about 10m on to the pitch). We won the point and everyone seemed to enjoy my enthusiasm. The next point I ended up doing a full length dive to keep the ball in the air and they loved that too. Soon after, I shouted my name as I was going for a high ball, which made everyone laugh, and then for the next couple of minutes they were all chanting my name!

We won the first match easily, but came unstuck in the second. This led to some more ill-feeling and barbed comments between the players. During our second game we had to stop as a fight broke out on the adjacent football pitch. Everyone was having a great time. 

For me, worse than losing in both sports was that I’d actually got pretty sunburnt by this point, so I was grateful when we went inside for lunch. The food was good and the beer was flowing. 

After lunch it was all about the dancing. Again, every office entered a team and they performed one after another. The outfits were all very colourful and there had clearly been a lot of effort put into the routines. 

Afterwards we went into Cusco and I got a couple of snaps of the full moon:

Peru, Week Four

This was probably the quietest week of my whole trip so far – partly by design – but I did include a video for you at the end.

As far as “work” goes, we switched to afternoons, but that didn’t mean we had any more to do. On Monday, I was alone in the office for most of the afternoon. Sankiyo (the colleague I’ve been paired with) didn’t come in at all, so I eventually left at 6:30pm having done nothing more than browse the internet.

On Tuesday, Jessenia took me and Sankiyo out for lunch – me, for helping her daughter with her English studies last week, and Sankiyo because he turned 40 over the weekend. We went to a chicharroneria because I said I liked chicharrón in Pisac last week.

Afterwards we went to a small local shop (run by an Arariwa client) and sat down to drink a beer. Four beers later, we headed home and that was my day’s “work”.

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With Sankiyo and Jessenia

On Wednesday I met up with Sankiyo at 2:30pm and we travelled to Urcos. We arrived at 4:20pm (for what he assured me would be an hour-long meeting – which would allow him to attend his 7pm English class), but as it turned out, we didn’t finish until about 7:30pm and I finally got home at 9:30pm. The meeting itself was a “closure”, which meant that the group were making their final payments for the loan cycle, as well as doing all the admin for the next cycle. It was quite interesting to observe but I was nothing more than a spectator.

On Thursday I visited another project, at a Young Mothers’ Centre, or Hogar (home), where Emmanuelle was volunteering.

There are ten mothers in the early/mid-teens living there with their babies. The volunteers help out wherever they can, mainly looking after the babies while the girls do other things like go to school, learn skills or just have some time for themselves. It was an eye-opener, even without knowing the stories of the individual girls.

Although I only went to pay the centre a visit, I ended up staying for a couple of hours. 

On Friday, we had planned to go back to Chinchero to make another cocina (stove), but when that was cancelled I decided to go back to the Hogar. I was there from 9am until 2pm, at which point we all had pizza because it was the last day for all three of the other volunteers.

Aside from “work”, I had two more Spanish lessons during the week – I feel like I’ve been given a lot of the tools now, it’s just a case of putting the time in to study and practice.

I had two free mornings where I’d planned to go running, but we had no water in the house so I didn’t.

On Saturday morning I went to the city centre to watch the girls from the Hogar in a parade. There seems to be one every weekend and the effort that goes into them is really impressive, particularly with the outfits.  

I had an early start on Sunday as I went out to watch sunrise above the city. It clouded over while I was waiting for the 5:20am sunrise, but I still managed to get these pictures:
In the afternoon I went to watch Cusco’s main football team, Cienciano, after seeing the game advertised here:

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Even though they’re in the second division at the moment and Real Garcilaso are in the top division, Ciencano are still the most popular side. They’re the oldest team in the country (founded as the science department of the university, hence the name, in 1901) and have won two South American trophies.

Estadio Inca Garcilaso de la Vega

The game itself was very one-sided and the away side just coming to defend – sometimes this makes for a boring spectacle but Union Huaral weren’t very good at it and Cienciano scored twice early. They could/should have scored several more goals before they finally got a third near the end – I got it on video!

In addition to the game, there were some other notable things:

We sat near the back of the west stand in front of these guys, most of whom were reporting on the match all the way through – check out the old school phone in the top right

www.soschildrensvillages.org.uk

There was a collection for a charity that I support and that Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany is a patron of: SOS Children’s Villages http://www.soschildrensvillages.org.uk

I couldn’t resist buying meat and potato on a stick from the food sellers in the stands