‘…but this feeling, for me, was more motivating and personally rewarding than anything I have done in my life to this point’
Spending five weeks working in a shanty town on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, is not for everybody looking to take a gap year. However, if you are a person that wants to direct the energy you have into doing something with genuinely positive impacts, rather than hostel flopping and drinking beer around South-East Asia or South America, you will love your time in Villa Maria.
Seeing the conditions that people lived in was not eye-opening, if you know what a shanty town looks like. Villa Maria is a shanty town, it is incredibly tough for a lot of people, and you will live in that shanty town for five weeks. If you do not want to step outside your comfort zone, do not do this project. If you are willing to talk to people, even if your Spanish isn’t great, you will love it and it will feel like home. If you can´t take a joke, or don’t want to work hard, you will find it very difficult. The project really does have the potential to be the best five weeks of your life, but you have to be willing to work hard and make an effort with everyone, even if your tired.
One of the best aspects of the projects is the family community that develops between the volunteers and the Peruvians working on the project. To work so closely with people that have devoted so much of their life to improving the lives of children in Villa Maria is an incredible privilege, and the close bonds that you will make in that time with so many locals is an experience that is incredibly hard to get from a regular backpacking gap year. The difference in personalities of the Peruvians in the project is amazing and you will not get bored of hearing about their lives.
A thing I hadn’t comprehended fully before the project is the incredible gratefulness of the children you volunteer with. This is what I will remember for the rest of my life, how one hour playing classic playground games with a group of kids will not seem much to you, but the difference to their summer you make is hard to put into context. It is a feeling you will not have had if you have not done a project like this before, but this feeling, for me, was more motivating and personally rewarding than anything I have done in my life to this point.
If you are a motivated person that wants to travel, experience new cultures, make new friends and work hard you would be a fool not to do this project.
– Alex Latto, Villa Maria 2018 Volunteer