The time we spent in the hogar was a learning experience for us all, volunteers and crew alike. We learnt from Peru, from the specific situation we found ourselves in, from the people we spent time with, volunteers and children alike. I especially feel likeÊI learnt a lot during my time in the Hogar San Francisco de Asis, andÊI have taken that forward to whatÊI am doing today. I am still in Cusco, having spent the past year and a half in Peru bothÊleading volunteer groups and now organizing volunteer programs in all of Latin America, and every day I learn more about the needs of the people and places I come across, which only makes you want to learn more so that you can do more to help.
Volunteering affects us all in different ways, what we bring to it, and what we take from it.ÊWe all see things a little differently, and have something unique to offer to a situation, some people absorb one experience and take it with them back to enrich their everyday home lives, others take one experience and it gives them a thirst for more volunteering. For me volunteering has been something life-changing; maybe I will not always be doing this job, but I will always be learning from the world, because volunteering has opened my eyes to this world, toÊits riches and to its tragedies, and this job gives me the opportunity to share that with others. For the moment, I can't see an end to my work here until I feel I no longer have something to give.
ItÕs nice to still have contact with some ofÊthe group from Journeys of the Heart, because we really shared something special. Being out here itÕs excellent to have volunteers still caring about the kids, getting in touch and asking how they are doing, and for me to be able to give updates on how they are, some have been adopted, some are speaking after speech therapy for example. For volunteers, their experience should never just become a nice memory,Êinstead they should realize thatÊit is a continuous living truth that is still happening.
Volunteering is a two-way exchange. It is not the omniscient white man saving the world. It is recognizing the limitations of yourself, the limitations of those you are helping, and the limitations of a situation, and working with these limitationsÊto push those boundaries togetherÊand challenge things. It is being frustrated, and feeling guilty, and seeing how joy comes from things you would never imagine, and challenging your own way of life. ItÕs about opening your eyes. You come to give, but you take back something much more valuable, something you never knew you lacked before.
This is why anyone can volunteer, anywhere, for any length of time. It isn't surviving on rice for a year, working yourself to the bone everyday in self-sacrifice. It is about giving what time, energy, skills or knowledge you have as an individual, and through that giving-process, learning and taking that knowledge and doing something good with it. That knowledge, those eye-opening experiences, theyÊare what make change inÊthe world. It is not the deeds - it isÊthe thoughts that have a longer-lasting impact, the ripples on the pond.