A New Home Away from Home

By: Sarah MacLean

My time abroad can’t be considered a competition between the various countries of South America, but in just a few days I’ve realized that my month in Peru is going to rival my four months in Chile in terms of challenge and adventure.  I’ve only been in Cusco for a few days, but I already find the city so exciting and welcoming at the same time.

My home stay is just a few miles from the city’s center, perfect for easily getting to all the major attractions but not always being surrounded by tourists on the streets.  My host parents and their son have been so welcoming, as have the other two volunteers that I live with.  Mealtime conversations have included discussions of Peruvian history, comparisons of healthcare systems around the world, and Spanish vocabulary lessons.  Coming to a new place has really helped me see how much my Spanish skills have improved in the past few months, as I’ve been able to have some really interesting conversations with my host family and help translate for the other volunteers.

I’ve now spent three days working with Manos Unidas at Camino Nuevo [“New Way”], their school for children with special needs.  I’ve been floating between the various classrooms, which have children ranging from age 3 to age 12, to see where I’ll be most useful in the next few weeks.  The experience has already been so challenging, as it requires a lot of patience and attention to teach the students and ensure that they are always safe.  My three days have already taught me so much about Cerebral Palsy and Down Syndrome, two disorders that I have very little experience with.  I’m hoping to incorporate my experience working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders into new materials and lessons for the teachers to use even after I leave Peru.

During my time outside the classroom, I’m excited to take advantage of everything that this area of Peru has to offer.  The region is full of Incan ruins, beautiful hikes and exciting markets.  First up – Machu Picchu this weekend with my sister!