The Tankarpata neighbourhood in the outskirts of Cusco
Monday came, and after checking with my doctor that the kids I was going to help would not catch any of my viruses, so started my volunteering time with Cooperar Perú.
Little did I know when I decided to volunteer this summer what exactly I'd be able to do, how much I'd be able to help or how I'd do it for that matter. Yet here I was, ready to start my volunteering.
Emma, our Volunteers Coordinator was my first point of contact. She explained the project, how it started in 2010 as a University project by Eduardo Huaynamarca and two more friends, and how the project continued as a fully volunteer run organisation afterwards given the high need for it in the area.
Tankarpata is allegedly one of the poorest areas in Cusco, a place where until a few months ago there wasn't even running tap water, and where street lamps or electricity at home are a luxury reserved to a few.
Every day at 3pm the volunteers head from Caja Mágica (the hostel helping fund the volunteering project) to the Tankarpata neighbourhood to help children with their school tasks, prepping for exams, or even playing. We have four sections running from 3.30pm to 5pm; Biblioteca (library), Ludoteca (play area), Computo (computer room - 4 units to be shared and no internet) and Area de actividades y Lavatorio (activity area and washing area).
As part of the education for good health and hygene habits all children must brush their teeth and hands before entering the building. Trust me, that does raise a few complaints but in the end, they understand (and I'd dare say welcome) the rules, so all end up obeying.
The favourite sections seem to be Computo for the 12-14 year old boys who love playing with their games, a few 4-10 year olds head directly to the Ludoteca should they not have homework to complete, and finally the few with homework do stay in the Biblioteca until their tasks are completed. From maths, to painting and colouring, to writing and conjugating and social sciences, we need to be ready to help with all at all levels, quite a challenge specially as the majority of volunteers' mother tongue isn't Spanish.
After their choice of activity comes the joined activity in the main room. Every week we plan for a theme for the week which then translates into the activities from Monday (presentation of the theme), Tuesday (Language & Reading), Wednesday (Theatre & Impro), Thursday (Comunication) to Friday (Dance and Corporal Expression). The 'merienda' (afternoon snack) closes the afternoon which helps ensure all children have a proper meal a day, and off they go back to their homes.
This week the theme has been a 'Fun Fair' which we did today. A great achievement to gather all children on a Saturday, for the parents to attend and be present to witness the activities and relationship we have with the children. And the children... they were so excited with their prizes and little games, yet embracing the values of respect to each other while playing that we work so hard to teach them day after day allowing for the youngest to have more chances, or keeping a tight line and awaiting their turn.
Louise, one of the volunteers outside the Cooperar Perú building