I arrived in Cusco (Peru) a few weeks ago, expecting to stop for a few days, do the Inca Trail, and head on to the coast. 3 weeks later and I`m still here.
Aside from my love of the many delights of Cusco (which I will be writing about soon – still have a few more places to visit today), the real reason I have stayed the extra stretch, is because I stumbled upon, completely by chance, one of the most amazing + enlightening concept I have come across so far, probably ever.
Aldea Yanapay is essentially, at the moment, an alternative free of charge, non-profit school that welcomes children from challenged backgrounds, to come and learn about an alternative way of life. The school operates as an extracurricular school (so children attend for 4 hours after their normal compulsory curricular school ends). The idea is to offer the children a safe place where they can come and learn through art, play, and other creative channels, and where they can talk to their alternative “Families” (classes) about anything and everything.
My first encounter with Aldea Yanapay was when I picked up one of their leaflets in my hostel. I had been looking to get involved with some projects out here, to do something worthwhile to break up the tough weeks of travelling, relaxing, eating and drinking!!
I had actually arranged to teach at a school in Lima through a friend who works for Manzanita A (a fantastic organisation formed by a group of Peruvian social workers), but I was slightly hesitant as I was scheduled to teach maths, and as my Spanish, and to be honest my Maths also, are a little short of basic, I wasnt sure how much benefit I would actually bring to the organisation, and most importantly the children.
So, back to the point, when I picked up the leaflet, I headed over the delicious Aldea Yanapay cafe/restaurant (415 Ruinas, Cusco) to find out more. One thing led to another and the following Monday afternoon I was enrolled as an art teacher.
After many papier-mâché globes (I was teaching in World week), a wrongly painted Union Jack flag (embarrassing), and lots of mess, I started to wonder what else I could do to help Aldea Yanapay. As an organisation with great ambitions (to evolve into an eco-village, with an orphanage, eventually spreading outside of Peru), I knew that they could really do with some help behind the scenes, especially in Marketing.
I got talking to the people running the project, and have now volunteered to take on the Marketing of the project on a long-term basis. Obviously I will not be in South America forever, but as a big chunk of the marketing is online, I can do this remotely from wherever I am.
Albeit an amazing project to work on in every way, there is a lot to do. I have already spoken to a few of my contacts from London who are really keen to join forces with me and help out, but if any of you can spare an hour here or there, whether it be working through social media, helping with some linkbuilding to their website, or simply helping me out with some design work (as I am oversees until November I don’t have my Mac and design suite with me), please get in touch.
On the other hand, as one of the key objectives of all this is to find new volunteers, if you are travelling to Peru and interested in free volunteering, please contact me and I will put you in touch with the right people, who are lovely, super-friendly, and very welcoming by the way.
I`m off to catch an extremely long bus to Máncora now, but will be back with more news (and hopefully covered in salt and sand) soon.