Everything was wonderful with the program. My family during the home stay was amazing and everyone who worked at the school was extremely helpful and friendly. I thought everything in the program was well- planned, well-organized, and detailed which saved a lot of stress on my part.
Rosie McArthur: Programa de Estimulación Temprana y Adiestramiento (PETA)
"My trip was fantastic. Although everything was rather scary at first it ended up being one of the best things I've done. I actually transferred in the second month to volunteer programme in Bolivia, to the same school in the town of Sucre, which was also fantastic.
It went extremely quickly and I managed to pack in a lot. Machu Picchu was amazing and I met some amazing people - local Bolivians, other travellers and teachers at the school. I managed to learn Spanish quite well too, which was great!
If you want any more info I'd be more than willing, but thanks for the organisation your end. If was definitely worth it and I would recommend it to anyone interested in doing that sort of thing. Thanks again - it was amazing."
"You offered just what I needed (a Spanish course in Peru and voluntary work with children) but I did not have time to organise it myself. The school was great and the staff were friendly and helpful. Some of the teachers did not speak English, which I understand is their approach to teaching. Owing to the nature of the test on the first day, they got the impression that I knew more than I did, so I was put into a class too advanced for me. They resolved this successfully and put me in a more basic class.
The location of the school was convenient, being in the centre of town. It was great being located in Cusco with lots of things to do to suit all - cafes, bars, restaurants, clubs, history, countryside. It is especially good for younger people who have not been abroad much before, but I found it slightly too western.
In my first month I stayed with a single woman and lunched with her extended family every day. I had my own room and bathroom which was lovely (I was expecting to rough it a little!). It was good being surrounded by Spanish speakers all the time - I learnt a lot.
The best bit about my trip was the voluntary work in the kindergarten - I absolutely loved it. It was the best thing I ever did. Living with the locals provided an interesting insight into another country and culture. Also a good balance of studying/voluntary work provided enough time to see and do other things in Cusco and the surrounding area."
Alex Davydov : Centro Juvenil de Marca Valle, Dec 2004 (written on his weblog while in Cusco)
"Three other volunteers and I visited the boys at the reformatory to participate in their Christmas party. Although they are locked in their dormitory at night, they decorated the rooms, brought out radios and to sing and dance late into the night. We brought soft drinks and treats for them and tried to keep up with their dancing. The two Dutch girls, Karen and Suzanne that came along were kept quite busy on the dance floor, and all the boys wanted their pictures taken with them. We left just before midnight to join our host families at home.
Peruvians celebrate Christmas when it turns midnight on Christmas Eve. I arrived at the home of the grandparents, where my entire host family was gathered, and as I walked in the door, they all started singing happy birthday (it is my birthday on Christmas Eve), first in English, then Spanish. During my time living with my host family, they always made a point treating me like a member of the family and not as a guest. As such, they included me in the annual photo of all the cousins (below). It soon turned midnight, we at a huge turkey dinner, took pictures, opened presents, and danced. Everybody was dancing (including children and grandparents) until the sun came up on Christmas morning.
Well, what can I say. This is my last week in the city that has been my home away from home for the past 2 months. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here, living with a wonderful host family, making friends from Peru and all over the world, walking among the ruins of the beautiful and mystical Inca empire, working with children who truly appreciate my efforts... I spent much of my free time at the reformatory this week, helping out here and there, but mostly just hanging out with the boys there."
Katherine Moulder: Centro Juvenil de Marca Valle, Sept 2004
"Overall it was a fantastic experience. The language school was excellent, great teaching and extra curricular stuff making it very sociable and easy to make friends. The guide at the school was great and I went on loads of trips, seeing pretty much everything there was to see in Cusco! Administration was excellent and the staff always very helpful.
My homestay also was very good - food a little interesting at times, but I got used to it! Lunch was normally a major carbohydrate packed feast, soup with rice followed by meat, rice, pasta, potatoes!! Also incredibly cold in July...perhaps students should be warned of no heating and drafty houses!
Cusco was a great place to spend 2 months. I would really recommend people to study there. It's an easy place to get to know, with great bars and cafes to ease the culture shock. It's very touristy, however still plenty of opportunities to speak Spanish and so much to see in the area.
My volunteer work was great. Marca Valle is a great place, the kids were all really nice and respectful to me, I never had any trouble with them. If anyone is placed there and has concerns about working in a "prison" please feel free to put them in touch with me! Teaching English was quite hard as I had to prepare a lot for each day but it meant I felt very useful. Speaking to other volunteers who were for example working in orphanages or schools with very young children found it tough as they didn't feel as needed or helpful. I felt my Spanish improved during my work and learnt a lot from the teaching. Thanks for helping me set up a great experience. Since I finished the volunteer work I've spent a couple more weeks in Peru, and then have spent a month doing some amazing trekking in Bolivia. Another week or so in Bolivia then I'm off to Argentina! Thanks again, Katherine."
Susan Green: Hogar Clínica San Juan de Dios, July 2004
"Thank you very much for your email. Yes, I am back, in one piece and back at
work. I seem to be spending all my spare time organising the hundreds of
photos I took!
The entire package went well. I hadn't asked that my bags
were checked all the way through to Lima - assuming that they would be. I
didn't realise that you have to clear US immigration, even if you're in
transit. There was a really long wait, with no special desks for people
with connecting flights. I think it would be helpful to make sure people know to check their bags through and suggest that people get off the flight quickly if
they have a tight connection.
My family, Yony and Wendy, were at Cusco airport to meet me and made me feel
very welcome. Three of my four
teachers were absolutely excellent. Only one was a disappointment. The
teaching was of a high standard. I don't think it was quite as good as the
teaching in Barcelona where there was a better balance of grammar,
vocabulary and conversation. The Cusco course is quite verb heavy and quite
prescriptive for the teachers.
I really enjoyed my time at the Hogar
Clinica San Juan de Dios. The conditions there are really very good. They
are just completing a new adventure playground for the children. The nurses
provide very good care although they don't seem to communicate with the
children much while washing, dressing and feeding them. Of course that
varies between indiviuals. There are quite a lot of student nurses. It
does concern me that the children have such a high turnover of carers but I
suppose that is inevitable. Carolina, the organiser for volunteers at the
school, asked me if I would like to spend 2 weeks in the hospital and 2
weeks at the Hogar. I chose not to but one of my US fellow students did so.
She didn't enjoy the hospital part at all and it meant that she had a very
short time at the Hogar. Carolina also told her that she needn't attend on
Public Holidays. In fact, it is on Public Holidays and in school holidays
that volunteers are particularly needed. On those days, I was often the
only volunteer and had all the children to try and entertain. The children
were lovely and I miss them a lot.
The school has an official guide, Eduar, who is fantastic. He takes all new
students around Cusco every Monday and runs regular trips to Inca sites in
the Sacred Valley. He only speaks Spanish but speaks very slowly and
clearly and makes sure that everyone understands. The trips were excellent.
The other students were, with a few exceptions, much younger than I, but
they were all good company and the social life was excellent.
Cusco is a
great place to spend some time.
A friend joined me at the end for a great trip to Puerto Maldonado, Lake
Titicaca, Arequipa and the Colca Canyon. I then returned to Cusco to walk
the Inca Trail - a fantastic way to end. My Spanish seemed to get worse
while I was at the Hogar as most of the children didn't speak. However, it
really took off on our travels and I felt moderately confident at the end.
It was great to be able to chat to taxi drivers and staff in the hostels.
I have some photos which might be good but don't want to send them until I
learn how to send smaller files!
I'd be happy to hear from anyone who might be going to the Hogar.
Best wishes, Susan."
"I chose Cactus because the service and the people seemed very efficient and you provided placements that i was interested in. In Peru the school was great and the teachers were wonderful - all very patient and knowledgable, and very professional as well as friendly and affable. The begging became a real issue after a while. A lot of the projects don't really know how to make best use of volunteers, so being prepared with materials to take with you is a great plan. Books, pens, paper for teaching etc. are rarely available there. I would suggest not going in the rainy season like I did because it really restricts your ability to get out and explore the rest of Peru.... the things I were able to achieve with the kids in the project was what I enjoyed the most."