In the summer of 2019, our partner Irene volunteered in the Amazon rainforest of Peru.
An experience she wanted to share with all of us and with you.
Her first volunteer experience of this type, and according to her, the first of many. Because it’s been one of the best trips of her life.
We leave you with her… 🙂
LANDING INTO THE UNKNOWN
When I land at the airport, I can feel the jungle heat. That heat that I missed so much since I’ve been traveling through the Andean part of Peru for the last few weeks.
When I leave, Andrea is waiting for me. A sweet-faced girl but as strong as an oak tree. In just two years, her love, energy, and her dream have built this great project. A girl who would well deserve a separate story.
In the tuk-tuk on the way to the port, we talked and talked about our lives. And already in the harbor a boat is waiting for me to take me to Santa Clara. A community of just over 300 inhabitants and where I will spend the next 2 weeks.
Andrea stays in Iquitos running some errands and I I embark to my new destiny. 30 minutes sailing the Amazon. What a thrill! I’m sailing the longest and most flowing river in the world! And with the jungle both sides!
In Santa Clara I am waiting for Gurene, Luisa and Nacho, my new companions and with those I will share this experience with other volunteers that will come in over the two weeks I’ll be there.
My welcome couldn’t be better. As soon as we arrive: “Leave the backpack, we’re going on a field trip, it’s Sunday and we’re going to take advantage of it.”
We spent Sunday laughing (and the ones I had left) in Enchanted Water, a stream where we bathe with the locals who are resting that day there.
Playing ball with the kids I can’t feel luckier.
We walk back among a vegetation of scandal to Santa Clear. A bath in the Amazon and our little house.
And there. Lying in a hammock. Under the darkness of the night begin the 15 days of the best experience I’ve ever had in my life.
What can I contribute? How can I help? What am I going to do to find? So many questions that on the first day I realize that they shouldn’t of having taken away my sleep.
There is room for every type of person within the project. It doesn’t matter what you do, it doesn’t matter if you have experience, because the common denominator is LOVE.
Even though this area certainly needs ambitious projects, ambitious, involving a before and after for the community, if not you don’t have it! Because just being able to offer a helping hand, conversation, company, games…whatever to these little ones, is already more than we can imagine, and do you know why?
Because the project bases itself on empowering this community of smiling and welcoming people. But mostly to give a chance to the children, during a few hours a day, to be what they are meant to be…CHILDREN.
This community has evolved tremendously. And Project Iquito has had much to do with this.
Los lugareños trabajan principalmente en una refinería que hay cerca, pescando, haciendo comercio, o lo que surja. Anything in order to eat.
Often the little ones help out the older ones doing jobs they shouldn’t be doing, but what choice do they have?
Do they go to school? Yes, most days, but will this actually help them change their lives? Most ofter, no.
The educational system there is quite different from the system that we have in more privileged countries. Furthermore, in order to continue studying they need very good grades in order to get a scholarship that would allow them to continue, something that does not happen.
For this, at 3 pm, the children go to the pergola where the volunteers wait for them to play games. Play games. This is what they want. To be listened to. To be children.
And afterwards, we have the workshops, and they can choose whatever they like most. Dance? Music? Theatre? Cooking? Arts and crafts? Each week they can choose from different ones
And after, one of the moments they can’t wait for… Snack time!! Like lick their fingers! Sometimes even the glass the person sitting next to them has left.
But this kids are very bright, and they know that the door to the volunteers’ hut is open 24 hours a day. When they get out of school They often stop by and say hello. To paint. To chat. They know we are their friends and that here they have their space.
Yes! If you have to rest, you have to rest 😊
BUT WHAT DOES PROJECT IQUITOS DO?
The real question is what does it NOT to.
Beyond Mondays planning the workshops that will take place during the week with the children and paly with them. We try to go further. It is not about entertaining. It is about contributing.
The fact that the volunteer house serves as lodging already gives funding for the snack that is distributed to the babies every day.
It is used to buy medicines. It is used to get material for the workshops.
And Andrea. This girl breaks her back in this place. Bringing ideas. Giving a hand to whatever task may improve the future. Giving love.
And the community knows it. They smile at you. They say hello. They invite you to chat or to play football 🙂
I was more the volleyball type after school. Well, at least to try. Because, wow those girls could play! They couldn’t help but laugh at us. But anyway, we did the best we could!
MORE THAN VOLUNTEERING
But there’s something else about this volunteering. There’s a connection among the people who share it. There’s cohabitation. There’s friendship. And that’s also because of the conditions in which this experience is lived.
And imagine living in a cabin in the jungle!
A wooden cottage in which you share a room with bunk beds (with mosquito nets of course). A terrace that in turn makes dining room, where you share nights of guitar or ukulele by rocking in a hammock.
A dry bath from which you see the Amazon River pass. A rain shower by which you jump for joy when you see drops falling Heaven fills the tub!
Drinking water is brought in buckets purchased from a family of community. Although now they will have a system that will allow each house two buckets of drinking water a day.
With the only light that was emitted by a common generator for the whole little town that only works two or three hours at night. And sometimes.
Volunteers form a family in which they settle the chores of every week so that no task falls into oblivion and everything stay in harmony.
Even if there were people more smart than others, with laughter everything was resolved (I cried from laughter several times for this subject) and coexistence it was ongoing.
People to learn from. People to share with. People you don’t know on the first day and the last one you’ll give everything for them. People who become your family.
HOW TO LIVE THIS EXPERIENCE
You don’t have to have a master’s degree. Or done internships. Yes, it takes certain skills, to have a lot of desire, to want to contribute and that you do not mind bathing in a river of brown waters!
Ideally, go with a project in mind that you think will go to mean improvement or learning there. But it’s not obligatory.
In fact, I went without anything concrete. I only knew how to give massages because I did a chiromassage study. In the end I ended up teaching aerobics because as a child I did as extracurriculars and they loved it!
It’s all right. I’m sure there’s something you know how to do, touch a Instrument? Yoga? Any workshops of any subject? And if not, I’m sure you know LISTEN and GIVE LOVE.
If you want to live one of the best experiences of your life.
If you haven’t dared yet to do that volunteering that so much you’ve wanted it for a long time.
If you like exotic places.
If you really want to live another culture.
Don’t hesitate. You go to Project Iquitos.
I thanks to collaborating here on Travel, Enjoy and Help, I was lucky enough to come across Viajes Tumaini, who opened the window for this fabulous project. Thanks to them and Travel, Enjoy and Help I have been able to give some visibility to this fabulous place.
So don’t hesitate, because if you don’t jump you’ll be missing an unforgettable trip.
I’ve been traveling in South America for four months and I’ve been forgotten things. It’s normal.
But I’ll never forget when Luisito took me on a hike the jungle. Little Valentino’s laughter. Or when Milenia, the day we we said goodbye, he told me he loved me.
I’ll always take that with me in my heart.