Elizabeth Jongetjes, a recent college graduate (Trinity Christian College) from Delavan, Wisconsin, just finished a two month stay in Huaycan with LLI. Please read on to hear her thoughts about volunteering, LLI's work, and living in Peru.
1. What are your responsibilities with Light and Leadership? Describe a typical workday (or your favorite workday):
My responsibilities with LLI keep me very busy. Each day is a little bit different, but primarily involves preparing for and teaching classes. I am responsible for a variety of classes from basic math to intermediate English. I teach kids as young as 6 years old as well as a couple classes for adolescents and adults. I love the variety of classes, locations and students that make up my week. Thursdays have become one of my favorite days each week. Each Thursday I start my day at 10:00 teaching English to 10 – 13 year old students in Zone D. The class consists of one hour of English followed by one hour of sports. It’s a great balance of work and play. Around 12:30, we have lunch at the volunteer house. Each day we enjoy a delicious traditional Peruvian meal together. It’s a great time to enjoy food, company and talk about new ideas and experiences as well as ask questions. At 2:20, I head up to Los Alamos to teach another English/sports class. The kids in Los Alamos have quickly become dear to my heart. Definitely makes the hot and bumpy combi [bus] ride well worth the while. My last responsibility for the day is the opportunity to private tutor a boy named Moises for an hour and a half. It’s a great to be able to work individually with one student. My responsibilities vary each day, providing me with a rich and rewarding variety of classes, experiences and opportunities.
2. Why do you think it´s important to volunteer (abroad or domestically)?
Volunteering has become a very important part of my life. Volunteering has opened doors for opportunities and experiences that have made an impact not only in my own life, but in the lives of others. Dedicating my time to a cause that I believe in is highly rewarding. I have found over and over that the times that I focus more on others and less on myself are the times when I experience the greatest measure of joy. It is healthy to take a step back from my own world and become directly involved in someone else’s. There are countless volunteer opportunities available everywhere. For the last few years I have volunteered domestically and been greatly blessed by such experiences. Going abroad and volunteering in Peru has been an amazing volunteer experience that I would highly recommend to anyone with a love for adventure, learning and service. Volunteering in Peru allows me the opportunity to explore a new place, learn about a different culture and give back to the people that I quickly came to love.
3. What has been your favorite aspect of volunteering with Light and Leadership?
My favorite aspect of volunteering with Light and Leadership is building relationships with the people I came here to serve. Getting to know my students and other people in Huaycan makes everything I do here incredibly personal and exciting. Everyone is very friendly, welcoming and thankful. Hugs from students each morning, hearing my name shouted while walking down the street, receiving a piece of homemade chocolate from a student’s mother, being thanked and loved every day, and always being asked, “When are you coming back?” Are just a few of the reasons why I love this place, this group of people and my life as a volunteer.
4. Do you feel Light and Leadership is making an impact in the community? If so, how?
I definitely feel that Light and Leadership is making an impact in the community. Enthusiasm for education has spread quickly. The community takes pride in their ability to learn English, French, computer skills, art and more. Light and Leadership offers the people of Huaycan excitement, pride and new possibilities. As education increases, so do opportunities, potential and joy.
5. What is it like living in Huaycan? What are the biggest differences and/or similarities compared to where you are originally from?
Huaycan has quickly become home for me. When I first arrived, I wondered how my life could ever feel right in a place so different. However, I was warmly welcomed into this community and found the people and culture to be very special. The differences in landscape, economics, language, and customs were drastic, but the similarities in hospitality, emphasis on family and love for life made me feel at home. I’ve found that it’s the people around you that make things feel right. The simplicity of life here is refreshing, and has taught me a lot about what I really need and what is most important to me.
6. Was your experience in Huaycan similar to what you expected?
My experience in Huaycan had elements that I anticipated, such as learning about a new culture, teaching classes, and learning a bit of Spanish. In addition, my experience provided me with friends from all over the world, the opportunity to explore new places, the ability to communicate in a new language, and the amazing feeling that I am making a difference in the lives of others. It’s inevitable to go to a new place without a list of expectations and anticipations, but often, it’s the surprises, changes of plan and unexpected challenges that add to the value and richness of an experience.
Light and Leadership relies on enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers, just like Elizabeth. Be a part of our team! We currently need volunteers from August - December (2011) and January - February (2012). Check out our program!
Published by Lara DeVries on behalf of Light and Leadership. Special thanks to Elizabeth Jongetjes for being a great volunteer and lending us her thoughts! Come back soon!