Tales from the volunteers

So arriving at the NGO with no teaching experience and none of the language was interesting but i was very eager to learn and pick up new skills from the people whom i was working with and around. I knew that I had signed up to learn and take everything on, so I was prepared to be thrown in at the deep end and develop as fast as i could. It was difficult at first, with the language barrier and with no experience but it was also the best way to learn. I had no choice to take my time and doss around not learning the language. And teaching along side many different people and seeing how they all worked differently but how they worked as teams and working alongside each other with different approaches to teaching worked well and sitting in on classes helped a lot. Especially in my group at SKIP, I was put with a Spanish woman who had worked in nurseries back in Spain, and her methods were spot on, the children respected her so much, she had time fillers sorted, songs she sang with the children and although she had only been teaching at skip for a few weeks she knew all the children so well, and really thought about them while preparing the work and preparing different levels of work for each group of abilities. She really did teach me a lot, and although we hardly have a conversation together due to the language barrier, watching how she was with the children and how she gained their respect was amazing to watch. At the same time I was being introduced to the economical development side of the organisation. After arriving and learning about that side of the NGO I had mentioned that I would like to work on that branch too, and if it was possible to put me in for a shift with that. But there was a change around of workers at the time and it was all a bit up in the air, with an ex-volunteer having to come over to keep it going as they searched for a new coordinator. So for my first few weeks I wasn’t able to get involved as it was at a bit of a stand still.



As well as watching and trying to help out with the skip group, Myself and Fin, the other EVS volunteer who came over with me, overlooked english teaching at skip to get an idea of what the classes were like and what the teaching style was like, full of games and relaxed with as much verbal involvement of the kids. And we were at first very overwhelmed how the kids acted, running around, climbing on the tables or under them, but you have to take into account their home life and many of them live in single rooms with many people, some don’t even have electricity and most of them don’t have running water…all of this plus the amount of violence that is always around – either if it is in the home or in the neighbourhood. Plus SKIP is also in addition to going to school so they can get a bit restless and i guess the hot weather doesn’t help either. And there are so many things to take into account, and endless list! But after they get to know you they are so eager to learn and really respect you and seem less crazy! Anyway back to the point, I don’t really think the training we were given was very useful, it was very basic and just scraping the surface, and after a while I needed to have quite a lot of additional meetings to help with the problems we were having, which were so much more useful than the training. It took me a while to ask for help as I couldn’t work out why things weren’t working out for me, but then I realised I could speak to the coordinators and they really helped and gave me loads of ideas and were constantly asking if everything was working and going okay, and that was great. Y w as were starting term this week, I have improved and advanced so much with my teaching skills and behaviour management, as well as now being able to speak fluent spanish, I have been promoted to be the main teacher of a group of 18!Which I was kind of doing for the holiday club and it went fine so I am very happy about that!

Ate being at skip for a month, the amazing teacher who was teaching our class left, and was replaced by a number of people with now, less experience than me! So as they were the teachers they would prepare the work, but i could see where the problems were and i had many meetings with them as the time went on , to suggest different methods and also to tell them about which child and where they were up to with the work. And as the teachers kept changing with the fast turn over of volunteers I was soon the one to know most about the children and what suited them, and also as there aren’t enough volunteers at skip at the moment I have been given a class! But i am very happy about it and feel confident.

After the new eco dev coordinator came I quickly got a shift assisting someone in the workshops, giving ideas to the mothers and helping them, paying them, taking in new products and tagging them. And I really enjoyed it, plus it helped to improve my spanish talking to the mothers. And then in January I was made a head of a workshop, of jewellery. I now have the responsibility of buying the products each week that the mothers ask for, and I run the workshop on my own without an assistant. I have also now been trained in sales force where i have to put up all the information of new products each evening after the workshop, so we have statistics of what sells and also all the information is in one place. On sales force I also have to change the settings if things are sold and go to inventory in the shops where we sell the products of the mothers. Along with this I have worked in the office a little, I have sat in when we have had meetings with mothers who want to get a loan out and seen the questioning procedure and how they sort that out. I have also been on home visits to see mothers who maybe haven’t been to a skip workshop for a while or haven’t been paying their loan back. And I have learnt how to take loan payments. I feel I have learnt a lot in eco dev department!

And public school teaching is tiring, waking up at 6 can be hard! and teaching 5 classes of 30 children of 40 minutes each is a non stop morning! But it is very different to teaching at Skip and very fun, and once you get to know the children (I still don’t know any names!) it gets a lot easier. There were a few problems the last term i taught, but just with the schools participation, but it is the worst school we work with and very disorganised and there is always a surprise! But you get used to that, and SKIP are constantly talking to them to try and change how they work but it never seems to make much of a difference! But things have changed and we’ll see how they go this term, but now they have their very own english room which is progress!




Katalina Balcomb, long-term EVS (European Voluntary Service) volunteer


Visit Katalina’s blog: http://katgoestoperu.wordpress.com/




Project supported by the EACEA and the Youth In Action programme of the European Commission.

Testimony from Katalina, long term EVS (European Voluntary Service) volunteer in Peru:


So i guess quite a few things have gone on since i last blogged…went to visit a nearby little town called Pacosmayo with some of the other volunteers, it was our first national bank holiday so we made the most of it! It was a charming little fishing town 2 hours up from Trujillo. And it was just lovely to be out of Trujillo for the first time and the pier there is amazing, one of Peru’s longest piers and also one of the longest piers I think I will ever see! We all tiptoed to the end of it, it was definitely falling apart and although you payed an entrance fee of 10p to walk on it, it would have been prohibited in England it was that old! With a railway track going right to the end of it, and as we got to the end there were less and less planks to stand on and the rail tracks were becoming more and more eroded and rusty, but once at the end we all sat down and saved a trapped crab. It was wedged in between some remaining planks and was really super wedged in but it was still alive 🙁 but we managed to put it out its misery buy very carefully rotating it out with much difficulty and chucking it back in the sea. Also while sat on the end of the pier we noticed that the little fishing boats were all crowed with birds, pelicans! Quite a spectacular sight, I don’t remember ever seeing a pelican and then TADA, suddenly hundreds just chilling on some boats bobbing around in the Atlantic ocean?! And we also saw a man catch a squid and kill it, with his bare hands while it was crazily wriggling around, and then black squid ink squirted all over him. Sad but fantastic sight to catch!Anyway that was alll AGES ago! So I’m going to move on to more recent things that have been going on in my life!


Let’s start with things at SKIP and the work I’ve been doing. Group 2 are my favorite job I think, they’re all so cute, with the biggest personalities ever and they can be quite naughty (well to each other, fighting sometimes with the boys and also snatching things off each other, hogging rubbers and copying each others work) but they’re mostly really well behaved and love doing their work. When I first got here they used to LOVE reading (well the ones that can read) and used to come in, settle down, and read quietly and alone for the 20 minutes they have for reading. These days they’re a bit more impatient and unsurprisingly want to play as soon as they get in the classroom! And I also have a pupil named Evelyn who is lovely but has learning disabilities and can be extremely distracting and naughty and never gets round to doing any work, and she is most best at stopping the other kids doing their work, by snatching their worksheets, generally annoying them, stealing their resources…stealing their shoes! bags! whatever she can get her hands on really! But the other children are angles wit her and never bat an eye lid or retaliate. Which I am super proud of because for a 7 year old to not retaliate at all when another child pulls their hair or kicks them is amazing!


And then also at SKIP I have been continuing my work in the Economic Development part…I’ve been working in the office, mainly just waiting for parents (mainly mothers) to come in to pay off their loans, which is simple and quite boring as only a few come in in the 3 hours i’m there. But I’ve also managed to see a few new loans being requested and the process for that which is great, and also the questions that they have to answer in order to apply for a loan and really interesting to know more about the lives of the families of skip. especially finding out how many children some families have (8!) and also like how much money they spend on food and electricity and water etc a week. And then i have also been helping out in the jewelry workshop where mothers come in to make jewelry, we provide the materials and a teacher and they learn and pay the cost of the materials they use and then we sell them from a number of shops and restaurants in and around Trujillo and they get all the profit. and they make the nicest things ever, fantastic bags, pencil cases, scarfs, beautiful earrings, and many things more. They are also able to make you anything you want, perfect to what size you are and exactly how you want it! And working in the workshops consists of chatting to my friend Crystal and putting braids in her hair :p and we actually are really busy after about 15 minutes, logging all the jewelry the mothers make, paying them for what they have sold the last week, and putting tags on the new stuff. And I find this fun, it’s nice to have something structural to do! And it’s nice to be chatting and in with the mothers and we’re slowly learning their names!
And then I have the work at the public school I work at with the amazing Hannah! It’s called Virgin Del Carmen and is in Alto Trujillo, about 5 minutes walk from SKIP. School starts at 7.30am for Primary, in Peru it’s primary in the morning and secondary in the afternoon. But recently our school has been starting at 8.10am as the school has decided for some reason to open one lesson later as swine flu is going round and they think that will stop it!? Even though the homes of the children are in no way warmer than the school, not that that matters for viruses anyway? And plus all the kids are at school by the normal time anyway and just play until lessons commence! V del C is fab though, loads of character and right next to Sara Bolongo, a big sand dune in the middle of El Porvenir… schools are mainly just copy copy copy and the teachers write on the board and the kids copy. There is no supply system in place so if the teacher isn’t in the kids just play outside all day. They also don’t have any teachers to watch over break time/play time so there’s quite a lot of rough playing! And they have goal posts which 5 year old girls love climbing up and dangling off…very dangerous!! Here is a pile of chairs that’s just in the school!



Picture by Fin shields.

Picture by Fin shields.



But recently after we’ve finished teaching both Hannah and I have been getting worn out and drained of energy 🙁 When I started it was so great, and it still is but it’s so hard when the kids on’t listen or you feel like you haven’t taught them anything. These are some reasons why it is hard:
Firstly the teachers are still not supporting us and they should be – They constantly leave the room creating havoc and disorder in the classroom, kids running around, fighting, kicking footballs around! It sounds bad but it’s not awful, just tiring after you’ve taught 5 40 minute classes to kids who haven’t listened! And at least 2 classes each time will turn out well and I feel we have taught a bit but then they’re all at different levels! It’s suggest leaving the room when the teacher leaves but once the lesson has started it is actually really hard to do this. Sometimes…the teacher asks us If they can go to the toilet! But then the teacher will be gone to the toilet for 15 minutes. And at other times the teachers will just say “I’m just going to drop this piece of paper off next door” or whatever, and the next thing you know, 10 minutes later she’ll just be stood outside chatting to another teacher! Also they seem to think that they’re present in the classroom when they’re having a ‘meeting’ with other teachers just outside the classroom. And they don’t speak any English and it’s hard to tell them not to do things as they’re so much older than us and stricter…


Plus even with teachers in the classroom they don’t help with classroom behavior. They’ll only step in when all the kids are screaming or running around, and are not absent in the class even if they’re sitting in. They’ll be doing other work, marking work, chatting to pupils, chatting with pupils about their Work in other subjects, (one specific teacher) brings in her daughter to her class! (Why her daughter is not in school, I will never understand) She not old enough to be in that grade, and she’s such a distraction, she runs around while they’re working and plays tig with them, and chats with them and plays games with them clapping and cries)! Also had teachers sleeping… 😮 But Patri, a coordinator of SKIP came in and spoke to theprinciple last time so hopefully this situation will change!


Having no teaching experience is also proving hard, We don’t get that much training at SKIP, well just a little on classroom behavior and safeguarding but none on lesson plans and creative, fun interactive activities for teaching English…SO if anyone can think of some please leave me a comment on this post! Help will be muchly appreciated!


But I do still love it here and a lot of the work is rewarding, just struggling a bit with the public school side at the moment…But to end on a positive note, when I have a full day at SKIP I manage to stay up in El Porv for lunch and go swimming at the nearby swimming pool which is 23p for an hour! And it’s outside and a little chilly but perfect when it’s sunny and it has goats and sheep just trotting around while you’re swimming – it’s great! And keep an eye out for my next post which will be all about my weekend away in the Sierra, the beautiful rural mountain range, it was amazing!




Katalina Balcomb, long-term EVS (European Voluntary Service) volunteer


Visit Katalina’s blog: http://katgoestoperu.wordpress.com/




Project supported by the EACEA and the Youth In Action programme of the European Commission.

This is it, we’re on our way. Feeling simultaneously nervous, apprehensive and totally, utterly excited. In some time I will be in Peru, in South America, in the continent I have so desired to travel to for so many years; the continent of wild jungles, breath-taking mountainous expanse, of colourful culture and ancient civilisations. I wonder how different I will be in 10 months’ time, what I will have seen, who I will have met – how much I’ll learn from throwing myself into the unknown. The uncertainty of travel is what makes it so exhilarating, that sense of not knowing what could happen – the imagination runs wild, there is the possibility for everything in the unpredictable, unlimited potential in what has not yet passed.



Our journey is a long one; it will take over thirty-six hours door to door. The first leg of the journey is from London Gatwick to Madrid (with a welcome unexpected upgrade to business class), and then we’ll fly 13 hours from Spain over the Atlantic to Lima where an 8 hour layover awaits until our final domestic flight to Trujillo, our home for the next 10 months.



We’re Fin and Katalina from West Yorkshire, 21 and 19 respectively, volunteering in Peru with SKIP (Supporting Kids in Poverty), an NGO, UK registered charity and US registered non-profit that works with impoverished families primarily in El Porvenir, a suburban district of the northern Peruvian city; Trujillo. The charity aims to provide holistic support to families, tackling the problems that prevent them from escaping poverty from every angle. From children’s education and school/materials funding, through economic development via microfinance loans and business management assistance, to providing therapy and social work services.



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Fin and Katalina photographing jewellery to be catalogued, made by the SKIP mothers


We land, exhausted but elated, pick up our bags and hail a taxi to our accommodation. We drive through streets of ramshackle adobe houses and narrow dirt track alleys, derelict buildings interspersed with countless new constructions, fluorescent posters plastered on corners. A grey hue covers everything; grey dirt, grey dust and grey clouds overhead. We pass painted houses, bright yellows and rich blues, Peruvian women with shrivelled faces – the deep lines of decades of experiences, men pushing carts full of construction materials through hordes of yellow taxis, kombi buses with decorated exteriors, beeping at passers-by, trying to find their next fare despite locals already spilling out of the sides. The taxi passes the main square Plaza de Armas, grandiose towered buildings with white painted doorway arches and elaborately grilled windows surround the plaza, laid with stone slabs polished to a reflective sheen by human feet, a statue of stone carved figures poised as a centrepiece.



The volunteer residence is a hive of activity – with around 20 living here at any given time, there is never a quiet moment – and between family dinners, pub quizzes, nights out and days spent on the beach, always something fun to get up to. Inhabited by people from all over the world, words of various languages can be heard spoken as you walk through its rooms (or shouted, by some of our Italian colleagues). The volunteers are in constant flux, new arrivals come as others go – it’s bittersweet living here, we’ll be saying goodbye many times in the next few months, but greeting many more. There are dozens of new people to meet (and a tonne of names to remember!), all of them have given us a warm welcome to SKIP and we’re feeling at home already.



Our work here primarily involves teaching in the SKIP education programme, inside the El Porvenir centre and at public schools around the area. The programme offers supplementary education to primary (ages 4-12) and secondary (12-17) students, before and after their mainstream schooling each day. Mainstream education is split bi-daily in Peru, primary students study in the mornings and secondary students study in the afternoons, SKIP participants fill in their time pre/post school with additional study. Programme subjects taught include communications, mathematics, art and English – the latter being our main area of focus until our Spanish improves. In addition, we’re dipping into economic development, sports, helping with homework and I’m assisting running photography/film workshops on Saturdays.



I’ve been teaching up to a dozen English lessons each week to both primary and secondary students, and with little teaching experience and sub-par Spanish it has been incredibly challenging to manage the classes. But when everything goes right and a lesson comes together, it’s a very rewarding feeling to see the students engaged and making progress. We try to teach through conversation, music and play – to engage the children’s senses and to learn in a more enjoyable way than just reading from textbooks or copying from the blackboard (as they often have to do at school). I’ve learned so much already and can’t wait to see what the coming months will bring.



We’re growing quickly attached to the children here; they greet us with big smiles and hugs despite having only known us for a few days – we play twister and snakes and ladders in the area de juego at the end of the school day, push them on the swings and get beaten at French skipping. One child is addicted to being spun around on my shoulders “Una vuelta! Una vuelta! (A spin! A spin!)”, we laugh as we both teeter from the dizziness and fall down together – it’s uplifting to see so much happiness and joy for life despite the abject poverty many of these kids live in, usually without running water, electricity or even roofs over their heads. It’s hard but rewarding work – intense, engaging, exhausting but inspiring – and there’s nowhere else on the planet I’d rather be right now.



Fin Shields, long-term EVS (European Voluntary Service) volunteer



Visit Fin’s blog: http://finshieldsevs.tumblr.com/ 



Project supported by the EACEA and the Youth In Action programme of the European Commission.

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