All year I've been wanting to do volunteer work. I didn't have anything specific in mind, just some sort of good work that our family could do together, some way to help out, to be of use. I searched the web for 'family volunteering'. I checked out WWOOFing. I looked at eco-farms in Italy. I never found a good fit for us, and I shelved the idea for this trip, hoping for better luck next summer.
And now quite unexpectedly, here in our last destination before heading home, we are knee-deep in volunteer projects, so busy that we're having to squeeze in time to sight-see (or blog!). But instead of building schools or digging wells or anything I had imagined, we're doing what we've been doing for fun all year long: We're making videos.
Bob and I are involved with a group of NGO's who are starting a pilot recycling program for Cusco, in partnership with local waste management. Cusco doesn't recycle at the moment, and a program is desperately needed. Hundreds of thousands of tourists come through here every year (all drinking bottled water), and Cusco has a local population of half a million. The concept of recycling is completely foreign here, and Bob and I are making a video which the organization will use to introduce the concept, and the program, to Cusco's citizens.
This has been such an awesome project to be a part of! We have been to places we never would have gone otherwise. We spent a day with our friend Christiano, driving to all the places in Cusco where trash is processed, ending with the local landfill, to film. Ever been to a landfill? I think every single one of us should have to go to a landfill once a year, so we can all remind ourselves just exactly how much we consume, and then throw away. I can say that - now that I've spent a memorable afternoon in a massive, windy, smelly, oozy landfill, surrounded by some of the most beautiful country on earth.
Another video project we're working on is for a non-profit organization called South American Explorers. The people at SAE are involved in such good work, both for the Peruvians who live here, and the tourists who visit. They are leaders in the city for encouraging and emphasizing ecologically sustainable tourism, livable wages for tourism workers, and for linking visitors with quality volunteer opportunities. The place is a magnet for fascinating travelers and devoted volunteers from all over the world. We're creating a video for their home-page to tell their story.
The last project we're doing we stumbled into just yesterday. We heard about Sonia Newhouse from our friend Miguel, and decided to try and meet her. She's an extraordinary woman, who at 73 years of age left the UK with a couple of suitcases, moved to Peru, and within a few years had started a NGO called Living Heart, and a cafe of the same name to fund it. Mrs Newhouse has changed the lives of the women and children in the Sacred Valley, just outside Cusco, and her organization is focused, determined, and brilliant. We'll be interviewing her for our upcoming video series on people who have radically changed direction mid-stream, and also creating a piece for the Living Hearts Website.
I'm very happy to be doing good work. It's a privilege to be working with, and spending time with, such wonderful people.
I'm even happier our volunteerism is coming about in a way we never would have dreamed of a year ago!