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« One Week From Today | Main | Daily Life in a Developing Country - The Reasons We Love Cusco »

Finding Good Work

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. 

Scavenger lady and her donkeys at the landfillThey'll use these bicycles to gather the recycling from people's homes.

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!

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Reader Comments (4)

Oooooh! My heart swells with joy from reading this story. As you well know, the people I love the best jump into work head first without dallying in the shallows and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight... (thanks Marge Piercy). Congrats on many many jobs well done, on making a difference, for being the antithesis of "Ugly Americans", and for being of use. Good use.
God Speed, Redpath Family (seems like I JUST said that, but it's been well over a year now)
Peace, NoHo

Aug 3, 2010 at 7:36 PM | Unregistered Commenternoho1960

I heard someone say "Do the good that is yours to do." Bravo! and Amen!

Aug 3, 2010 at 8:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicole

That's so good that you can do what you do best and give back at the same time!!

Aug 4, 2010 at 6:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterAmy @ The Q Family

I LOVE it! Of course! Why is it so hard for us to realize that, by doing what we love to do, we help the world be a better place?
I know that place of feeling I "should" do something like carrying bricks to build school, and forgetting that by painting love, light and joy I am helping more people then I know?
I say love light and joy and my last blog page is all about expressing anger...
Well, behind the anger.... But that is an entirely different story.

I Love YOUR story so much, It feels good to read and gives me courage to continue my own passion, in the city where I landed, and not wait for tomorrow.
I can't wait to see the videos!
Thank you guys! Love to all of you and every one around.

Aug 4, 2010 at 5:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterregine

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