A Travellerspoint blog

First visit to Pumamarca school

The first day of the volunteer program - we visited the school we'll be working at for the next month.

sunny 21 °C

Day 2 in Cusco, Peru

This morning myself and the other 14 volunteers visited the school in Pumamarca where we will be working for the next month. Pumamarca, meaning area of the Puma; is a small agricultural community located in the mountain region above Cuzco. The community members survive on their agricultural products – fresh flowers, maize, potatoes and other vegetables, which they sell at local markets in Cuzco. We entered the school to cries of ‘hola amigos’ from the children and lots of waves and smiles from both the children and parents. It turned out that this morning the children were celebrating Mother’s Day and had put together a presentation for their mothers. This was a lovely introduction to the school and we joined the mothers, watching dancing, singing, impressive ’hula hoop’ skills, and poetry reading by the children.





After the presentations we were given the background information about Peru’s Challenge by Lauren and Pip, the volunteer managers:

In 2002, the Peruvian Education Department closed 600 rural schools, claiming that the schools were not being attended by enough children to make them sustainable. Jane, an Australian girl and Selvy, her Peruvian husband argued that the schools were not being attended because the government was not providing adequate facilities or qualified teachers. When the government didn’t respond, they set up Peru’s Challenge to help give these children back the opportunity of education.

The community of Pumamarca was initially chosen as a good location to provide a school, because of it’s proximity to Cusco and the impact that tourism can have on the children’s lives. Their initial request for support was dismissed by the Education Department, who jokingly added that support would be given if they could find 100 children to attend the school, a seemingly impossible task.

Jane and Selvy met with the community in Pumamarca and together they decided to build 2 school classrooms. Peru’s Challenge offered to pay the salary of 10 local labourers and provide the building materials. On the first day of construction, not only did the 10 paid labourers turn up, but also all the families in the community. Refusing payment for the work, and with all the extra hands, the buildings were completed within 3 weeks. A summer school was held to gauge potential pupil numbers, to which 120 children attended - support from the Education Department was now secured!


The school has grown from it’s initial 2 rooms, and now comprises a number of brightly painted buildings, toilets and kitchen located around a playing field which doubles up as an assembly point, a small wheat field and vegetable garden, all provided by Peru‘s Challenge volunteers. During our time working at the school, we can become involved with a number of on-going and new projects. These include: gardening and organising the vegetable patches, completing the new bread oven, completing a new kitchen and classroom which were built by the previous volunteer group, educating the children with health and hygiene, building a new water tank and helping teach classes. Additionally we will be able to attend the craft workshops run for the mothers in the community, and attend home visits with the Peruvian social worker.



The children come from very poor families and after their school mornings have to work long days helping their families out in the fields or at home cooking and cleaning. They often don’t have basic items such as tables and have only recently obtained drop toilets, again another Peru’s Challenge project. One aim of the school is to teach the children basic social skills such as how to use a flushing toilet or eat at a table, things they would not learn in their family life. Additionally, lessons are given by volunteers in computer skills and English, which if the children go on to high school in Cusco means they are no longer at a disadvantage. It was great to see how the school has enriched these children’s lives and how it gives them opportunities they would not otherwise have.


Peru’s Challenge are planning on withdrawing from the school at the end of the year, They always aim to work with a school for 3-5 years, then withdraw to let the community continue it’s running and not become reliant on the NGO. I was very impressed by the way Lauren and Pip work very closely with the community, using local skills, building materials and responding to the needs of the community and not enforcing their own way of doing things. I feel very honoured to be involved in this project and am looking forward to participating in the projects and making a difference, however small to these children’s lives.


Posted by JoannaLucy 11:30 Archived in Peru Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

'Girl From Ipanema'

my first day in rio - 25th april

sunny 35 °C
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After a short night’s sleep I stumbled down to reception to ask the friendly receptionist how best to spend my 2 days in Rio… this was how, a couple of hours later, I found myself on the back of a moto-taxi winding my way up to the top of Favela Rocinho, the largest favella in Rio which houses over 300,000 people!


There are over 600 flavellas in Rio alone, and it’s estimated that 1 in 5 people in Rio live in one - that’s a lot of people! In fact there is so much demand for space that the flavela extends precariously up the hillside, roads have disappeared under houses and owners can sell the right to build on their roof, to someone who sells the right to their roof, and it goes up and up! This gives the Flavela a higgledy piggeldy feel with ad hoc passages, stairways and tracks running through them.


Following the main street , a narrow, meandering passageway, we made our way down through the flavela, visiting a local art gallery, stopping here and there to listen to our guides stories, watching an inpromptu street performance by some local children, and finally visiting the day care centre which is run by the money we pay for the tour.


Police have little or no control in many favelas, and Favella Rocinho is run by a drug lord who earns $1.5 million a month (!) selling drugs and weapons!!! Our tour guide explained that the flavela is stable because it is run by one gang, the ADA - Amigos dos Amigos, or ‘friends of friends’, who create the laws and monitor who goes in and out. Trouble only occurs when a rival gang or the police turn up. In these instances, about 4,000 members of the gang turn out to defend the flavela and the events are broadcast to us back home on CNN! Despite this unsettling fact, I actually felt very safe in the Flavela and we were told that 85% of the population work and many commute into Rio’s centre (the remaining 15% are presumably children and the elderly). There are shops, bars, banks and even, we were told a McDonalds!?!


Back at the hostel my room mate Thamine, a Brazilian girl visiting Rio, invited me to a free open air concert - Viradão Carioca, with her and her friends which was being held as part of the Tiradentes public holiday in the city centre. Seeing the opportunity to experience the Rio nightlife with locals, I immediately accepted the invitation. As we approached the public square, the sound of Samba music drew us into the crowds, where a mix of Brazilians and tourists crowded around chatting and swaying to the music. Vendors weaved their way through the crowds selling beers, glow sticks and bizarrely, throat lozenges?!? I was introduced to Thamine’s friends and settled into enjoy the show. Soon, a local Brazilian artist came on stage and serenaded us with Portugese love songs, as we swayed along, my local friends translated the words into English for me, which was intersting! Brazilian songs seem to follow the same themes as English…and French…and Arabic….etc.


Next came the big event, a handsome Brazilian artist took to the stage and the sound of Samba filled the air. The atmosphere changed and all around us couples broke in dance, twirling in time with the music. Thamine whispered to me that "the singer was her future husband…he just didn’t know it yet".


After the concert we walked through the city until we reached a samba hall in Lapa, here the dancing continued, until exhausted we returned to our hostel as the sun began to rise.

Posted by JoannaLucy 14:35 Archived in Brazil Tagged educational Comments (0)

The Adventure Starts

jetting off into the sunset

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As the dust from the Icelandic volcanic eruption settles, my flight is confirmed and I find myself finally setting off for Rio de Janeiro, only a week later than planned. The past few days have been filled with frantic last minute research into hostels, buses and on-going transportation. I have been mixed with feelings of fear, excitement and nervous anticipation, but as I settle into my British Airways seat I can feel myself relaxing.
Outside my window, far below, small puffy clouds float above the Atlantic Ocean and as the skies change from bright blue to hues of pink and orange, I get my first glimpse of Brazil. Our flight path reaches Fortaleza in North Brazil, then turns South and we are to travel down the coast past Brasília, the capital city, before eventually reaching Rio de Janeiro in the South of Brazil.

As I see the cities laid out in a map of lights beneath me, I breathe in deeply feeling the excitement take over. This is the start of a big adventure…

Posted by JoannaLucy 12:29 Comments (1)

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