Lynne Beal did a volunteer service in Peru through Welthaus Bielefeld in 2019-2020. In Lima, she worked in a school and supervised extracurricular work groups. Until COVID-19 came along and abruptly ended the volunteer service.
Bustling city of Lima
The first few weeks passed in a blink of the eye. I became familiar with the project and my tasks and met many people who were to support me on my journey as a volunteer. Lime seemed a totally bustling city to me. It was loud and lively, with lots of traffic, motorbike taxis with built-in subwoofers darting to and fro between cars. People sold their goods, hawking them in loud voices, day and night, at all hours. Communication was a bit difficult at the onset. But I learned over time so I could make myself understood better. I enjoyed the work and the proximity to the sea.
Life with the host family
I lived with a host family in Villa El Salvador, a district of Lima. I was welcomed there like a new daughter. My host family lovingly supported me and was interested in me as a person. Family life was steeped in socio-political discussions. Since my host father is politically active, it was quite helpful for me to discuss complex political events with him. But there was always enough time to fool around with my younger host siblings.
Creativity and spontaneity are the key to happiness
I worked together with two other volunteers at the school Fe y Alegría (Faith and Joy) No. 17. The school teaches manual skills, such as working with wood and metal, sewing, training as an electrician. The transfer of values such as solidarity, environmental awareness and equality plays a major role as well. My task was to design the after-school work groups: English, German, Debate, Theatre, Choir and School Garden.
My favourite activity was working in the School Garden work group. There I had access to nature. This is something rather difficult in Lima, because Peru’s capital is a huge city with few green spaces. I implemented a project for upcycling plastic bottles. The learning effect was great for me, because I experienced at first hand what it’s like to work with the available resources and had to think of campaigns with the things that existed.
The Christmas performance of the Theatre work group, the joint harvest in the school garden and the concert the Choir group gave were definitely highlights.
During my time in Lima, I became more spontaneous and tried out many new things. I danced Peruvian waltzes, was integrated into the church community, which put me in contact with several families; I cooked and baked a great deal, inspired by the variety of products in the markets and the cooking skills of my host mother.
I was very enthusiastic about Peru’s natural surroundings. When the first trips were planned, I could hardly believe that a trip of eight hours for a weekend vacation was considered normal. I started surfing and often noticed the plastic waste problem in the sea. Frequently, packaging waste spilled right over on the surfboard. When talking to her host family about this issue, it became obvious that the waste problem was discussed quite a bit, e.g. in schools. Depending on the district, public trash cans have been set up.
The end of all plans
And then came COVID-19. In Germany, the numbers of people becoming sick from COVID-19 rose and rose. My family was quite concerned about how the situation would develop in Peru and wanted me to come home immediately. At first, I wouldn’t hear of it. But after the curfew was imposed in Peru as well, it was clear: I would be returning home at any time.
I couldn’t say goodbye to everybody, which was an additional hardship. So there was no real wrap-up in Peru, and preparation for being back in Germany was not possible either.
Back (?) in Germany
Sometimes, I feel as if I had dreamt my time in Peru. To bridge this gap I was in regular online contact with my host family. During the remaining volunteer months, I tried to continue my German work group, but it didn’t work very well online. With my host sister however it worked out quite well, and we had regular German lessons. I got involved in the returnees’ volunteer work offered by Welthaus Bielefeld and supported their public relations activities.
The work we do as volunteers doesn’t end with leaving the sending country. On the contrary, it just starts at that point. I’m working on a project of former volunteers called “Culture Book”, that collects works of art from the countries of assignment and gives volunteers leeway for their own creativity as well.
Gratitude for the volunteer service
I now experience my time much more consciously and perceive events more holistically. I’m more self-confident, capable of working in a team and more independent. It’s important to me not to ignore the needs and wants of others.
My volunteer service showed me how important education is. This is why I decided to study Philosophy and Economics. I want to learn to understand economic structures and use the knowledge to make global structures more sustainable. In this way, I would like to make a contribution to a development cooperation on an equitable basis that sees its stakeholders as lifelong learners.
I’ve realised that I don’t need to change the world, the world needs to change itself. I am but a small part of it, and the most valuable thing I can achieve are touch points, stimuli to motivate people to change their ways of thinking and create new contacts with their new attitudes. I’m quite grateful to the weltwärts programme for this opportunity.