I am currently in my third month of volunteering for Kiya Survivors and have just decided to extend my time here by a further 3 months. I wanted to write this piece to give prospective volunteers an idea first hand of what it’s like volunteering for Kiya Survivors. I hope this proves useful and insightful.
I first thought about volunteering over a year ago. I had graduated from university and was working in London for an NHS mental health service before deciding I needed to do something different. I wanted to use my skills in a different way and work with people who haven’t been able to have all the opportunities I have. I also wanted to learn about a different culture, learn a new language and meet new people. There is a whole world out there waiting to be explored so what better way to do it than to combine some sightseeing with helping people very much in need.
I arrived in Peru with three other girls and was swiftly whisked away by a taxi driver who appeared to be practicing for the Grand Prix. I really felt like my life was in my hands! We spent a day in Lima doing all the typical touristy things before heading off to Cuzco to meet the volunteer coordinator, Laura. Cuzco stands at 3350metres so I had been advised to take altitude sickness pills of which, being the avid patient that I am, started taking religiously. Unbeknownst to me, the side effects of such pills include nausea, headaches and dizziness. Symptoms somewhat similar to altitude sickness itself… Having experienced all of these symptoms I soon stopped taking them and immediately felt better.
We came to The Rainbow Centre the day after we arrived in Urubamba. My head was spinning (quite literally due to the pills) but I was so looking forward to seeing the children, to meeting the teachers and seeing in person the elusive Rainbow Centre I had read so much about that any ill effects were quickly forgotten.
We arrived when the children were participating in the first activity of the day, ‘Brain Gym’. They were all in a large circle and we quickly joined in and introduced ourselves. I was immediately struck with how bright and colourful the Rainbow Centre was. I had seen the photos and video diaries but you really can’t get a full sense of how special this haven is until you visit. The second thing that struck me was the children themselves. I had heard stories about the difficulties some of the children had faced but here all around me were children laughing and smiling appearing to have not a care in the world. This is what Kiya Survivors has created. What an achievement.
We spent time in each of the three classes, Inical, Primaria and Funcional where we worked alongside the teachers helping out wherever we could. The children’s abilities vary greatly and it was great to see how well Kiya Survivors caters for differing needs and promotes the skills the children already have. I was lucky enough to spend time working with Eliana, our speech & language therapist who is also a physiotherapist where I helped her do physiotherapy with several of the children. I really enjoy the variability of my volunteering and I hope I have been able to help by using some of my skills as well as learning new ones.
As my background is within in the field of psychology and having done two degrees in psychological related fields, I was keen to get involved in the psychological aspect of the children’s health. I have been lucky enough to work with a psychologist and have been able to get involved in evaluating the children in terms of their cognitive and intellectual abilities. Being able to get involved in these evaluations has been the highlight of my time volunteering for Kiya Survivors. I found it and incredibly interesting and invaluable experience.
Throughout my time thus far, I have created a brochure for prospective parents to the school and I hope to design further leaflets and brochures of interest. I enjoy the flexibility Kiya Survivors offers as well as the opportunity to get involved in different activities and work with different people.
Recently I had the chance to go to a remote community on an outreach project where we went to a school to give a lesson on dental hygiene. We gave out toothbrushes and toothpaste both of which fell into grateful hands. It felt very rewarding being able to provide these children with something as simple as a toothbrush but yet something that I believe meant so much more. It meant that there were people out there thinking and caring about these children. What better gift can you give than that?
Alongside volunteering for Kiya Survivors, I have travelled around Peru, visiting the large cities of Cuzco and Arequipa, trekking in the Colca Canyon, completing the Inca trail to Machu Picchu and sand boarding in Ica. I’ve had the best time of my life and hope the next three months will be filled with as many happy memories as the past three months have been.
The Rainbow Centre is a very special place where the children can play, learn and develop in a safe, caring and stimulating environment. Just because some of our children may look different or behave different to other children, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be given every opportunity they can in life. No life is worth more than another which is the unsaid but very much understood message Kiya Survivors promotes.
By Laura Tozer, current volunteer