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How Volunteerism Changed Everything For Me

The following was written by Eben Lindsay, A Volunteer In Lima, Peru

My journey as a Cuso International volunteer began a year ago – January 7th of 2016 to be exact – when I submitted an application for a six-month volunteer placement in Lima, Peru. At that point, the idea of volunteering abroad had been in the back my mind for some time, but it’s not every year that the opportunity arises to make a major change in one’s life. In spite of have never having worked in the international development field – my background is in marketing and management – I resolved that this would be my year to take on a new and exciting challenge.

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The year has come and gone, and I’ve recently returned home to Canada following an eight-month placement. That’s right, I enjoyed my placement so much that I decided to extend it by two months. New year’s resolution accomplished!

From my initial interview, to Assessment Day – an incredibly intense full-day group interview – to the predeparture training week in Ottawa – I had nothing but positive experiences working with the team at Cuso International. Truly a great group of dedicated individuals. During my time in Peru, I worked from the head office in Lima.  Again, I can’t say enough about the Peruvian team’s professionalism and efforts to make me feel like part of the family.

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My favourite part of my placement? That’s easy: having the chance to work with so many exceptional volunteers and staff members from organizations throughout Peru. Together with fellow communications volunteer Christophe Massamba, I had opportunity to facilitate a series of communications workshops for partner organizations in the regions of Lima, Cusco and San Martín. Peruvians are very proud of the cultural and natural diversity of their country and its three major geographic areas: the coast, Andes mountains, and Amazon rainforest – known locally as the costa, sierra and selva. Coincidentally, each region in which I worked was located in a different geographical area. A typical day in the field involved anything from stomping through a cacao plantation in the Amazon to teaching children the basics of photography in an underprivileged Cusco community.

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As for the volunteers, I could talk about their “average” age or nationality, but in truth no such thing exists. In Peru alone, volunteers range from recent postsecondary graduates participating in the International Youth Internship Program  to PhDs with decades of experience. And we’re not all Canadians either; my colleagues included a number of South-South volunteers from countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

It’s not every year that the opportunity arises to make a major change in our lives. But this was my year to explore something completely new, all while making a difference in the lives of others. Who knows, this might just be your year to make a new year’s resolution that takes you beyond the ordinary and changes your life’s direction. So, what are you waiting for? Apply today!

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