It feels surreal to be back in the United States, in the land of reliable Internet connections, hot showers, and expensive food, after over two transformational months in Peru. Following a wonderful trip to Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca, I had two short days to say goodbye to my friends in Peru and tie up the loose ends on my projects. I threw a party for the girls, took lots of pictures, and reflected on how volunteering with Expand Peru has impacted my life.
Although short-term volunteer opportunities often benefit the volunteer more than they benefit the organization, this is just the start of a long relationship with Expand Peru. N’SESA International is interested in buying ten scarves from the SOS Children’s Village, so hopefully the older girls at the orphanage will be able to use their knitting lessons to gain economic self-sufficiency. I have also been in contact with many different retail platforms that will promote and market the products of the female knitters in the United States. The Global Development Collaborative, a nonprofit organization at the University of Pennsylvania, will be sending down interns to work with the women during school breaks and also will sell their hats and scarves by tapping regional markets. During my last days in Peru, Effy, the daughter of my host mother, took photos of the items, which I will display on the website as soon as it is set up:
Next on the agenda is Skyping with Bernabe Suarez, the Executive Director of Expand Peru, to write a chapter for a book called Givology: A Guide to Giving. Bernabe has agreed to meet with the girls of the bakery project on a semi-regular basis to make sure everything is progressing smoothly. Before I left, I gave Expand Peru books and school supplies because they want to turn the microenterprise program into a sustainable initiative. Hopefully, more volunteers with a passion for business and entrepreneurship will come to Peru to support the knitting co-operative and further develop the youth microenterprise incubator. I am excited to keep in contact with the high school students, and I am so thankful that we have forged such a real and powerful friendship.
Over the past nine weeks, I have learned to stay flexible, connect with people of very different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, overcome obstacles, embrace the unknown, forge mutually beneficial partnerships with like-minded people, and face my fears. Thank you to Mejor Communities and all my other supporters for following me on this adventure and for making everything possible. I miss the delicious Peruvian food, beautiful artistry, and warm hospitability already.