Michael Pope - After School Sports in Peru
This is the story of my Peruvian adventure with the help of Projects Abroad. I took part in the Sports project, with my main sport being soccer, in an area of the Sacred Valley called Calca. This was the perfect way for me to get back into sports coaching after my first year as a dental student where I never had enough free time to do any coaching.
Projects Abroad was fantastic at organizing everything for me; anything I queried about was answered within hours of asking. They were also very flexible with the dates I requested, they made the whole process very smooth and simple, all I had to do was get to the airport.
Calca was an hour or so ride away from the airport in Cusco. After landing I was met by a Projects Abroad member of staff and driver straight away, these guys were very welcoming and even gave me a quick tour and history lesson of Cusco and the Sacred Valley. They explained everything I needed to know about where I was staying, my placement and even the café with the yellow chairs where I could meet up with other volunteers in the evenings.
On arrival at my new home for the next month, I was greeted by some of the nicest people I have ever had the privilege of meeting. I was immediately welcomed as a new member of the Delgado family which consisted of Sven, Flori, Fabian, a newborn baby girl and now me. Now, my Spanish is less than basic and the Delgado family could not speak English or even Welsh, which was a very long shot I think! However, by the end of my time there my Spanish had improved so much and the family could now count to ten in Welsh, which is always useful in Latin America!
After introductions and a very complicated game of charades, I was shown to my room, given a tour of the house and shown around Calca. The scenery was breathtaking; the view from my window showed the Pitusiray Mountain. I was sharing the house with Jenny, a Care volunteer from Germany, and was also living next door to James, a Teaching volunteer who thankfully was pretty much fluent in Spanish and would often act as a very useful translator.
My time on my placement with the Apu Pitusiray Sports Center took me to some wonderful towns such as Calca, Cusco and San Salvador. I also had the honor of meeting Jaime, one of the most inspirational men I have ever met. He left his home country of Italy to set up this sports center for underprivileged children in the Sacred Valley. While I was out there he even had a student sign for Italian giants Juventus, while at the same time developing a soccer college for some of the more gifted individuals. There is no way of describing the amount of respect this man deserves.
I often trained the youngest team (7-10 year olds) or the goalkeepers, and whichever group I trained the time was guaranteed to fly by. There are certain things that stick in your mind, such as the Calca teams training in a local park with a sheep and a cow tied up behind one of the goals, or even just the smiles on the goalkeepers’ faces when Jaime told me to go and train them. Even if you can’t or don’t know much about coaching soccer you will still have some of the best times with these children.
Even with training, there was still plenty of free time to explore the local area and take part in other local projects. I had the opportunity to coach volleyball, help the local community clean up after the devastating floods and to visit local schools. On weekends, there were even opportunities to explore vaster areas of Peru such as Lake Titicaca and the world famous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. Closer by were the ruins at Pisaq and the opportunity to take Salsa lessons in Urubamba, which even for beginners is very simple to pick up and great fun.
On one of the weekends we celebrated my 19th birthday, and even though my host family were not initially aware of this, when they found out they threw a party for me and invited all the other volunteers from Calca to come and even a few from Cusco, they even cooked all of us a delicious meal. The other volunteers even arranged for a local bakery to make me a cake with a lovely Welsh sheep on top! After watching Germany in the World Cup, Sven and James’ host dad decided to teach us how to fish with nothing other than a plastic bottle and a bit of string. After fishing for no more than 5 minutes I caught our first and only fish of the day, which Sven then took home and cooked for us to try. That was definitely a birthday that I will not forget and I thank everyone who helped celebrate it with me.
Just to finish off I would like to thank Projects Abroad for giving me this opportunity and for making sure I made it safely back home to the Welsh valleys. I would also like to thank everyone I met out in Peru and the Delgado family for allowing me to share their home. Also to anyone who is thinking of going to Peru to volunteer, just do it - you won’t regret anything about your experience, and make sure you visit Machu Picchu as it’s the one place in the world where you will hear the word WOW in so many different languages.