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Tyler Stutzman - Soccer in Peru

Sports project

My name is Tyler Stutzman and I am from Virginia in the United States. I was a competitive runner in high school and at Stanford University, meaning that international travel had been all but impossible for many years because of training and competition restrictions. Upon graduation from Stanford and the end of my track & field career, my first priority was finally gaining some international experience. Projects Abroad gave me the opportunity.

I got my first introduction to Projects Abroad through a simple web search, but I was immediately drawn to the tremendous variety and personal touches evident throughout the selection of projects. Because I speak Spanish and love soccer, Projects Abroad’s opportunity in Peru was a perfect fit. After contacting the Projects Abroad team with my interest to leave on extremely short notice (less than three weeks from first contact to me landing in Peru), they were enormously helpful and informative.

Contact with Projects Abroad

In addition to depth of the MyProjectsAbroad web portal, I could speak with somebody at almost any time if I had any questions or concerns with my placement. It was easy to tell that the people on the other end of the phone had as much passion about getting me to Peru as I had about traveling there myself. The support didn’t end once I was on the plane.

When I was in country I had regular meet-ups with staff to discuss my placement and accommodations. Projects Abroad was extremely organized in disseminating information as well, regularly updating and distributing contact lists for staff and volunteers alike. Their Peru office, centrally located in Urumbamba, is easy to reach and always open for a drop in.

Arriving in Peru

Time in Peru

Landing in Peru was a significant moment for me, at 23 years of age, because it was my first step outside of the United States. I’d been nearly everywhere in my own country, but for someone with aspirations of working internationally it was certainly a new chapter in my life. After wading through the Lima Airport (the new one in Chinchero can’t come soon enough) I connected through on a beautiful flight to Cusco in the heart of the Andes Mountains. When I arrived, a car from Projects Abroad was already waiting.

Despite the rust around the edges of my Spanish vocabulary I talked with about soccer with a local staffer while we waited for another volunteer to arrive. He gave me the rundown on the local sports scene (Cienciano! Cienciano!) and other things I ought to know about the incredible city.

Eventually Alice (the other volunteer) arrived and we hopped in the car to take the now familiar hour long trek over the mountains from Cusco to the Sacred Valley and Calca. I talked Alice’s ear off the whole time, one of many occasions I would do that during my eight weeks in Peru.

My host family

My host family lived in a beautiful house a few blocks from Calca’s main plaza. They, along with another volunteer who was already living there, welcomed me in immediately. It was hardly a day before I was referring to Paki and Juan-Carlos as “host mom” and “host dad” because they made me part of the family.

It may seem obvious, but diving fully into the experience made me get so much out of it. I became my host dad’s right hand man on projects around the house as we painted the garage door, painted the front door, fixed his car (twice), painted his car, spackled the roof, and many other things. Obviously these activities were not part of my volunteer duties, but they brought me closer to my family.

It’s easy to find an internet shop and connect with friends and family back home, but I found my most rewarding conversations to be with my host family around the dinner table long after everyone had finished eating. My host dad was a key member of a local political party that was contesting in upcoming elections, and one of my most memorable moments was marching in a political parade for Inka Pachacuteq with a huge flag.

One of the unforeseen benefits of being taller than nearly everyone in the country is that I was a good political billboard. Calca is a vibrant community, evidenced by the huge cultural festival that throbbed during the middle of my stay. Even when the streets were quiet, though, it was never hard to find a group of friendly Calqueños at the local futsal pitch or in the discoteca.

My project in Peru

Weekend travels

My project was soccer, and because I am an athlete by trade I was presented the unique opportunity to train with the high level academy kids (13-16 yrs.) every day. I’m not the best soccer player, but I didn’t lose a footrace to any of them during my time there. Jaime, the dynamic Italian head coach, gave me tremendous autonomy in training the kids in fitness.

I often ended up running for nearly two hours each practice as the different groups rotated to meet with me. I couldn’t have asked for a better assignment. The academy kids are hugely talented, and under Jaime’s leadership advanced to the national finals of the U16 club tournament in Peru while I was there. I would not be surprised to see several products of the Apu Pitusiray Academy in European club systems within the next few years.

When the academy kids were off for holidays or games, I also had the opportunity to work with a city chapter of Apu in inner city Cusco. In both locations, the children were competitive, focused, and eager to learn.

Final thoughts

I can’t adequately describe the Projects Abroad experience without speaking a little about the volunteers themselves. The people I worked with in Peru were the some of the most incredible and diverse individuals I’ve ever encountered.

Hailing from all parts of the globe, there could not have been a better face for what Projects Abroad was trying to accomplish in Peru. Projects Abroad offers its volunteers plenty of opportunities to meet up and explore, and taking advantage of that led to some incredible moments.

I satisfied dreams of seeing the floating Uros Islands on Lake Titicaca, the Amazon Rainforest, and Colca Canyon, and I did all of those things with a group of a friends from Projects Abroad assignments all over the Cusco Region. These kinds of people are the sort that would meet up to build a school when they were off from their own projects, simply because it was the right thing to do.

Peru is a unique country filled with marvelous sights and unbelievable people. From my loving host family to the passionate Projects Abroad staff I could not have asked for more from my unforgettable first time outside of the United States.

Experience it for yourself with the expertise of Projects Abroad. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Read more about After School Sports in Peru.

Tyler Stutzman

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