Denisse Alfaro is a young professional from Peru who currently lives and works in the Washington, DC area. She is an accountant by training and currently works in the internal audit department of a communication company. She is also pursuing a Certificate in International Development at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies. In the fall she plans to start graduate school to study international economics and pursue a career in microfinance. Denisse just returned from volunteering for one week in the Volunteer Abroad in Quito, Ecuador. She dedicated her capacity and energy to the teaching English and teaching in an after-school center projects.
What motivated you to seek a volunteer opportunity in Quito?
I wanted to know what volunteering abroad is like, work with children from a rural area and learn about their educational limitations. I also wanted to learn about and see Ecuador. And, most importantly, I wanted to make an impact on children's education.
What was most frustrating or challenging to you during your volunteering placement?
It's definitely frustrating witnessing the poor living conditions of many of the local children. The frustration exacerbates when you learn that some of these children work ten to twelve hour days to help support their families, do not attend school and have poor health.
From what you observed during your experience, what were the three most important characteristics of a successful international volunteer?
First, I think one maximizes his or her volunteer experience by interacting with the local community —you have so much to learn from the locals. Second, by being inquisitive —you are in a different country, so try to learn as much as possible about the country and its culture. Finally, you need to have fun —the children's eyes literally light up when they see you and it’s such an enjoyable experience sharing your time with them.
What kind of impact did you have on the community?
Given that I'm Peruvian and Ecuador and Peru have a history of military conflict, I was a bit afraid I would not be welcomed. However, that wasn't the case. I hope I have made an impact regarding my work with the children and left a positive image of Peruvians.
How did the people in your host community perceive the role of international volunteers like you?
Whether it was educators, non-profit coordinators or the children, they were all very much appreciative and content seeing volunteers visit their community. Everyone knows you go there to help, and they make every effort for you to feel welcomed and at home.
What did you learn about yourself during your experience?
The main take away from my trip is that I want to continue volunteering. I'm already thinking of when my next trip will be.
Click on the pictures above to enlarge them. Photos courtesy of Denisse Alfaro.
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