24 September 2016
Sophia S (Year 11) gave the following report on her experience:
This trip was the first of its kind and something I am so pleased to have been a part of. We had to take three flights to get to our destination in the ancient Inca capital of Cusco where we would spend our two weeks (Heathrow – Bogota – Lima – Cusco). We were apprehensive at first, but also extremely excited.
On our first day we had guided tour of the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo ruins. We visited the Planeterra-supported women’s weaving co-op where we were able to see a demonstration of traditional Peruvian weaving (Planeterra is part of a global movement to make tourism sustainable, to minimize impacts on the environment, respect local people and cultures, and offer economic benefits to local businesses and communities). We were able to buy a jumper or poncho, which was made from 100% alpaca wool and the money was divided between everyone in the community.
In the evening, we went to the Templo Del Sol (Temple of the Sun) which is an Inca ruin. We stayed overnight in Ollantaytambo and the following day made the journey by train to Aguas Calientes. Going by train was a great way of seeing the landscape and was a fantastic experience. We also visited the hot springs and the bustling local market. We stayed overnight in Aguas Calientes before a very early start to visit Machu Picchu. We were all astounded by the unbelievable view and couldn’t believe we were actually there. The Inca ruins were very impressive and Kike (our guide) taught us about how the Incas lived before the Spanish invaded in 1532. Machu Picchu was more incredible than it is in the pictures and definitely a place I would recommend to everyone to visit, you will not regret it!
After the incredible experience at Machu Picchu we started our first day at Picaflor House. Most schools in Peru finish at lunchtime and children are left on the streets with nowhere to go as their parents are at work, so Picaflor House is the perfect place for them. The children at Picaflor House were so sweet and, although they spoke no English, we were able to talk to them in simple Spanish and lots of sign language and smiles. During our time volunteering at the centre we prepared Art, English, Dance, Music, Maths and PE lessons and helped in the kindergarten. Although Picaflor House is quite well-equipped with things for the children to do, it has a very basic set up. The whole project is funded by a charity ran by Laura Hoskins, who is originally from Aylesbury. We were all hugely inspired by the work that she does and loved helping out by teaching and playing with the children.
During our time in Peru we also had the opportunity to have Spanish lessons, make Peruvian chocolate, visit a wildlife sanctuary and local planetarium and also visit the market at Chinchero and the unique salt terraces – which were incredible.
After just over a week of volunteering at Picaflor House, it was time to say goodbye. After such a great week we were all very sad to leave and there was not a dry eye in the house. We had formed close bonds with the people there and it was extremely hard to see our time there come to an end.
We are all so grateful for this experience and everything that we learnt in Peru. Some of us are already thinking about going back to spend longer at Picaflor House during a gap year before university. It was unforgettable and we are all so grateful that Pipers gave us the chance to have this amazing opportunity at such a young age.