Christine Olijnyk - 2015 Program Participant
What inspired you to travel abroad?
As my favourite saying goes, life is not meant to be lived in one place. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and be immersed into a culture completely different from the one back home in Canada.
Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with children?
I have volunteered with children in need before and it really opened my eyes. Even though you're supposed to be the ones helping them, they end up teaching you more about strength and courage then you could imagine.
What was your favorite part about Peru?
It seemed there was always some sort of celebration going on in the streets and markets, especially on the weekends. The city was so full of life and you couldn't help but enjoy it, and because the accommodations are right in the middle of it all this was easy to do.
What makes Maximo Nivel’s program in Peru unique?
You get a chance to interact with a bunch of the locals, so you get a real feel for the Peruvian lifestyle instead of just doing all the touristy stuff. Maximo Nivel also puts on a lot of activities, including day trips on the weekends or free salsa classes during the week, so it gives you a chance to meet other volunteers and locals that your path might not have crossed otherwise.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
The staff from Maximo Nivel are super friendly and make you feel like an old friend. This is so important because you are in a foreign country, and yet you know where to go and feel comfortable doing so if you ever needed help with anything. They helped me out many times, whether it was an issue I had with my program, helping me get a hold of my bank because my credit card was compromised, or even just holding my pack for a few days while I was on a trek. Thanks guys!
Is there anything you wish you could change about your program experience?
I wouldn't of changed anything. I believe everything happens for a reason, and even though some days at my placement were particularly tough, those probably ended up being the days that taught me the most.
If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you.
What was a typical day like for you in Peru?
My placement was a little different from the typical childcare programs at the orphanages because it was at a police station. It was just a temporary place for kids to stay who have decided to leave home, because the conditions are so bad, until a long term solution can be found. This means that almost everyday there would be new kids when we would get there. Once we got a chance to meet them we would play games with them or have little competitions to keep it more interactive. The main purpose was just to be there for them, and let them know they had a shoulder to lean on and someone who would listen if they wanted to talk about what they were going through.
What did you enjoy doing on your freetime?
I loved going on all the treks Peru has to offer. The landscape is breathtaking and there are so many different climates in the country, so each trek has something unique to offer. There are a range of difficulties for the treks available, so even if you are not an experienced hiker there are still some available for you to take advantage of.
Taking in the views of what we spent the past three days hiking
What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?
I was in a home stay just minutes from the main square. There was power and running water; you got homemade meals and had comfortable beds to sleep in. Most rooms were only two people so you got a little bit of privacy as well.
The best part about the accommodations is getting a chance to meet the other volunteers living there with you. Even though I was only there for five weeks, I created some friendships that made a big impact on my time in Peru.
How has volunteering abroad impacted your life?
It really opens your eyes as to what actually matters and little things that might of stressed me out before don't bother me anymore, because I know that it's not the end of the world. I will be continuing to travel for the rest of the year because I feel I still have a lot of learning and growing to do. I believe that the best way to do this is to travel and put yourself out there to meet new people, and go experience new cultures.