by Ronald Tipan
Intiwawa is an NGO that works to break the cycle of poverty in Arequipa, Peru. Its mission is to "contribute to the integral development of the children through educational support, health promotion and strengthening socio-cultural values." This organization has become a huge part of my life because of how the community, the people and the children have accepted me openly as well as how I have changed my travel plans moving forward. They taught me about how to live life to the fullest and not to take things for granted. I spent almost a year in the city of San Isidro, where the organization is based, coordinating the English program and helping the children with their homework. I taught English at a nearby elementary school and started a weekend English program specifically for the children of Intiwawa.
I worked alongside other international travelers and volunteers who shared the same passion for helping others. These travelers became my family because of the camaraderie and bond that we formed while working together.
I am forever grateful for the opportunity to build long-lasting friendships with all of them. This travel experience culminated in a new passion for volunteering.
Once I left the organization, my travel plans changed. I continued to volunteer in countries such as Nepal, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala. I had initially planned to travel for only 6 months but my time at Intiwawa and my travel experience changed the way I viewed the world. I developed an insatiable hunger to keep exploring, to keep learning and to keep enjoying my life. I have also often spent hours sharing my stories with any new person I met along the way as I continued my journey: stories about my volunteer experience, my amazing treks to beautiful landscapes, my spontaneous activities, my lifelong friendships with people that also inspired me, and my fondness for the communities that welcomed me.
Volunteering has opened my eyes to the other side of the world where the children touched my heart and made an impact on my life. I loved every minute of working in these communities, creating memories with the children and building friendships with other volunteers. Hence, I have continued to seek organizations where I can make an impact and where my presence will be valued.
Besides building incredible memories, I also acquired new skills and gained further work experience. I took on varied responsibilities and became involved with different projects. I learned how an organization functions and how to work with people from different backgrounds. But no matter what I’ve done, the best part has always been the chance to immerse myself in the local culture. I learned to live like a local and appreciated their way of life. Intiwawa allowed me to live in that type of environment.
Whenever you volunteer for any organization, you always take something with you and leave something behind. I left behind a lot of children whom I felt made such an impact on me and the community that I called home for all those months. I left behind a school that welcomed me as an untrained English teacher but embraced me as a part of their tight-knit family in the end. I left behind a group of volunteers who continued to do the work we started with even greater enthusiasm.
I left an organization with a promising future and a commitment to make a difference. But I took with me a lifetime of memories and eagerness to seek things that I believe will make a significant impact in the world.
The people that started this organization for the benefit of the people and the community in need were once world travelers who just wanted to see the world but ended up witnessing a world different from theirs. They got inspired. They became passionate. They wanted to make a difference. And they did something about it. They returned to where their heart belongs, followed their intuitions, and built something amazing. I was inspired and I wanted to make an even bigger impact on other people’s lives, create brighter futures for children, families, and communities, and Intiwawa showed me that path. From this moment on, I want my career to focus on helping others and fighting for a cause that I truly believe in while being the best version of myself.