Being a volunteer for Oye Lena for three months has been a remarkable experience. Its location in the heart of the Andean mountains, the friendliness of other volunteers, the love and affection I received from the children and the ongoing fun activities which I’ve done with the project has kept me inspired and motivated over the last three months. Being a volunteer here I have also come in touch with the real life of Peruvian people by meeting the children and their families and seeing the way they live. I am happy to have participated in improving the local community by stimulating the lovely children which come from the most disadvantaged background as well as working with children with disabilities. During the three months I have been here I have seen enormous progress in a lot of children, from better concentration and greater kindness in the little children to hearing some of the disabled children read their first words. Now that my time here has come to an end I deeply wish that the project will continue to grow and seed love and inspiration in all the children that come and make Oye Lena the special place it is.
Aloe Del Campo (26 years, Spain, psychologist, December 2016)
I stayed here in Oye LENA for 2 months and if I could, I would stay here for a longer time! I experienced so many moments of joy and pleasure. The project is very well organized, you live in a phenomenal nature which you never get used to and it is a great opportunity to meet the local culture because Oye LENA has a lot off activities with the parents, the brothers and sisters of the children of the school, with other schools and an orphanage,..
It is a great opportunity to learn a lot. Even if you have no experience with children, you will be useful during your stay.
I hope you will enjoy it like I did!
By Jolien Santens (22 years, Belgium, primary teacher, March 2017)
Casa Lena is a beautiful place in the Peruvian mountains next to the small town of Curahuasi. From the very first moment on I felt at home there and I knew I was going to have a great time. Oye LENA is such an inspiring project! I enjoyed every single day I could be part of it and every minute I spent with all these great people and precious children.
Every morning at nine, we picked up the children with special needs whom we were teaching until noon. For me this was the first time working in this area and I am grateful for this rewarding experience. In the afternoons, we always had a lot of fun with the preschoolers and their older sisters and brothers who were invited to join the project during their holidays in January and February. After enjoying their hot meal we played together until classes started with our daily welcome circle. Since it was holidays classes focused on playful learning and we did a lot of creative and sportive activities, puzzles and smart and multisensory games. The hours passed by quickly and far too early it was time for the children to step into our bus to be brought home.
Further highlights of my stay were our visit to the orphanage of Chachora and the days we spent with the children in the thermal baths of Cconoc. Another great event was the “fiesta de promoción” where we celebrated a big party to say goodbye to all the children leaving Oye LENA, because they started school at the beginning of March.
My eight weeks were over in no time at all and much too early I had to leave again. I did this with a heavy heart, but with a backpack full of great memories and experiences, many new friends that I will never forget and with the cutest godchild in the world. I really recommend this wonderful project to everyone who is searching for a place to do his internship or is just looking for the perfect location to do meaningful volunteer work. I myself would be more than happy to come back one day.
By Hannah Bauer (27 years, Austria, nutritionist, March 2017)
I have spent 7 weeks in Oye Lena, in October and November 2017. I was originally going to stay for 4 weeks, but was happy to lengthen my stay with another 3 weeks.
A year ago, I decided to take a break and go travelling for a year. Via a friend, I heard about the project Oye Lena in Curahuasi Peru. I have been monitor in the youth movement, but apart from that, never worked with toddlers or special children before. So you could call it… quite a challenge for me!
But: a whole new world opened up!
I loved working with the toddlers. I rediscovered the child in me, which was so much fun. These kids need much love and confirmation, and it feels good to be able to help. Especially after a few weeks, when they really start to know and trust you, and your Spanish gets better. Therefore, I would suggest to stay longer than I did!
I loved the group of volunteers. I met 10 totally different people, that formed a special and close group. We worked together, but also cooked together in the evenings. We partied together for birthdays, goodbyes, football games, or just because it was Friday. We did some treks & activities together in the weekends. My number one is for sure our 4-day trek to Choquequirao during a school holiday, which was heavy but so much fun.
I loved the structure, but at the same time the freedom, in the school. Oye Lena works according to fixed themes, schemes and schedules, which provides a helpful structure for everyone. At the same time, there’s much participation: you can express your preferences on tasks and activities. I did some administrative work too for example, because I like this a lot.
And I loved the stunning location Curahuasi. A small and cosy village, surrounded by mountains and canyons in all colors of the rainbow. A paradise for hikers!
I will for sure stay in touch, via social media and the newsletter. And I have decided to become the godmother of the 4-year old Aaron, so I will have to return here someday ;-).
By Hanne Michiels (31 years, Belgium, finance manager, October 2017)
I had the most incredible time volunteering at Oye LENA, I felt very comfortable and welcome here, it was like a home away from home! Becoming friends with the other volunteers and the experiences we all shared together are ones I’ll always remember. The project is really well organized and you never feel like you have to figure things out alone. Even if you are not that experienced you will quickly learn about working with kids and about speaking Spanish as well. The project gave me a lot of perspective both in the scope of my own life as well as the world, you feel like you are really making a difference. I am absolutely going to carry this experience forward with me, I already want to go back!
By Olivia Gatter (23 years, U.S.A., psychologist, August 2017)
I volunteered at Oye Lena during the summer of 2017 and I had the best time. The people there are so nice, you get to stay in a beautiful room with a stunning view, and working with the kids (both the special kids and the toddlers) was an amazing experience. During the week I worked at the project (playing with and teaching the kids) and I studied Spanish. I can really recommend the Spanish course! In the weekends I visited Machu Picchu, the Rainbow Mountains, Cuzco, … I can ‘t wait to go back!
Sofie Verrijkt (25 years, Belgium, Speech therapist, July-August 2017)
The volunteering was a big challenge for me, because I had to work with children with a physical or mental disability. These groups of children are outside my comfort zone as a speech language therapist. It was a big eye-opener to work with them, because there was so much more than just the disability. In that setting you’re very conscious about the child’s environment and the effect on the child and his/her disability. This kind of view on a child changed my communication and interaction with every child, also now in my work. So I can say it was an enrichment for me. The group of volunteers was amazing. I really had a great time with them. There was a lot to do: hiking a mountain, having parties in the weekend, chilling with the alpaca’s, visiting Cuzco in the weekends, going to the market in the village, … It was an experience that I would absolutely do for a second time. It is cliché, but I will never forget that time!
Deborah Jacob (27 years, Belgium, Speech therapist, Octobre -Novembre 2017)
I used to volunteer 3 times a week with different organisations but since then, I’ve run out of time, been ‘too busy’, and not done any kind of charitable work. Coming to Oye LENA has reminded me why I love it to volunteer so much! When I was planning my travels in Latin America, I knew I wanted to volunteer with an NGO that makes a difference in their local community… Oye LENA is exactly what I was looking for. Working with the children at the project is so rewarding – you build relationships with them and every smile, hug, and kiss shows you just how valued the volunteers are. Even though the children benefit from our support, we as volunteers gain so much more than we could ever give: I’ve learned about my privilege; I’ve learned about children with disabilities; I’ve learned about a different culture; my Spanish has improved; I’ve made great friends; I’m happier than ever. Oye LENA is a fantastic and worthwhile project – I have enjoyed every minute. Thank you!
By Ella Verity (20 year, United Kingdom, student, may 2018)
In may 2018 I came to Oye Lena to work as a volunteer for four weeks. So far, nothing special, except for the fact that I am a retired speech-therapist and I am 66 years old. This should of course not be a problem and indeed it was not, especially when you are child-minded and when you can get along with the young people that usually are working here. So I arrived on a very sunny Saturday and I was welcomed by Stefanie and Lisa, I immediately felt comfortable, I got a nice private room and I got lots of information about the project. The place in Curahuasi where Oye Lena is situated is just amazing, the view is stunning, the mountains are always in sight, the nearby city is hundred percent genuine, the daily life of Peru is right there before your eyes …
So far, I did not speak of the children, whose education and welfare is of course the main objective of the project ! Getting to know them is a just a privilege, the ‘specials’ as well as the ‘toddlers’ are just normal children, as anywhere in the world : sometimes you love them, sometimes you want to paste them behind the wallpaper (smile)… It was a great joy working with them : they are colorful, playful, resourceful and super charming !!!
Finally, I want to say a word about the project and especially about Stefanie and Ginder : the work they have done here concerning the infrastructure but also concerning the realisation and the objectives of the project is beyond description ! What an energy and what a dedication !
Come and see for yourself, you never can be disappointed ! I myself had a lovely time here and … the beautiful city of Cusco is nearby, so you can visit Machu Picchu and many more beautiful destinations in Peru !
Nadine Verheuen (66 years, Belgium, Speech therapist, may 2018)
I came to Oye Lena after a few months of travelling. It felt like coming home. I started off giving classes to the smallest kids and speech therapy to the special kids. We really saw a big improvement with the special kids and that gave me even more energy to work with them. Beside working we had also a great time with the other volunteers. We had sport activities, went out in the weekends, we organized barbecues, … I stayed there for two months and I loved every second!
Ester Fonteyne (26 years, Belgium, Speech therapist, January – March 2018)
The project Oye Lena was perfectly what I was looking for. Between traveling, stretching enough time to commit myself to children who really need it. The love you receive from the children is indescribable and you also get the necessary freedom to do what you are good at. Unforgettable experience.
Klaas Vermeersch (28 years, Belgium, Social care, January – March 2018)
I worked at Oye Lena for 8 weeks and it was the experience of a lifetime. You felt like you were actually helping and making a difference In the children’s lives. It is such an amazing and important project! The people, the children, the animals, the nature – everything was incredible and II would definitely go back (and I will !) I can’t recommend this enough!
Elisa Silje Mascioli, (22 years, France-Norway, Nurse, January-March 2018)