Although this has been my first few months as Project Manager for Volunteers Peru, I did not come into the job blind. I have been working with Volunteers Peru from, well, pretty much the beginning.
How everything began
I arrived shortly after my colleague (and good friend) Ella arrived in Peru to help expand and formalize the practices of Volunteers Peru as the Project Volunteer Coordinator. Marita, our founder, had already made the initial links with our projects and done the legal work. From there we then had to start building up Volunteers Peru. Ella created all of the documents and procedures and I was here as her right hand women to give a second opinion and edit documents. This means that I am very familiar with all of our practices and procedures.
Ella and I spent the first several months making connections with our projects. First getting to know each one and talking to local staff and teachers to see what it is that is needed at each project. This takes a lot of time and trial and error, but we spent the time listening carefully to how Volunteers Peru could support each project. If someone new were to come in now to manage the project, they would have to start from scratch to build those relationships of trust. Therefore, the fact that I have been able to take over has prevented that from happening.
It is different, though, seeing the job being done and actually doing it myself now.
Volunteers Peru was founded by Marita Bellido in 2013. Originally from Tomepampa, Cotahuasi, she started her work as a coordinator by sending volunteers to Tomepampa’s local school. As she moved to Arequipa, she began to look for a project to support in the city and formed a link with the Casa Hogar Torre Fuerte girls’ home. Thus, Volunteers Peru was born. Our team of volunteers support the children at both projects. We aim to create responsible and ethical volunteer programs which foster mutual understanding and cultural exchange.
At the school in Tomepampa, our volunteers, guided by a volunteer coordinator, support the education of the students by providing classroom support in English and other subject areas. They also carry out extra homework help sessions after school. Tomepampa is in a remote region and volunteers can bring a different perspective to the classroom. At Torre Fuerte girls’ home, volunteers support both girls and staff in domestic chores as needed, help the girls with their homework, and contribute to a safe and stable home environment.
Although it was easy adjusting into the position because of all of the history I have here, I now need to make my own mark and try to expand and grow this NGO even more than we have in the past year and a half. Ella and I built the groundwork but now it is time to try to expand and professionalize. The advantage I have though is that I am already so familiar with the projects and how things work. I do not have to learn many new things or create connections with both of the projects we work with. I already have a good relationship and knowledge of both. Therefore the transition for me has not been too challenging, but I have learned a lot just in the few months being in this position.
Although I will not be able to stay with Volunteers Peru forever, I am glad that I am still here now and was able to take over the position of Project Manager.
If Ella and I were to both leave, then the history and foundation we built would have been in jeopardy of collapsing. Although what we have so far is very solid, as we are still such a new project it is important to keep growing and put everything we can in place to make sure this project is sustainable.
How the company grew over the years
Year one was all about building links with our projects and getting our name out there. Year two was mostly expanding and learning from the previous year, with many new volunteers to help us grow. I would like year three to be about professionalization of our organization and further growth.
While I am Project Manager I will work hard to make sure that everthing will be running smoothly and that Volunteers Peru is built up as best as it can be. And when the time is right I can pass the job on to someone new, but ideally it would be someone who is already familiar and working with Volunteers Peru.
You are interested and you want to apply for an Volunteers Peru Volunteer program? Check out our teaching placement or get involved in order to support the staff in a girls home. Volunteers Peru is waiting for your application!