UQ student Winnie Van with school children from the Fey y Alegria School in Peru
UQ student Winnie Van with school children from the Fey y Alegria School in Peru
4 October 2010

Seven UQ students have recently returned from the trip of a lifetime after volunteering in Peru.

Based in Villa El Salvador in the Lima Province, the students spent three weeks working in schools, community centres and making home visits to local elderly and disadvantaged people as part of the UQ Centenary International Volunteer Project.

“The tasks volunteers took on varied between placement sites, from helping to teach English at Fei y Alegria to constructing a shelter for a member of the community. The placements provided a great opportunity to connect with the people of Villa El Salvador and gain an appreciation for the difficulties they face in their lives,” group leader Carly Barrett said.

Students Winnie Van and Rachel McCririck volunteered at the Fey y Alegria School, assisting with year one and high school English classes.

“My perspective on the world and what’s really important in life was turned on its head by this trip. I’m certainly a lot more grateful for my own good fortune now than before,” Ms McCririck said.

The school was grateful for the assistance, as classes are packed with around 45 students with only one teacher to assist them, Ms Van said.

Although there was a language barrier, both students were amazed by how quickly they were able to pick up Spanish.

“Throughout the volunteer project students were developing and enhancing their skills managing the demands of the project during semester, coordinating fundraising activities, and learning how to adapt to different environments,” Ms Barrett said.

For Christopher Smith, working at the Martincitos Community Centre with disadvantaged senior citizens was a humbling experience.

“They live in a completely different environment to ours with not very much at all, but with the seemingly same level of happiness as us, it was a sobering activity and helped put things into perspective.”

The Faculty of Business, Economics and Law are exploring how to continue the volunteer event in 2011 and hopefully make it an annual project.

“The organisations we worked with really rely on volunteers to run their facilities. Money is great but having people willing to contribute their time to help out can be even more valuable,” Ms Barrett said.

For more information on the project visit www.bel.uq.edu.au/international-volunteer
or contact cbarrett@bel.uq.edu.au

Media: Carly Barrett (07 3365 8859, cbarrett@bel.uq.edu.au) or Allison Rock at UQ Communications (07 3365 2619, allison.rock@uqconnect.edu.au)