Meet Awamaki’s Volunteer

Sam from Rye, New York

Sustainable Tourism Volunteer

A: Did you live with a host family while you were here?

S: Yes, living with a host family was one of the best parts of my experience here. From a language perspective, it was awesome, three times a day I was guaranteed to sit down for a meal and be immersed in Spanish language. And culturally, I was really engrossed in the culture. At the end of the day I’m living with local people and that is my base, my home unit.

A: What’s a typical day like at your volunteer placement?

S: I’m a volunteer with Sustainable Tourism.  If I have a tour I’ll lead a Quechua Community Visit to the remote high-altitude community of Patacancha and teach people about Incan history, Quechuan culture, and the textile tradition. It allows people to gain an authentic Andean experience and also bring economic benefits and resources directly into rural communities.

A: What is most rewarding about what you do?

S: I think one of the most rewarding parts of the work is being able to bridge cultural gaps between tourists and local indigenous peoples. That’s been an integral part of my work here. I’ve also been working on a comprehensive tourism manual about Ollantaytambo, with a goal of creating incentives for tourists to stay here longer and gain a better appreciation for the town. The goal is to ultimately support the local economy and help increase the access of local business and individuals to the economic and social benefits of tourism that they may not have previously had the access to.

A: What do you do in your free time?

S: I like to balance traveling to other parts of Peru with really spending time around my family, eating long meals together and really practicing my Spanish and just getting to know people. And trying to sort of transcend simply speaking the language of people and be able to ultimately use my language skills to resonate with people and really be able to build meaningful relationships with them. I’ve played soccer with the cooks in the restaurant that my family owns, I’ve watched my homestay father in one of the lead roles of the Ollanta Raymi festival, I’ve been to one of his soccer games, and I’ve been to my little host brother’s birthday party. Just the little things are the most meaningful parts of my experience. And also I’ve been training with a recently retired UFC fighter who lives in town. I’ve been training jujitsu with him just about every morning and that’s been one of the most incredible parts of my experience so far.

A: What’s your favorite Peruvian dish?

S: I really love quinoa soup. Quinoa is great, called chisaya mama or mother grain, has all the essential amino acids that the human body needs. Another great thing about my homestay family is that I cook most of my meals in the kitchen of their restaurant and bond with the kitchen staff. I also love tamales, but I don’t know how to make them, its something I leave to the lovely ladies over at the market.

A: What are your plans upon returning home?

S: I go home for about ten days, spend time with my family and friends, do a lot of reading, and then I’m off to Sri Lanka to study this coming semester. I feel like being down here for an extended period of time has really helped me feel comfortable on my own and in the midst of travel and to be able to be savvy on my toes and to be able to rock it in different contexts. And I’m really excited to be able to travel again and have a little bit more of an academic focus and another really great cultural experience, so bring it on.

A: What would you tell a friend that was considering volunteering with Awamaki?

S: If you’ve read about the organization and the kinds of things we’re doing, between education, revitalizing the weaving tradition, harnessing tourism as a vehicle to help local peoples, then you should absolutely do it. It has been incredible, it’s in an absolutely beautiful part of the world. Awamaki has some really strong initiatives and is doing some really great work in the local community.