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Helping Children to Overcome Obstacles in Peru

Roberta with her students. Roberta Fregolent

I wanted to help—but first, I had to overcome a big fear. 

When I first arrived at the organization Helping Overcome Obstacles Peru (HOOP), there was the need of an English teacher for a couple of weeks. I immediately wanted to help the children of the communities in the Cerro Colorado district firsthand, but my excitement was mixed with fear. I'd never been in front of a class before.

Nevertheless, I decided to take on the challenge.

When I got off the bus that left the relatively wealthy centre of Arequipa, I was shocked by the pile of garbage and stray dogs that surround the primary school. I was relieved to see that past the school walls, there were colourful classrooms and a well-kept playground.

I had never imagined that teaching could be such a rewarding experience. 

At the door, the kids immediately waved at me with big smiles. I had never imagined that teaching could be such a rewarding experience. The five to seven-year-old Peruvian kids in my class were so energetic and eager to learn that it was hard to not looking forward to the following day.

Hearing them calling “Teacher, teacher!” with their cute Spanish accents made me forget about my concerns. Since the very beginning, the students have welcomed me as their friend, invited me to play football, and given me high-fives, hugs and even flowers.

In the outskirts of Arequipa, there are many children that have so much potential and need resources in order to have a better life, which is why HOOP was born. It is about more than teaching English to the kids and it goes beyond the structured lessons of the compulsory school in the morning. It is about demonstrating that girls have the same abilities as boys; about providing them with a safe and fun environment outside their home or community, which may be difficult or violent; and about letting them know they can rely on their teachers and schoolmates for more than just educational matters. 

Currently, I am contributing to the start-up of two new programs and to the organization of health campaigns and community outreach activities. I work in the office and sometimes I miss the kids. However, I know that some of them will remember me, even though I only taught them for a short time.

A few days ago, I went back to the school to celebrate HOOP's fifth anniversary. On that day, I could not say no to a couple of the students that ran towards me and dragged me to their moms asking them to braid my hair in the Peruvian style. Such a painful experience and my look was the funniest I have ever had. Still, I will never forget their friendly laughs while holding the elastic bands and saying how golden my hair colour is.

I am extremely grateful and proud of being part of this project that actually has an impact on the lives of these amazing children. I am going to be here to help for a short time of my life, but I know that in a little way I am contributing to make these lives have a better future.

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Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Roberta Fregolent

Roberta Fregolent is volunteering with the NGO Helping Overcome Obstacles in Peru, in the city of Arequipa. As a Programme Assistant she helps develop their Educational, Health and Social Development projects for disadvantaged children and women.

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