A Volunteer's Parting Words

By Shannon Walsh, Sales intern


When I first arrived in Ollantaytambo I thought, “What did I get myself into?” That feeling lasted for about two weeks as I adjusted to life in Ollanta. Instead of heading back to Boston for another semester at Northeastern University, I decided to head to Peru for a semester long internship. While I did expect life in Ollanta to be different from my life at school, I was in complete culture shock for at least my first two weeks. The adjustment period was difficult; however, after almost four months, I’m finding it hard to believe that my time in Peru is coming to an end. From the Peruvian culture, to my homestay, to the environment at the office, it is quite shocking to me how much I have developed both personally and professionally over such a short period of time.

Upon arriving in Ollanta in early July, I had initially thought that I only wanted to stay in my homestay for the first two weeks before moving on to the Awamaki Volunteer House. Yet, here I am, almost four months later, still living with Denni and Victor, my host parents. I have had the opportunity to really see and understand Peruvian culture through my experience living with them. We have shared stories about our families and I know that my time living with them has been an integral part of my experience in Peru. Having a family looking out for me was comforting being that it was my first time travelling abroad for four months. Living with a host family has given me the opportunity to try new foods, and go to various local events. I went to a celebration at my host brother’s school, and went to two baptism parties with my host family. Having these extra events outside of work has made my time in Peru more meaningful and has made Ollanta feel more like home.

On top of the extra activities I get to do in town, I also love my job! Being a sales intern sometimes feels a little distant from the women in the surrounding communities and their work. However, at the end of the day, when I think about it, everyone has their part in the process and each part is equally as important. Each day I get to come into the office and work on important projects that help Awamaki move forward working with indigenous women and preserving the Quechua culture. Not to mention, I get to work and learn from people from all different backgrounds. What I have learned over the past four months has helped me to decide how I want to move forward with my own career and impacted the way I view the world.

As each day passes I am finding it more and more difficult to leave Peru and Awamaki. Almost four months ago I thought I would never adjust to life in Ollanta; however, now I feel as though it is going to be so odd to be back in the United States. While I know I will have many more adventures ahead of me, and I can return to Ollanta in the future, it is bittersweet to have to leave a place that has taught me so much about culture and life in general. I am going to carry what I learned here in Ollanta throughout the rest of my life. Although it sounds pretty cliche, Peru has changed my life and my outlook on the world. After my experience here, I am going to be dreaming of Peru when I am stuck in a classroom next semester.

About Awamaki

Awamaki is a nonprofit fair trade social enterprise dedicated to connecting Andean artisan weavers with global markets. We collaborate with women artisans to support their efforts towards educational and financial independence by co-creating beautifully handcrafted knit and woven accessories using hertiage techniques.