Having recently completed our Masters in Social Work, Sofie and I decided to leave Belgium to spend four months travelling in South America. After starting in Quito, Ecuador, we travelled down to the beautiful city of Cusco to begin a month of volunteer work. The project we worked on provides care to people living in neglect, suffering from psychological and psychiatric diseases including the treatment of addiction.

During our time here we worked with people with mental disabilities. Our day started at 8.30am and we worked for roughly four hours per day doing a range of activities. We spent a lot of time decorating communal areas such as the dining room and outdoor walls, along with private rooms too. We spent a lot of time drawing things that the residents could then color in themselves, as this was an activity that most of them were able to participate in and really enjoyed doing.

Getting Creative in Cusco – Volunteering in a Psychiatric Home

The project is a really lovely place to be. However, you do have to use your initiative as a lot of the time you are left to your own devices. Do not be afraid to try out your ideas! There is a lot of scope to use your creativity and if things don´t work out first time… it does not matter!

Spending a month there is a perfect as it allows enough time to get to know everyone really well and gives you plenty of time to experiment with lots of new ideas and activities that you think may be beneficial and enjoyable for the residents.

The only remotely ‘negative’ remark that we could make about our experience is that we had to buy all the stuff that we needed for the activities that we organized. However the project does not have the facilities to pay for everything that volunteers may require for their activities and we understand that. A good way to combat this concern was to try to make as much as we could using recycled newspapers, cartons and anything else that proved useful!

Getting Creative in Cusco – Volunteering in a Psychiatric Home

In conclusion, we are really glad we had the opportunity to spend a month at this project. It was a great experience and was also a very good means by which to explore the sector of social work in a foreign country. We were able to compare some elements from Peru with the social care system in Europe and feel that each could learn from the other.

The whole trip and our experience during our volunteer work has left us with nothing but positive memories.

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