So many things were racing through my head on that cloudy Saturday night. I had put myself together to look the part as founder of the Karikuy Organization; combed my hair, dressed in somewhat formal attire, even whisked on some cologne. It was May 15th of this year, that night I stood poised and calm at Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, awaiting the first of the many volunteers that would participate in this years program.
You see I am still very new at this; the young founder and future CEO of an international organization. Standing in wait at the airport among the multitude of travelers arriving from all over the planet, I could only reassure myself that I had done this before and continue to love doing it. If I was at all anxious it was at the thought of who I would meet this year, of friendships I would make, and adventures embarked upon. But most importantly was what new lessons would be learned, what new experiences will not only I have, but would the volunteers be a part of?
This year Karikuy turned three years old, still an infant by all means, the volunteer program turned two. We almost had a full roster this year which I am proud of considering the programs age and the publicity I had organized to recruit volunteers. Recruitment began as early as June 2009 while year one of the volunteer program was in full swing. No doubt blog posts from year one volunteers helped attract applicants for 2010, but on top of that I had also put a poster campaign in effect in local New York Universities such as Stony Brook University and SUNY schools. In Manhattan we had a similar campaign at Columbia and NYU. By far our best avenue of publicity was through the internet, especially with the help of twitter and Idealist.org.
As the program got underway in May it became apparent that the mandatory blogging included in the program became the main focus of the majority of the volunteers. I can only respect it in that the blogging was always a more personal account of our volunteers experiences of living and working in the country. Collectively the volunteers still managed to put up a considerable amount of new information on Perupedia, however as the program progressed it seemed like less and less attention was paid to more structured research gathering and uploading of information. The program for 2011 will still consist of the same goals and workload on Perupedia but I will be looking into making it more presentable and less rigid in structure; in short just more of a fun activity. We’re thinking of weekly prizes for the volunteer who uploads the most content, prizes such as free drinks and/or admission to bars/clubs on the weekends or immunity from weekly cleanup, both will be popular I am sure.
As far as content the volunteers in 2010 did a brilliant job especially on the blog. Many of their posts were picked up by other bloggers and featured on sites outside of the karikuy.org network. Recently even Peru’s promotional tourist board (PromPeru) began tweeting our blog posts. The caliber of writing that our volunteers demonstrated this year was exceptional and can only hope for the same next year. Being that journalism students find our program very attractive, I am sure those of you specializing in the field will find great success in the future as long as you remain to write honestly about your experiences.
As always I took notes of what needed to improve within the program and I will be making a couple structural modifications for 2011. For example providing a more detailed manual on uploading information using the mediawiki program, the backbone of Perupedia. Already mentioned is a new layout and functionality of the site, perhaps removing mediawiki from the equation in general to create a more fluid site. As far as the Karikuy Bed & Breakfast, all bedrooms will now be heated for 2011. There will also be pressurized hot water for the showers. Those were two of the more pressing issues this year it seems although most of the volunteers had no problems with the previous conditions.
Finally I would just like to add that everyone who participated in the 2010 program obviously had a different experience. I am not one to single anybody out or put words in peoples mouths, but from what I gathered everyone enjoyed themselves and learned something different about one another. My aim for this program when it was first created was not so much in building the internet’s largest database on Peruvian culture, but to get a group of people together to experience and write about a country they were not familiar with. In a way I hoped they would become enlightened by those experiences. Whether that happened to any of you or not I do not know. I can only go away feeling that if it did for just one of you then I have done my job.
-Climbing up Pastoruri in Huaraz, the wind in our hair, the rocks under our feet and the dizzying altitude that would consume one of us. Ok maybe not our finest moment but the beauty of it all was breathtaking as the Cordillera Blanca always is.
-That one week in June where for that whole week straight we somehow managed to…… well you know.
-The night before we climbed up Marcahuasi, on the lookout point of San Pedro de Casta, 1 bottle of Aguardiente and 100 billion stars.
-Catching a ride to Casma on the 18 wheeler…someone open a window!
-Trying to beat each others records for how many sushi rolls we could eat at Oceanika; I may just have a permanent rash from that. Who in 2011 will beat 50? winner gets a slap across the face.
-Salsa dancing in los Olivos, always a pleasure.
-Getting our fortunes told by the shaman in Cachiche and being totally weirded out afterwards. I think he was right though I never will win the lottery.
-Waking up with mysterious scars or unsightly marks on my body after a rough night out.
2010 Volunteers feel free to add your own experiences or comments below.
For more information on the Karikuy 2011 Volunteer Program in Lima, Peru visit www.karikuy.org/volunteer