As a budding non-profit organization, our volunteers play an integral part in our growth and development. In the past, our dedicated volunteers have led extracurricular classes, helped with math and English tutorials, implemented a computer lab, written grants, held fundraisers and spread the word. We are thrilled to have collaborated with volunteers from 5 continents and always look forward to the new perspectives and ideas that they bring to the table!
Today, allow me to introduce Ellen and Walt, a couple from the US who will be with us for the next 6 months. Below, Ellen shares a bit about who they are, why they chose to volunteer with the SVP and what their first impressions have been.
We are Walt and Ellen Johnson and have recently joined the team of volunteers for the Sacred Valley Project. Three years ago, Walt retired from 25 years of service with the Departments of Correction in both South Carolina and Colorado. He has experience as a lieutenant in South Carolina and in a variety of settings in Colorado. Walt is a people person who is naturally inclined to be helpful and completely enjoys laughing. I just retired from the role of principal and education director for a residential treatment center school in Canon City, Colorado and have over 30 years experience as a Special Educator. Youth who are at risk to not complete their education or to not recognize their potentials have always been the type of youth I love to work with. I have always been aware of all the additional challenges girls from tough backgrounds face to develop a vision and to follow a dream.
We have three adult children and four grandchildren who all became part of the plan and the support group that allowed a smooth transition to Peru on June 12th. While the recent preparations to move here took over a year, we first visited Peru and Ollantaytambo in July of 2001. That trip was actually our first major vacation out of the country since our honeymoon to Europe. It was an experience and a place never to be forgotten, so we returned in 2010. Back once again in Ollantaytambo, we became aware of the Sacred Valley Project. After reading a SVP brochure, I knew that the statement I made of, “I really want to do this someday!” was going to happen sooner, rather than later. By mid 2011, the plan was in place to be in Ollantaytambo by June of 2012. On-going conversations with Bianca about the types of volunteer positions which might be an option kept the plan moving forward. Our confidence to make this move has also been supported by our good friend Julio Mamani who was our guide in 2001 and again in 2010. The support of all of our family and friends has allowed us to be in a setting we love and to be able to help a project we believe is making a difference and doing so much to enrich the lives of young girls who will then become empowered, educated and strong young women.
We have been able to spend time with the girls on many occasions since we arrived in Ollantaytambo. We get such a kick out of watching them interact with visitors and proudly share their heritage through a mini Quechua language lesson or an impromptu soccer game. We can see the benefits to each group of visitors as a result of the shared time and experiences. The girls are great ambassadors of the indigenous people. In turn, each of them is gaining skills in communication and developing the confidence to share a piece of their lives and allow visitors to get a snapshot of life in Peru. Our first time period here is for 6 months. We certainly hope that we will be able to stay on and provide any and all types of assistance to the project well into the future.