I was going to Brazil to broker tickets for the World Cup and it seemed silly not to see some of South America’ s glories. Knowing the depth of poverty in South America it dawned on me I could also do something to help the needy. This idea for a humanitarian trip had intrigued me for 8 years since hearing about it from a friend. Moreover, I could see one of the New7Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu, which I had wanted to see for as long as I can remember.
I googled humanitarian trip South America, and found International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ). An opportunity to help was available in Cuzco, Peru. My eldest daughter Savannah, a sophomore at the University of Texas, joined me for what would be a memorable humanitarian daddy-daughter bonding trip.
My experience with IVHQ and their Peruvian partner, Maximo Nuval, was stellar throughout.
We arrived and went straight to their office on the main drag, Via El Sol. We were assigned to teach English to adults and further volunteered to help build a preschool. We were also offered the opportunity to learn Spanish. Henceforth, our schedule: Construction 9-12, Spanish 2-4, and English 6-9. We were able to offset our hard work with some adventures such as whitewater rafting and a bungee jump. Similarly, in my business I get to enjoy the fruits of my labor by attending many top-notch events with my clients.
We were placed at the upper middle class home (by Peruvian standards), which accommodated nine visitors. Our room was tiny and we would share a tiny bathroom with three college girls who stayed next to us. One girl suffered from altitude sickness (Warning: Machu Picchu has an 11,600-foot elevation), which affected her for the first few days. Another caveat: Homes in Cuzco have no heat and nights are cold. Thus, be ready to sleep in jeans and a sweatshirt every night. Finally, hot water was not plentiful. Turn the knob beyond a trickle and the water is very cold. Be prepared.
Our construction project was to pick and dig several feet of rock and haul it away in wheelbarrows. The ultimate goal was to build a kitchen and a bathroom for the preschool kids so they would not have to relieve themselves in buckets. I was winded several times hauling a wheelbarrow up and down a hill. At 11,600 feet, one gets tired fast and I felt proud to kind of keep up with the college kids. Knowing we were bringing more sanitary conditions to the preschoolers who would often come hang out with us was inspiring.
People who learned English could earn more money in tourism. While we were given a brief outline of how to proceed, we pretty much figured it out for ourselves. Carmen, my first student, was conversational and we focused on the nuances of the English language that often get lost in translation. While reading a Caesar Chavez story, she came across a line that read, “Caesar drove up and down the valley.” Taking “up” and “down” literally, she didn’t grasp the meaning until I clarified English phraseology. When she told me on Thursday how much I helped her, I received great intrinsic payment. I also worked with five basic (slightly more advanced than beginner) students. We read Dr. Seuss stories and played Hangman. Creativity has a way of transcending language barriers as well as transcending problems that arise in the operation of my business.
These experiences reminded me how much my business involves selling experiences––a concert, sporting event, or performance––that create priceless memories that last a lifetime. In donating my time and energy with my daughter, I was, in a different way, creating priceless memories which will be memorialized in my daughter’s mind and evidenced by the physical preschool building.
At the end of the trip I felt I was being true to my purpose: “Live a life well lived and help others less fortunate do the same.”