Sophomore Lends a Hand Overseas

Sophomore Katy Morley did not spend the last weeks of her summer baking on hot beaches, lazing around in defiance of the impending school year, or wrapping up a few months’ work at some high-profile internship. Instead, she dedicated two weeks of her time to help underprivileged children in Lima, Peru. She worked with Global Volunteers, a nonprofit organization which coordinates humanitarian efforts in the United States and abroad.

She became interested in the program when she heard about it from two of her hometown friends, who also went on the trip.

“I really wanted to volunteer,” she said. “I was debating about whether I should get a job or do volunteer work. I just enjoy volunteering, so I figured I might as well volunteer while I can.”

Morley has some background in Spanish, which is one reason she chose Lima as her destination. While Global Volunteers promotes many projects, including providing health care and building-construction for communities, its operation in Peru involves more person-to-person contact.

“This particular one [program], we saw that we got to teach kids and play with kids, and we wanted more human interaction,” Morley said.

The volunteers who work in Lima spend much of their time at the Puericultorio Perez Aranibar (PPA), a children’s home that houses over 600 youths. Morley worked at the health clinic within the PPA.

“I worked in the ‘hospitalito,’ which is like the school infirmary. I worked there from the morning to the afternoon. I did labor projects,” Morley said. “The whole time we were there, we were working on the kids’ beds. We had to sand them and stain them and get them ready to use in [the children’s] rooms because they were just sleeping on mattresses on the ground.”

Morley also spent time with the kindergarteners whenever she could. She played with, comforted, and befriended many of them.

“Every night we had the option of coming back and doing ‘sweet dreams;’ we’d go the kindergarteners-they were the two to three-year-olds-and we’d just read them a story, sing them a song, and tuck them in and make sure they got into bed. There were only like two attendants, sometimes one, for all the kids that were there. There were maybe like 30 kids in the kindergarten, so they can’t give them attention, so we gave them each a little goodnight,” Morley said.

Spending time with the PPA’s children was the best part of the experience for Morley.

“This is actually one of the first times of volunteering that I’ve actually felt like I’ve made a difference,” Morley said. “I felt more productive with the kids themselves, because you could tell that they loved being with us and they wouldn’t get the attention otherwise… The kids were so sad that we had to leave.”

Global Volunteers sends groups of people, for two weeks at a time, to work on their humanitarian projects. Morley’s team consisted not only of other students like herself, but also people older than 30.

The costs of Global Volunteering can easily reach above $2,000, plus airfare. But the price tag isn’t a deterrent to Morley.

“My friend and I talk about it all the time,” she said. “We want to go back so bad. If we can make it happen, I really want to go back.”

The program’s cost helped to pay for the extra security that is of such great importance in an unfamiliar city.

“They put us up in a tourist hotel. The trip was kind of expensive because of the hotel they put us in, but it was nice because we felt safe. We could go out in the city on the weekends when we had time off, and we could just explore,” Morley said.

Lima, Peru’s capital city, faces many economic problems, but provided a great cultural experience to the volunteers.

“Lima is really polluted and really populated, but I’ve never really traveled where I’ve immersed myself in the culture before, and I completely loved it,” she said.

Morley, who participated in the Center for Outreach and Volunteerism Education (COVE)’s Outreach program before her first year at Colgate, feels that the experience in Peru was invaluable. If she can find the time between classes and other activities, she hopes to do continue doing volunteer work here. Her message to Colgate students is one of enthusiasm.

“There are no drawbacks,” she said. “If you can afford to go, if you can somehow find a way, it’s definitely worth it.”