The former Castlegar´s exchange student Max Reinhold (20) from Germany is currently doing a voluntary service abroad. Having worked in the Peruvian rain forest for seven month he takes a look back:
After spending a year in Castlegar in 08/09 participating in the Rotary Youth Exchange Program and finishing my remaining two years of German high school it was my very strong desire to go abroad for another year.
One reason to do so – and I admit it – was my slightly seldom wish to have another awesome adventure because my time in Canada surely was one hell of a blast. The second reason was to become socially active in a developing country. And by the time I finished my secondary education military service for guys was still mandatory in Germany, and I really did not want to do that. However, there were alternatives.
One is called “weltwärts” (German for “world-ward”), a relatively new voluntary service initiated by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development that aims at young adults who want to work in a poor country for 6-24 month.
After I applied for a sending organization that suited my ideas I had to raise about 2600€. The ministry pays you up to 75 per cent of all costs (flights, insurance, accommodation etc.) and you as a volunteer raise the remaining 25 per cent in donations before you go abroad.
Seven month later: It is a beautiful morning in PROSOYA (Programa Social Yanachaga) in the middle of the Peruvian rain forest. After weighing nearly 20 kg of sugar I put my bee mask in my backpack before climbing up one of the surrounding mountains carrying the sugar. One hour, a few mosquito bites and lots of sweat later I arrive in what seems like paradise. But there is not a lot of time to enjoy the absolutely stunning nature.
All 20 hives need to be fed as their natural food, honey, got taken out a few months earlier. Having done so I start descending again, thinking about the energy it will cost me to feed another group of hives in the afternoon and the same group of hives the following week. Did I mention that PROSOYA owns about 100 hives?
What sounds like a lot of work really is a lot of work and a lot of fun. Being in charge of all the bees is just one of many activities I was able to do during my first seven of total 12 month in Peru. Founded in 1989, the place I am volunteering in, PROSOYA gives accommodation, food and a practical education to 40 Peruvian boys from a poor background, lots of them orphans.
This education includes a whole variety of valuable life skills such as carpentry, metal works, baking, bee keeping, organic agriculture and domestication of cattle, pigs, chicken and trout. After finishing their high school in a close-by village the students stay for one more year to specialize in two areas of their choice leaving the project with a solid base of knowledge for the future.
My tasks volunteering in PROSOYA are diverse. For the first three months I got to try out every workshop of the project. Milking cows, planting coffee, welding and supplying PROSOYA with fresh buns are a few examples of the things I did. Finally I decided to keep working with the bees and in the wood work shop, two fascinating and challenging activities.
Even though there has been lots of economic growth in the past few years Peru still is one of the poorest countries in South America. Projects like PROSOYA help to make a little difference. Living and working in a developing country opens the eyes for poverty and social issues which we usually only notice with a huge distance in the media. I am very happy to have this opportunity. If you want to get more information about PROSOYA please visit the website of the project in English: http://www.peru-aktion.de/index.php?dm=1&_l=3