Twelve years ago, Evelyn Sanchez was one of the first children at Intiwawa. Now 22 years old, she is currently in the USA on a work placement.
How are you enjoying the United States?
It is a beautiful experience to be in the US and learn about American culture. It’s crazy that the weather changes almost every day! One day it rains, the next day there is sunshine, and then the next day it snows making everything white!
I am a housekeeper in a resort called Nemacolin in Farmington, Pennsylvania. It is a temporary work and travel program for three months in total, so I will return in March.
The resort gives us food and accommodation so I can save all the money I earn and bring it back to Arequipa when I return. I came here with my best friend, the two of us live in an apartment with four other girls from Peru.
Going shopping in the US is so different because there is all this ready-made food that only takes five minutes. In Peru we always have to cook everything from scratch. I do really miss Peruvian food though!
What was your life like back in San Isidro?
My mum stays at home and looks after our cafe, as well as a small shop we have. My dad works in brick production.
I started going to Intiwawa when I was 10 years old and stopped when I finished school at age 18. My brother was also in Intiwawa and he is now pursuing a technical career in Arequipa.
How did you get to where you are now?
I applied to a work and travel programme offered by Pice [national programme for work and study exchange]. We could choose where we wanted to work and there was the option to stay more than three months, but I have to go back and continue my studies in Arequipa. I study Administrations at the UNSA [National University of Saint Augustine] – the best uni in town!
After finishing my studies in Arequipa, my dream is to study abroad in a different country. My experience here will help if I choose to apply for a Master’s degree abroad.
Do you think that Intiwawa influenced your personal development and has helped you to get where you are now?
Yes. I definitely think so. We always talked about overcoming obstacles, how nothing is impossible, and that we can reach our goals. Intiwawa has definitely influenced my personal growth.
Leonel [founder and current president of Intiwawa] was always a role model for me. He also had problems in his family when he was younger, but he managed to study hard and live abroad in France! It just made me think, wow – that could be me! And I always followed his travels online.
It was the most beautiful feeling for me to hear that he was proud of me! It’s because of people like him that I still feel that strong, emotional connection with Intiwawa even today. I know that they are there for me and I can always talk to someone when I need support.
What did you like most about Intiwawa?
It was like having a second home. The cultural exchange was so inspiring. The international volunteers always supported us and motivated us to move forward, to make something out of our lives. They gave us the feeling that we were special and different, without even knowing that much about us! I’m grateful to Intiwawa for also giving me the opportunity to spend time with other kids my age.
I learned so many things! I learned how to share with others and how to help others, be empathetic and care for them. I also learned a lot about different cultures through the different workshops and activities. It inspired me to know that Intiwawa volunteers study as well as travel. I have always wanted that for myself.
What do you think could improve at Intiwawa?
I can see that Intiwawa has improved very much in its online presence. I always follow what is being posted. The website and social media pages have a lot of photos of the projects, and the organization seems to be growing internationally. All of the content is in English now.
I learned English in school, but the classes are very basic and in secondary school you just repeat what you learned in primary school, so I had to start from the beginning when I came to university.
It would be good if Intiwawa offered optional English classes to children over 10 years old. To be able to study at university in Arequipa, it is a prerequisite to speak at least one foreign language so I chose to do a three year English course offered by the university.
What would be your message for this generation of children at Intiwawa?
Make the most out of your time with Intiwawa, and enjoy this stage of your life! I grew up just like you and my parents also work in brick production. Everything is possible if you work hard for it, if you believe in yourself and don’t wait for your circumstances to change. We are all responsible for our own lives and the decisions we make. You have to act now and fight for the things you want to make work!
This interview was conducted on 25 January, and has been translated from a Spanish transcription.