Emily Rowe spent five months volunteering in Peru with the charity HOOP and saw first-hand how they change lives for the better.

This is a feature from Issue 6 of Charitable Traveller. Click to read more from this issue.

In 2018 I decided to go on a gap year after school and I came across HOOP (which stands for Helping Overcome Obstacles Peru) while I was researching places to volunteer. I wanted to improve my language skills as well as give back using my skills as a native English speaker.

The main aim of HOOP is to teach English and give children in Peru an extra life skill and the chance to break the cycle of poverty by getting better employment. The kids end up with fantastic English because they learn with native speakers in a fun environment. There are other issues in the community, including domestic violence, and HOOP helps to provide a support network including social workers, psychologists and doctors.

I lived in a house in Arequipa, an amazing city in Peru surrounded by three volcanoes that you can see from wherever you stand. It has a beautiful, sunny climate and it’s in striking distance of Peru’s beautiful mountains, canyons, beaches and Machu Picchu.

Being part of an international group of volunteers was great fun. We would go out to the school every day and meet the kids for an hour of English classes followed by another activity, like art, helping with homework or just playing. In the evenings we ran fundraising activities.

We lived in the city centre but the community and school that HOOP operates in is based is on the outskirts of Arequipa where there is a real change in conditions. Driving there each day on the bus felt like transitioning between two different cities. There were frequent water and power cuts which really affected the community. Kids struggled to do schoolwork without the internet.

The children wanted to know all about the UK and see pictures – they even wrote stories about visiting the queen! They learnt so much by meeting people from all over the world. The Peruvians are such friendly people but when you walk around the village in your HOOP t-shirt the whole community is smiling and waving at you because they know you are there to bring positive things. I know people felt like they were walking into a safe space when they joined us.

I fell in love with South America and I’ve been trying to go back ever since I left! I’m still in contact with volunteers and members of the community and I helped run some lessons via Whatsapp during the pandemic.

In 2019 I joined other volunteers to raise money for HOOP by doing the Three Peaks Challenge, walking up the UK’s three tallest mountains in 24 hours. We started with Ben Nevis in the early hours of the morning and conquered Snowdon by sunrise on Easter Sunday. It was all worth it to raise just under £5,000.

My experience with HOOP taught me how much we take for granted in the UK. The kindness and giving nature of the people I met in Peru, who were much less advantaged than me, was truly inspiring.

Click the button below to learn more about HOOP and the incredible work they do!

A place for change

HOOP is building a new facility in Arequipa in order to better deliver its life-changing services of education and healthcare and have a lasting impact on children and their families in the community. Click here to find out more.

This is a feature from Issue 6 of Charitable Traveller. Click to read more from this issue.