Deep within the Andes Mountains lies an ancient city whose history is 3,000 years old: Cusco, Peru. Andreas Geroski never would’ve guessed that this would be his new office view, and that his day-to-day job would involve empowering the lives of disadvantaged young people in Peru.
Sitting comfortably in a chair Andreas recounts the story of how he ended up in Cusco, Peru to MovingWorlds. The WiFi cuts in and out and the work environment is humble, but with a huge smile on his face, Andreas tells MovingWorlds that he couldn’t be happier.
What inspired you to take the leap and go Experteering?
I was working as a municipal administration assistant in London for 3 years and knew that it was time for a change. I wanted all the usual things that any 20 something year old wants to spice things up with: A change of scenery, a chance to see more of the world, to learn a new language, and a change in direction for my career.
That’s where MovingWorlds came in the picture. MovingWorlds helps professionals find the best place to volunteer their skills around the world to support sustainable change — we call it Experteering.
How did you find out about MovingWorlds?
Google search! I was looking for opportunities to work abroad and I came across this thing called ‘Experteering’. I thought it was a great idea and quickly signed up!
Why did you choose Latin American Foundation for the Future (or LAFF) as your hosting organization?
I really liked their approach and ethos to work through local organisations, and to make them sustainable in the long run: From giving them the skills to fundraising to supporting their social enterprise partners throughout Peru. I also liked that LAFF supported educational charities, particularity for young women; for me, education is the most important tool we have to break the cycle of poverty.
My role with LAFF is the only role in the organization that doesn’t require fluent Spanish. However, while the office environment is primarily English speaking, the few times I have had to interact with the Spanish speaking team, have been quite amusing. I’ve just begun to learn Spanish so it’s very much broken and mixed with English, also my strong British accent has added another layer of confusion. However, somewhere between my broken British Spanish, their broken English and hand gestures on both sides, we’d made due.
[Editor’s note: In the MovingWorlds planning process, you’ll learn if you need additional languages, and at what levels.]
The LAFF staff has been very welcoming and kind, there are a lot of good people here and it feels a bit like a family.
What sort of work have you been doing with LAFF?
I’ve been working as a PR and Content Communicator. Some of the work I do also involves supporting the political movements that have been taking place in Cusco since Peru still struggles with strong sexism in their society. A really interesting piece of work I did was about social movements in Peru; I wrote a blog about female empowerment and the work of our partners who work specifically with young women. This was done to coincide with a women’s rights march that took place in Cusco, and cities across South America.
I’ve also had the pleasure of working with LAFF’s partner org, Casa Mantay.
Casa Mantay is an impact organization that supports women and children that have been victims of abuse. It’s a fairly sensitive topic in Peru, because these women often face heavy criticism, get blamed by their families, and have nowhere to go. Casa Mantay provides shelter for them, educates them and works with them until they are self-sufficient. They also teach these women skills to be self sustaining.
Some of the women go on to work for Casa Mantays’ Social Enterprise, Taller Mantay, which makes handbags and accessories from leather, with all the profit going back into the charity.
What cultural differences have you encountered during your time abroad?
I’ve encountered some interesting cultural differences. For example, the work culture in Peru is much more laid back and less regimented than what I’m used to. As a result, I’ve found myself being the more logistically minded person on the team on account of my previous experience, however at home I’m not necessarily this person.
As a side note, this more laid back open culture translates nicely into Peruvian nightlife, where everyone is so open to socializing, dancing, and having a good time, which is a HUGE contrast to the London bar scene, where everyone is so awkward!
[Editor’s note: In the MovingWorlds training, you’ll get guidance on cross-cultural communication, and in the planning process, you’ll have the chance to prepare for this in partnership with your host.]
How does your Experteering experience differ from your previous international travel?
With short term recreational travel you stay very plugged in with your group of travelers in the area, but with long term service there’s a lot more immersion and interaction with the locals. For example, I’ve gotten to play football with a lot of the local Peruvian boys here. I also found myself being invited by locals to places I’d never had gone to on my own as a tourist. As just one example, I was invited to a festival that was in the middle of the mountains which took four hours in the back of a pickup truck to get to. It was completely amazing.
Also the type of experiences you have while Experteering are different than tourist travel. For instance, I had to find a place to live (an apartment), I also needed to find a regular place to buy food, which ended up being the local market. Those sort of very native experiences make me feel much more connected to local life here. [Editor’s note: In the MovingWorlds planning process, you work with your host directly to arrange all of these details, please many more.]
With long term service travel there is a lot more immersion and interaction with the locals.
What are some things you wished you’d known before you started Experteering?
I wish I’d known how advantageous it would’ve been to speak Spanish. I don’t think I fully understood the language barrier until arriving here. Although I’m putting effort into learning the language by taking Spanish lessons twice a week, it’s still quite difficult.
Even though I did some research before arriving, I wish I’d done more. I was lucky since Cusco is a bit of an international city with a lot of travelers, so adjusting hasn’t been too difficult for me. But If you’re going to go Experteering, read up on the country as much as you can. It’s worth doing. In Peru one of the big issues is “Manchesto” culture (it’s still a very sexist society) coming with an awareness of things like that just helps.
[Editor’s note: This is a common theme we hear in our Experteers – people never like to plan in advance, but afterwards, they typically share they spent more time planning. So be sure to follow our planning process and plan, plan, and plan some more!]
What is the favorite travel memory of Cusco so far?
I think my favorite memory in Cusco has to be traveling to a festival as one of the few “gringos”(foreigners) around. Then afterwards driving down all the way to the edge of the Andes mountains and watching the sunrise over the rain forest. It was amazing and left me in awe!
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of Experteering with MovingWorlds?
The best advice I could give you is… JUST DO IT!
It’s a great thing to do and will make all your friends jealous :)
And make sure to read up on the country as much as you can before the trip. And if you are going to do it, do it with MovingWorlds.
[Editor’s note: Thanks, Andreas – was a pleasure supporting you!