Make a monthly donation on JustGiving for Laff. Please Donate

I have been working for LAFF for a month now and I have already had the opportunity to get involved in many of its numerous projects and activities! I am going to work for LAFF as Programme Coordinator for 4 months as part of my gap year between my bachelor and my master’s studies. I applied, got accepted and left from Italy to Peru all within two weeks: I literally threw myself into this new experience, knowing very little of what I was to face. LAFF dedicates all its resources to help the children of areas near Cusco, and the help we provide can be delivered in different ways. One of these ways, in the case of the young girls that LAFF supports, is to teach them about their bodies and, in the last project’s case, providing them with menstrual cups. Under a male point of view, I knew little if anything about them, but I soon understood their importance and functioning. I now deem myself a specialist on the subject!

Getting my first kiss from an alpaca, January 2019

My first impressions living in Cusco and working for LAFF

You don’t need much time to fall in love with Cusco and Peruvian people. I took the first days in the city to explore the centre and get myself used to the altitude, which is not the most breath-taking things of this place. After 3 or 4 hours walking around the historical centre, I already craved to see every place in and around Cusco, trying all the foods and beverages in the Central Market of San Pedro or that the women, dressed up in the typical Peruvian clothes and wearing the typical trensa, sell on the street.

The third day after my arrival in Cusco, I finally went to the office to get introduced to my new job as Programme Coordinator for LAFF. What I understood right away was that all the days were going to be different from each other, which is something I am really valuing and enjoying. Indeed, we never spend the whole week in an office! The time varies between visiting partners, carrying out workshops, or doing market research. A very interesting market research was indeed the first task that was assigned to me.

Learning about Menstrual Cups

Currently, I am the only male at the office, but this did not represent a reason for not being in charge of conducting a research on menstrual cups! This topic remains a taboo among the girls we try to help as well as those that live in more reclined environments, and it is not something I had the chance to discuss before arriving here. It has been quite funny that me, the only boy at the office, had to explain all the girls all the detail between the different menstrual tools! The faces of the girls at the office where priceless when I tried to explain them that the Duet, a contraceptive diaphragm, could be used as a menstrual cup too. As a matter of fact, every time I describe what I am researching about, everyone reacts amazed and extremely amused, being them my colleagues at the office, my family here and at home, or my friends.

“I did not imagine how big of change a little silicon cup can make for millions of girls.”

Nevertheless, my research is part of one of LAFF’s new projects, which aims at discovering if the girls of two of our partner organisations, Sacred Valley Project and Casa Mantay, will like and adapt to using the menstrual cup. If our project turns out to be successful, it can have numerous advantages to the girls and to the environment, and could be hopefully scaled up. Indeed, the potential benefits are various, such cost reduction (as the cups can be used up to 10 years!), major sustainability, lower environmental impact, and more hygiene. Furthermore, it can lead to important psychological and social outcomes, as talking about the menstrual cup and using it can help the girls break taboos around menstruation and their bodies. Finally, a research on this subject is a novelty in the rural Andean region; therefore, it helps raise awareness about the girls’ conditions and has the potential become an example for other organisations to carry similar programmes.

Teaching a workshop on sexual education in Azul Wasi, February 2019

From a male perspective, there are many issues that are often neglected. Until less than a month ago, I did not imagine how big of change a little silicon cup can make for millions of girls, and I ignored how many problems the lack of these can entail. Working for LAFF, in an office and environment female-dominated, has already taught me many things and helped me broaden my perspective on many issues. I hope that the acquired knowledge can allow me to help many more girls, by continuing the research on the menstrual cups and finding other ways that can affect their lives.

If you also want to learn many new things about international development that would not even cross your mind right now, and you are thinking about applying volunteering aborad, visit our website or alternatively get in touch with us ([email protected]) to see how your skills could benefit us!

Riccardo Pani