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Hi all, I’m Marcela and I was LAFF’s Programme Manager in Cusco for 2 year (2018-2020). As I’m about to leave LAFF and lovely Cusco, I wanted to share with you some of the greatest lessons I’ve learnt during these past years! 

1. The Magic of Cusco and its People

Mother of Pitukiska. Taken by: Jerónimo Galleguillos

There is no way around it: Cusco is magical. You can come here for a visit, for a 3-month volunteer stay, or make a life here, and you will feel the same. There is a reason why this used to be the Inca Empire’s Capital city, or as they used to call it “the center of the world”. 

I will give you a small anecdote to help give you an idea of what I mean:

Mid 2019, there was a day I went to the city center to have a coffee with a friend. We were going back home, it was late afternoon, and in both main plazas of the city, there were two large groups of dancers rehearsing for what I imagined was one of Cusco’s main festivals – the Inti Raimi “festival of the sun” or possibly Corpus Christi. The group on San Francisco Plaza was dancing and singing whilst wearing amazing dresses: black skirts with matching hats and shoes for the women, and long black pants, vests and hats for the men. Both men and women wore boots with jingle bells on them, so every time they made a step, the whole plaza echoed the sound of their bells. The sound of their steps and their singing during that twilight hour could only be described with one word: Magical. 

xx

2. The power of working at the local level for sustainable, positive impact 

It has been an honor to work in Cusco with LAFF. I’ve had a feeling of being right where I needed to be. I share the same values behind LAFF’s work: to work towards building better life opportunities for children and young people that come from difficult backgrounds, whilst working towards sustainable development by providing capacity building projects (organizational capacity building and financial sustainability) to our local partners. Working for and with local communities, partners and populations is the way to go when thinking of scaling long-lasting positive social impact.

3. Volunteering matters. Volunteering works. 

LAFF team 2019 – Walking the Inca Trail for Mosqoy’s Cholotada. Photo taken by Jerónimo Galleguillos

Thinking of volunteering? Not sure yet? Do it. Just go and do it. To be a volunteer means to give your skills and time in exchange for helping others and yourself. The best decision I ever made was when I was 19 years old and began volunteering for a local NGO in my city. 10 years later, I will not miss a chance to volunteer my time or my skills for a cause and an organisation I believe in. There are hundreds of organisations that understand what true volunteering is. They all need you. I’ll give you a few examples: LAFF (YES! WE WANT YOU!), Mosqoy, Sacred Valley Project, Casa Mantay,  Amantaní, Qosqo Maki. 

4. Mountains can heal you. 

Hiking the Salkantay Trek in 2018. Photo taken by Jerónimo Galleguillos

The power of the Andes Mountains are no joke. I had the privilege to walk through them on many occasions. Every single time I did I felt as if I came back to my regular life as a better person, or at least a bit more levelled. 

John Muir says it best. “I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”

5. Home is made of the people, the places and the work that has touched you

Saying Goodbye at Casa Mantay, January 2020. Photo taken by Sergio of Casa Mantay. 

This one needs no explanation. Thank you everyone who has touched my life and transformed it over these wonderful 2 years, and myself, in the process. Thank you Steph, Ashli, Mel. Thank you Marina, Curro. Thank you Sarah Oakes, Sarah Warry, Chiara, Dawid. Thank you Chris Harris, Raph, Emily H., Rose, Miles, Rocío, Daniel, Laura, Emily B., Marina, Francesa, Danielle, Elena, Riccardo, Roberto, Annie, Silvia, Agathe, Meichen, Thomas, Chris Hudson, Frankie, Carla, Sim, Rachel, Shannon, Cusi, Sonya, Elena, Noemi, Alcides, Carmen, Lorena, Gabby, Alex, Carmencita, everyone at the Red Semilla Network, and everyone else at our partner organisations. Thank you Jero and thank you Lana. 

Ps. Good news! I’ll be sticking with LAFF – now as part of the Board of Trustees, which is an immense honour. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to keep working with LAFF. My promise for here on out is to keep working and giving all I can towards imagining a Latin America, and a world, that is more equal, more just, more full of opportunities for all. 

THANKS TEAM!