Raise a Traveler, Change the World: Ava Liu in Peru

One of the goals of GlobetrottingMama.com is to help families see the world. It is our belief that while all of our  kids will benefit from their exposure to the world, the world  can also benefit from exposure to all of our kids. This series offers a glimpse into the future waiting for those families who choose to embrace that philosophy.

Recently I spoke with three Canadians who with the help of Cuso International and Global Affairs Canada are working to make the world a smaller place. All three were participants in the International Youth Internship Program –  a two-year initiative that concludes March 31 and connected 35 young professionals with non-governmental partners in Guyana, Laos, Peru, Cameroon and Nicaragua.

To get a sense of the impact the organization is having on the world you only need to listen to what a few of the participants have to say.

Ava Liu is a 22 year old Political Science graduate of McGill University and travel has been a part of her International Development career plans for some time now. Her most recent stay: Six months  immersed in the Andes mountains with Centro Bartolomé de las Casas . We spoke to her while she was in Peru to find out what drove her decision to work here and where her travel plans will take her next.

Q: What drove you to do this?

I have always had an interest in international internships. I wanted to build more experience in my field of work and to increase my Latin American Experience.

Q: What were those first days like? 

I was in Lima at first because we do training there. Then I came to Cusco which is nothing like Lima and really exposes how diverse Peru is as a country. It was really eye-opening. It was an entirely different world and I was really impressed by how old and beautiful the city was and that really helped lessen the impact of living and working in Cusco

Ava Liu Cuso

Ava Liu, 22, helps out on a tour in Peru. Her placement was part of a Cuso International program.

Q: How did coming to Peru change you?

I had to do things I haven’t had to do before – look for an apartment in a new country, starting a new workplace entirely in Spanish so those things were a bit of a culture shock. But Cuso International does a really good job of setting you up and meeting you. They give you a phone as soon as you get off the plane. They pick you up at the airport in Lima. We had a session first where we met all of the volunteers in the country and then they introduce you to the people who you’re working with. It’s very supportive.

Q: Tell me about your current placement. What exactly are you doing there?

We’re in the Andes mountains. The point of the NGO is to help with Andean rights. They have a series of projects around fair trade and I work on a project focused on sustainable tourism. I support the day to day operations and I work for a sustainable tourism company.


Q: Do you feel like you’ve made a difference?

I feel like I help the agency a lot especially in enhancing its capacity in outreach marketing communications. I’m the only English speaker at the agency. So I love assisting in that area. I help with tours. I help with people who are in meetings. I help with some of the clients and translations. And that’s all been pretty essential to the NGO.

Q: It sounds like you’ve become integral to their newest initiatives. What happens for them when you move on?

We’re trying to find someone else now to help fill the gap. We are a little worried we are not going to have any native English speakers for awhile. That’s a concern because of the social media and the other things that we do in English since I’ve been here. There are never enough people.

Q: What traits do you think are important for participants considering an international internship?

It’s really important to be open-minded and flexible. It’s not going to go the way you think its going to go all of the time. You have to be ready to adapt. It helps to speak the language of wherever you’re going.

Q: Any advice for people also looking to bolster their International Development career?

Work in the country that you would like to step into because you can have a much more authentic and long-term relationship with the country. I think its also more sustainable because you’re not flying around and wasting all of these resources on what you’re doing. You’re staying long enough to understand a place. And a lot of people I know who do this are thinking a lot about sustainability and those kinds of issues.

Q: Is it hard to move on? What’s next for you?

I feel ready to go. It’s been half a year. I feel like I’ve learned a lot here. I’m also not leaving Peru yet which is why it’s not that hard. I’m going to the Amazon now. I’m going to do some volunteering with a family who runs an orphanage to help them do some communications work and assist them in getting more funding.

Cuso International

This post was subsidized in part by Cuso International. For more than 55 years, Cuso International has sent young Canadians to volunteer with partners around the world. Although Cuso International volunteers are now of a more diverse age range, youth volunteering remains an important principle for the organization – giving youth the opportunity to apply their education and skills in a real-world context and learn from colleagues in other countries.

While the International Youth Internship Program concludes March 31, Cuso International continues to place volunteers around the world.

For more information on volunteering click here.

For more information on the International Youth Internship Program, sponsored by Global Affairs Canada click here.