The day before my flight to South America, I found an old notebook where I’d created a bucket list. I opened it and read: ‘One day I would like to live in South America.’ I can’t remember writing it, but it made me smile, because there I was, beside my already-packed backpack and my boarding pass to Peru.
The step from dreaming to doing is what I call commitment. So often we hear people say: ‘I would love to travel more…,’ ‘what if I could just quit my job and go?’ ‘one day I would like to…’ We speak these possibilities even as we come up with reasons why we shouldn’t or can’t do them.
Let’s go back in time, to when I took the leap from dreaming to doing. My best friend and I were walking and I told her my dream of going to Peru to work for a nonprofit. After saying it out loud, I realized I couldn’t stop thinking about it. At home again, I immediately researched organisations and found HOOP. What had been a ‘What if I…?’ started to become reality.
We can never live our dreams unless we commit to them. I know from experience it is easier to say than do. I could think of a hundred reasons not to go to Peru: I’d have to resign from my full-time job, give up a work visa where I lived, and leave friends, family and, scariest of all, my boyfriend of 3 years. I overcame these mental obstacles through love and support from my nearest friends, and from knowing I was being true to myself and committing to my dreams.
Little did I know Peru would capture my heart. Living in Peru can be far from comfortable, and the country struggles with fragmented political power and corruption that hinders improving public services. Though it is very different from home, I miss it. My time in Peru, and with HOOP, exceeded my expectations beyonds limits and below are all the reasons why:
I miss daydreaming in the shower with shampoo in my hair after a dusty run when there’s suddenly a water cut, and I have to figure out how to rinse myself off. I miss the struggle of getting ready in front of the mirror for a night out with my friends and the power is out. I even miss waking up with my heart pounding at 4am during my first earthquake.
But, most of all, I miss the rewarding feeling of working with HOOP. My position as a program assistant was the dream job. It was exactly where I wanted to be.
As program assistant, I helped coordinate and develop HOOP’s programs in Education, Health and Social Work. The position was challenging and exciting from the start. During my second week, our director asked me to create a PowerPoint about HOOP for an external partner – in Spanish, a language I was far from confident in. I dove into the task immediately!
HOOP is a fantastic organization, letting ‘HOOPsters’ (staff, interns and volunteers) grow by giving them full autonomy to perform assigned tasks, as well as by encouraging the development of personal ideas and initiatives.
For example, I had the chance to implement my own idea: the workout class fit mamas. I wanted to do it to improve the mums’ physical health and boost their self-esteem, all while blasting our favorite Latin hits.
Furthermore, I was assigned to lead the children’s carpentry class. At HOOP’s carpentry class, students learn not only how to build benches and repair the school’s furniture, but also that carpentry can be a skill for girls and women. By encouraging girls to participate in the program, HOOP challenges gender stereotypes. The program also strengthens family relationships as children create a stronger bond with their parents, and impress their fathers when showing their new abilities in manual work. The class gives real, practical, skills that are useful in their personal and professional lives.
Apart from HOOP’s incredible impact on the community’s social development, there is also a strong environmental awareness. Volunteering on the weekends to pick up trash and build a waste container in the blazing sun might sound far from the dream weekend. However, I would not have wanted to be anywhere else than right there, covered in dust and dirt, knowing the enormous difference we are making for the wellbeing of the community.
Peru gave me fulfillment. I put my passion into work with HOOP, ran those dusty roads, improved my Spanish with my Peruvian friends, danced Bachata and, of course, went on thrilling weekend adventures with my friends, hiking volcanoes and exploring waterfalls in the desert.
My aspiration is to leave you inspired. To inspire you to be brave, overcome your mental obstacles and commit to your dreams. I am so grateful I took the leap from dreaming to doing, as working with HOOP was the best thing I have ever done. Give your time and commitment, and I promise you will receive the invaluable love and gratitude from every heart in the community.
Written by Felicia Noreskär, Program assistant