Meet Jade and Adam Burns–a married couple from Brisbane, Australia. They are currently volunteering in Cusco, Peru, teaching English at a night school for adults.
1. What inspired you to volunteer abroad as a couple?
Back home, we both work in fields where we value giving back as much as possible. So, when we began planning our travels, we didn’t even think twice about a volunteer experience. Volunteering in Peru also has the added layer of experiencing a new culture, which made it even more appealing to us.
2. Is this your first experience traveling/volunteering together?
It’s not our first experience traveling together but it is our first experience volunteering together. And that’s been pretty cool for us because we haven’t had the opportunity to work together before. Getting to share in the work together is an awesome experience and we get to learn and grow with one another.
3. Why this specific country and program?
South America really appealed to us; its culture, history and scenery intrigued us. Peru especially was attractive with all the possible adventures on offer.
We volunteered in the education program because we both have experience and skill-sets that we wanted to offer to the local projects. While we’ve both worked in similar fields, neither of us has teaching experience, so we looked forward to the challenge.
4. What challenges did you face as a couple that you wouldn’t imagine facing as a single?
Something that is different for us as a couple rather than being a single is in planning our classes together. As a couple, we do need to make sure we’re both on the same page and balance our roles in the classroom. Sometimes we have very different ideas about what we could be doing or about how we could approach a topic. But since we are in a couple, we get to face those challenges together. More so than a challenge, we have each other there to support and encourage one another.
5. How has this joint experience impacted your relationship?
One big impact has been getting to work with one another. We get to see each other succeed, use our talents and strengths and work together as a team. So often back home, we would go off to our separate jobs or projects; but here we get to share so much more of our life and work together.
6. Were you able to work together during your volunteer project or were you separated?
We work together at a night school teaching English to adults. What is cool about working together is that we can each relate differently to our students. In this way we are able to more fully attend to our students’ learning needs.
7. What were your specific roles for each project?
We are the teachers for the intermediate class, which sees us teaching completely in English without translating into Spanish. We share the teaching role, taking turns to present the content we plan, while also being able to split up and give more one-to-one attention to the students.
8. Do you feel like you’re making a direct impact on the local community?
It’s hard to measure the impact you’re having while you’re still in it, but we do plan our classes to have as much practical value to the students as possible. Since most of our students are attending the English class to improve their chances for employment, we try to design our classes to be as helpful to their needs as possible. In this way we hope to make an impact in our students lives and in the broader community.
9. Have you ever volunteered before (either abroad or back home)?
We both have had different experiences volunteering, both abroad and in Australia. We’ve been separately involved in programs focused on education, community development, social justice, children and family support. For us, volunteering is an opportunity to give back to the local community and to those in need. These experiences have contributed to who we are as individuals and as a couple.
10. Have you learned anything new/interesting about each other during your project?
We knew of the gifts and skill-sets that each other has but teaching in our project gives us an opportunity to actually see each other in action. This has helped us grow in our admiration of one another. This practical experience has also helped us learn new ways to work together as a team.
11. Do you have any advice for couples looking to volunteer abroad together?
Do it! It’s an experience that can’t be replicated by doing anything else. You might be able to prepare for the project but there’s no way of knowing how it will impact you as a couple. Working together on a project has benefited our relationship invaluably and has helped us imagine the lifestyle we want to have after this project is finished.
12. Did you stay with a host family? If so, what was your experience?
We stay in a guest house with many other volunteers. Our host, Yuri, is more than accommodating and has become a good friend. He’s also a chef, so we always eat well! We enjoy the small community of volunteers we share this house with and have made many new friends with people from all around the world. We’re also fortunate that our home is so close to Maximo Nivel’s office, to where our project is located and to many cool historical sites.
13. Did you have time to travel/go sightseeing during your volunteer abroad experience?
Some of the friends we’ve made here have shown us some of the local sites and treks nearby. We plan to visit Rainbow Mountain and the Salkantay trek before we leave. We also were fortunate to walk the Inka Trail and visit Machu Picchu before we commenced our volunteer abroad experience, which gave us an experience of the culture and history before we began our project.
14. Anything shocking/surprising about this country?
There are so many little quirks about Peru that we’re still getting used to! Crossing the road is always a mission, there always seems to be fireworks or car alarms going off, and the biggest challenge is not adopting any of the stray dogs! But we do love living here in Cusco. The people are friendly, the town is scenic and there are so many opportunities to adventure together!
If you would like to learn more about their travels, check out their Facebook page (We Venture) or follow us on Instagram (@we_venture_blog). Feel free to reach out to them if you have any questions about traveling and volunteering as a couple.