My name is Millie. I am a Trip Leader for Conservation Volunteers International Program (ConservationVIP®) in Machu Picchu – an experience I would not change for anything.
I am a tireless traveler. I am also a historian, and as such I feel great passion for ancient cultures, their customs and traditions, and of course their historical legacy. But what I am most passionate about is learning about cultures through their people.
When I accompany the groups to the destination of Machu Picchu, the richness of this culture, the heritage that we are given the opportunity to appreciate and live, the views that leave us breathless and ecstatic, this whole experience becomes magical for each one of the volunteers. It transcends in each of them individually through their personal experience, through all the sensory experiences they absorb during the days they are there, but above all through the footprint of kindness and passion that fuels their volunteer work. That experience remains in each of them forever. It is very common for volunteers to participate in other ConservationVIP® destinations and even to repeat the same destination multiple times. That is the essence of volunteering, it does not end when we get on the plane home. Rather, it awakens in us a new essence of life; the opportunity to help others feel proud of their community.
For me, each trip back to the communities of Cusco and Machu Picchu is like returning to be with my family and old friends, it is a relationship that has grown over time. Although they always appreciate my return and appreciate my work with them, I am the one who appreciates the opportunity to contribute with my grain of sand to make these communities better. It is already my family; this is what I am deeply grateful to ConservationVIP® giving me the opportunity to develop long term relationships with these communities and special friends.
The community of Machu Picchu recently suffered a natural disaster due to flash floods, causing extensive damage to the town’s infrastructure and houses, leaving them isolated for several days. We kept in constant communication for days with several of the emergency responders, and it touches my heart that even late at night, they reached out if they needed to talk to someone who would listen to them during all the efforts that they themselves were making to recover. It seems incredible to me that they count on ConservationVIP® and that with our perseverance we have earned their trust and respect. Although they knew that we could not go immediately, they do know that we felt their pain, and that we will be there soon as always, working hard and enthusiastically with them to improve their community. But above all they feel that in us they also have a family.
For me, volunteering is a way to sow fruit, through the destinations we visit. And when we do it from the heart when you least expect it, life takes care of rewarding you with wonderful moments such as receiving a gesture of friendship or a word of thanks, but, above all, hearing the magic words of “Welcome back, we were waiting for you“.