Andre Silva is a university student from Sao Paulo, Brazil, with a passion for international affairs, sports and volunteer service. He is currently pursuing a bachelors degree in international relations at the Faculdades Integradas Rio Branco, and recently returned from four weeks of service in the “assisting at a sports center” Volunteer Abroad in Cusco, Peru. In Cusco he trained disadvantaged youth in judo and soccer. Andre is a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu; he also made it to semi-professional soccer with a team in his native Brazil. He had a lot to offer in Cusco. “After a month volunteering at the sports center the children had improved so much”, says Andre. Andre was not new to volunteering. Among other activities, he has collaborated with the Diabetes Association in hometown. Here is his interview.
What motivated you to seek a volunteer opportunity in Cusco?
I have had the opportunity to travel quite a bit and I love it. I spent one year studying in South Africa as an exchange student. I was looking for another opportunity to travel but I did not want to be a tourist. I wanted to be of service and interact with the locals. So I found UBELONG and decided to go to Peru. Spanish is an easy language for me and I knew I would be able to communicate with the people. Peru is a country that is not in the media that much and I wanted to get to know it by doing one of the things I like the most, sports. It was like a big adventure for me.
What are the three most important characteristics of a successful volunteer in Cusco?
First, you need to have respect for the local culture. You need to respect people as they are. I stayed in a multicultural volunteer house and I saw that some foreigners did not accept the cultural differences; that attitude does not help anyone.
Second, you have to be patient. It took me a while to find my own place at the sports center where I was volunteering. During my four weeks there I changed focus also: first I started with judo, and then I decided that soccer would be most useful.
Finally, you need to give more than you receive. You need to be ready to help and not expect anything in return. Observing how the children improved their soccer skills was a great feeling but I just wanted to help.
What did you learn about yourself in Cusco?
I learned that I could do much more than I thought I could do. I did not know I could help that much in such a short period of time with the kids. I hope I can do more in the future.