I spent about 3 weeks volunteering at the Lazy Dog in May 2010, helping with a few different projects running at that time: education programme; bird list; first thoughts for designing the community project information for the website. This was near the start of a 3 months sabbatical that I was going to enjoy in Peru.
I was made very welcome by the staff there, and Andrea, who was managing the education programme, got me settled into our shared room and into the ways of the Lazy Dog setup. All hands on deck was the general approach, which was fine with me as I wanted to get as involved as possible in the short time I had. I helped out with the teaching in the community school for the first week or two, which was hard with my very basic Spanish but it helped me gain an important insight into my next phase of work – helping to plan future classes.
With my background of conservation and awareness, having spent some time with the children at the community centre and talking to Andrea and Diana about their own teaching experiences, I did some research into class activities that would be possible in the circumstances they were working in. Keeping the classes simple, realising the level the younger and older children can handle but still gain something from is a tricky balance, but we progressed a few ideas that will feed into the year’s education plan. Seeing the struggle that teachers in the local area with teaching large classes of mixed ages really brought it home as to how important projects like this are.
The school teachers at Rivas seem genuinely pleased and thankful to have continuous support from the Lazy Dog, whether through Diana or ongoing volunteers. Working with their government education system, helping to develop it further through providing that extra support, will help both teachers and children gain from the setup.
I also helped Diana with a birdlist for the Lazy Dog. Unfortunately plans to do the biological surveys didn’t work out but I pulled together lists from various guests and birders who have spent time in the quebradas (valleys), polylepis forests and mountainous areas surrounding the Lazy Dog. The idea was to develop a list that was useful for future guests, but could also be used by locally employed guides that will hopefully be working from a community centre that Diana and Wayne are building on their own land.
As a marine biologist, this was an interesting slant on my everyday job, and made me look around much more closely at the birds enjoying the same area that I’d been admiring the last few weeks, and would be exploring further in the weeks to come. I was lucky enough to have a couple of days in the mountains at the weekends whilst I was at the Lazy Dog – firstly to Laguna Churup and then to Laguna 69. Two absolutely amazing and stunning places to go to, and a great start to acclimatising for the trekking I was to do later.
The Lazy Dog was a great place to acclimatise in its own right and I made use of the (relatively!) good road that snakes along the base of the beautiful mountainous backdrop to take a morning walk / run. The Lazy Dog’s staff is extremely dedicated to their work, which is a reflection on Diana and Wayne’s approach to the tourism side of their project, but also the amount of time and effort they spend developing ideas with the community.
My plan was to get to know a little about the country and people by staying in one place before travelling around. The connections through Diana with finding a Spanish teacher and a place to stay in Huaraz, plus the time I spent at the Lazy Dog definitely gave me a very special insight into how people live and work in the area. It was an honour to have some involvement with the project and I will hold many fond memories of this time for years to come. I look forward to keeping an eye on how the projects progress in the future.