Viv Walsh at the world-famous Machu Picchu Inca ruins in Peru.
Viv Walsh at the world-famous Machu Picchu Inca ruins in Peru.

Lismore lecturer helps out in Peru

A LISMORE woman recently swapped her university lecturer's job for a three-month volunteering stint in a remote corner of the globe.

Viv Walsh has just returned from a small village in Peru where she helped rebuild a flood-stricken community.

Ms Walsh worked with the volunteer group, Peru's Challenge (PC), and already has itchy feet to volunteer again.

“The PC group basically go into a community and help to alleviate the hardship with rebuilding and support work,” the 41-year-old said.

“The little community I was working in, Pumamarca, had some flood and mudslide damage, but I did travel through some of the communities that are still under water five months after the floods.

“People were living in freezing conditions in tent communities and the small communities are extremely impoverished.”

Pumamarca, where Ms Walsh was volunteering, is off the well-trodden tourist trail in Peru that leads travellers to the historical landmarks of Machu Picchu and other Inca sites, so does not reap in the tourism dollars that come into the country.

Ms Walsh, a lecturer in the academic skills development unit at Southern Cross University, decided to go back to Peru after initially volunteering in the South American country during a year-long backpacking trip around the world last year.

She spent her time teaching, gardening and building houses that were damaged when devastating flooding ripped through southern Peru in January, killing about 20 people.

More than 1500 foreign travellers had to be evacuated from the country, including about a hundred Australians.

The work of cleaning up after the flooding was long and demanding, but the gratitude from the locals made it all worthwhile for Ms Walsh.

“It was very hard work,” Ms Walsh said.

“We would spend half the day in school and the afternoon out doing a house visit, or working with a craft group, or doing Spanish lessons.

“The people are amazing. They are the most appreciative, warm and welcoming people.

“They would give you the shirt off their back if you asked for it and they were smiles and hugs all the time.

“Since I was 15 I have wanted to do work with people who are less fortunate than myself.”

For now, the SCU lecturer is back in Australia, where she concedes she needs to earn a living. But she is looking forward to lending a helping hand again in Peru very soon.

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