A FORMER county teacher has taken his skills abroad to help improve the lives of others in Peru.
Andrew Bruton first visited Peru in 2001 as a volunteer himself where he met his wife Tatiana. The couple settled in Herefordshire before returning back to Peru in 2009 with daughter Maya.
There, they set up a sustainable, organic farm close to the world-renowned Machu Picchu ruins – aiming to produce quality coffee and chocolate instead of the widespread coca leaf used as the raw ingredient for cocaine.
But Andrew's role as information manager for Projects Abroad is giving him a fresh opportunity to help his new neighbours.
"I work with volunteers, taking photos and recording videos for our international offices to edit and use in promoting our volunteer work,” said Andrew.
“The sacred valley is stunning, it was the Inca's breadbasket, providing them with a huge range of crops."
Projects Abroad runs a number of projects in the valley for volunteers including teaching, care projects, work with rising football stars and medical programmes.
For Andrew, his role is an invaluable opportunity to make a change in a place where resources aren’t as widely available as here in the UK.
One of the largest projects is an archaeology project based in Huyro, three hours from Urubamba.
"The project combine work excavating and discovering new ruins and trails – with the support and permission of the ministry of culture – and volunteers have discovered artefacts, ruins, new trails etc.
"They work with local archaeologists who catalogue their findings. The idea is that we may be able to fully discover and clear a new trail that leads towards Machu Picchu, part of an ancient network of trails that have been lost to the lush vegetation over hundreds of years.
Volunteers also do community work at a local library and also do work supporting the local nursery schools.
The second major project is a teacher training programme which uses the Peruvian summer holidays – January to February – to bring local English teachers together to help them with their delivery of the language.
"Every teacher is tested at the start of the course to determine their proficiency – there are poor levels of competence among staff – and they are then grouped to deliver appropriate help.
"Some are given intensive English language training to bring their level up and others are given techniques to improve the delivery of their lessons.
"Peru has a lot of great potential but schools still follow the model of dictation with teachers at the front reading from a book and students copying. Lessons can be dull and poorly structured in schools so Projects Abroad is bringing new ideas and tactics to make English something that stands out and gets through to students.
"Literally thousands of students will benefit from their teacher's participation... We have 16 volunteers this season who will be collaborating to deliver our course to the teachers. The course has been recognised and supported by the Education Ministry and certificates awarded bear their seal which makes them of high value for career-minded professionals. There is a huge uptake on this course and I have been particularly impressed at how it has been put together."
Andrew believes his work as a languages teacher at Wigmore High School and the Minster College in Leominster means he relates to the programme and its importance.
“I think these projects are important because Peru is a truly inspiring place, the people here are bursting with desire to develop their skills and do better but sometimes the resources available aren't in place. With a little direction and the help of people from overseas giving their time to Projects Abroad I think local changes can be made which could spark a regional and national change if they start to get some exposure.
“The team here are incredibly motivated and I feel really privileged to be a part of their world. I'm really enjoying the opportunity to see life from the other side of volunteering after so many years doing other things.”
For more information on Projects Abroad visit projects-abroad.co.uk