Abigail Baer – Volunteering in Peru



Name: Abigail Baer


Type of Project:


  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.


During my STEP project, I traveled to Peru for six weeks during the months of June and July of 2015. During my star I volunteered in both childcare and special needs with other volunteers from around the world.


  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.


While completing my STEP project, I was able to learn more about myself while learning about country I was fairly uneducated about. I have traveled abroad before, but nothing has or probably will ever compare to my six week journey. Six weeks might seem like a long time to be volunteering, but my trip brought so much more and every day brought something new and different. I not only volunteered in two different cities, but I spent time in the Amazon in between and spent weekends traveling depending on where I was staying at the time. I practically circled around the country in 6 weeks, being able to see the vast differences Peru had to offer both culturally and geographically.

Constantly being on the move time seemed to fly by, but I always made a point to take time to journal and reflect on my experiences, struggles, highs, and lows. I was expecting major differences in Peru than places I have been before, but I frequently found myself in almost disbelief. I learned how to adjust to difference and more open minded, embracing change as a daily routine. Looking back at my trip, there were so may key events that helped me grow and in my opinion become a better versoin of myself.



  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.


From traveling to a foreign country for the first time on my own , living with complete strangers, and facing a language barrier, my project gave me numerous opportunities to transform. During my first three weeks of my trip I was volunteering in the capital, Lima. I had originally signed up for childcare, but was asked if I was comfortable switching to special needs because they were running low on volunteers. Without hesitation I agreed to switching because I was just happy to help where help was needed the most. I have had experience working with peers and actually volunteering in special needs before, but nothing in the slightest compare to my experience in Lima.

I was placed at an orphanage with children for special needs right outside of the city. Most of the children were either abandoned or given up because their parents did not have the means to take care of them due to their disability. I would estimate there were about 50 – 80 kids there , and only a handful of them could even communicate verbally. Working with the kids was challenging not only because of the language barrier, but also because of confidentially reasons they were or allowed to tell us what the child was suffering from. I could go on and on about my three weeks here, but I will jump to why it was such a special experience for me looking back on it.


This is where I learned to not only jump, but leap out of my comfort zone. The first few days I felt unbearably uncomfortable. I didn’t know any of the kids or the volunteers I was working with yet, I could barely communicate with the nurses who were the ones telling me what to do, and I was not used to being around people who had special needs at that severity. It was not until close to the beginning of the third week when I started to get the hang of things. I knew the majority of the kids names, what they did and didn’t like, and just how to be myself and give them as much love as possible even though there were boundaries between us. I never knew how much satisfaction I could get from someone simply smiling when I walked into the room because I was a familiar face. I realized that love and compassion can be understood even without words, and pushed myself everyday to give as much as possible to those kids.








  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?  Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

I knew I would be stepping out of my comfort zone when planning my STEP experience, but had no idea the lasting impact it would leave. My favorite quote hanging in my room reads, “Great things never came from comfort zones”, which probably has to do something with my six weeks in Peru. Reaching outside of comfort zones is difficult for almost every body, but I know it is something needed to be done to reach success. I now push myself more, having more confidence and better self-esteem. We all have moments of feeling uncomfortable, but in my opinion the most successful people are the ones that can push themselves to hide that feeling even if it is there. Comfort zones are inevitable, but I am more likely to leave the more easily. This helps me currently to be a more active student in and out