Catalyst Adventures: Choi Lai X Picaflor House (Cusco, Peru)

September 19, 2013

Last year I had an amazing holiday when I went on the Salkanthay lodge to lodge trek in Peru. I was mesmerized by the beauty of the majestic mountains of the Andes and the floral and fauna of the rainforest. I was waking up to cool clean crisp and fresh air too!

But it was the smiles of the people, the happiness of the people who clearly have very little in terms of material well being that left a lasting impression on me. I searched online for information on volunteer work in Peru upon my return to Singapore.

And indeed, there were many charitable organizations in Peru. After much homework, I signed up with Globalteer for their project in Oropesa, a small village in the Municipality of Cusco. I chose the project, Picaflor House, as it is an afterschool heaven for the children. The center offers English, Math, Science, Art and Dance classes to the children. And attendance is voluntary.

In August this year I spent three weeks in Picaflor House, assisting in English, Art and Dance classes. Monday is play day and I will find myself spending three hours in the playground with the ever happy, energetic and enthusiastic Andean kids!

I had a very fulfilling three weeks being a part of the good work that the staff of Picaflor House and Globalteer are doing for the children in Oropesa and the nearby villages. The center works with very limited resources but to me, it is very successful as the kids love to come to the center. And the kids are always so eager and so happy to learn.

Recently Picaflor House and volunteers from Durham University of the UK built new cooking stoves for the families of the children. The new stoves are designed with a chimney to channel the toxic fumes from the burning wood away from the living space.


Globalteer is a registered charity in the UK that serves to help those in need and the organisation works to promote sustainable development for the benefit of the public, with the view to alleviate poverty and to improve living conditions in socially disadvantaged communities.

The Picaflor House Community Project established by Globalteer in November 2010, is located in the village of Oropesa. The village is a 45-minute bus ride away from the center of Cusco, Peru. It aims to support the children and families of Oropesa and the surrounding villages. The project works closely with the local school in Oropesa to provide the most required services to the children attending the after school project.

Many of the children who attend Picaflor House come from the poorer families in the villages we support. They may be orphans living with extended family or neighbours. This means that their home lives are not always stable. Some come from large families, where both parents have to work to make ends meet and so do not have much time to devote to their children. There is often no one home to supervise the children after they finish school. Some of the children come from single parent households. Some live away from their immediate families in order to be closer to the local school.

Through necessity, most children in Peru are expected to assume family responsibilities early in their lives. They may have to work in the fields or in the family business, and they are expected to contribute to the daily running of the household.

For example, one 11-year-old boy couldn’t come to Picaflor because he has to do the laundry, by hand, for a family of nine. Children are also expected to look after their younger siblings when their parents are busy, and it is not unusual to see a 7 year old caring for a 3 year old.

Picaflor House provides the children in Oropesa with the opportunity to simply be children.

Choi Lai is a TCRP 2012 + 2013 Catalyst who has ventured through the ruins of Angkor Wat and through the dusty roads of Manila with The Chain Reaction Project.