December 5th – International Volunteer Day

December 5th, 2012 by Tatiana

December, 5th is International Volunteer Day, the purpose of which is to thank and recognise all the volunteers for their commitment, dedication and contribution to society, as well as to inform people about the impact of volunteering. Having been a volunteer with children myself, I encourage everyone and everybody to give a helping hand to those who are in need. You may not change their lives but it will be of huge importance to them and you will also feel like a better person.

I celebrate today by sharing with you my volunteering experience and by deciding that next year I will do my best to visit my sisters and brothers again, as now I am part of their big family.

In the nearest future I will have a special place on the web dedicated to my volunteering project, but for now I will share with you only a small part of my time in Peru. I spent most of the time in the girls’ orphanage called Elim with girls aged 8-17. They absolutely loved seeing different modelling photos of me and I decided to make them feel like models, too. “Miss Elim 2011″ – the contest I organised, where girls demonstrated the outfits that they chose at the local market. Every other day I went to Molino market (Cusco doesn’t have a shopping center yet although there are plans) with a couple of girls, they all chose who they wanted to go with. Following basic rules of fashion, each of them was allowed to choose 4 things: jeans or skirt, top or t-shirt, shoes and an accessory. Girls were not allowed to tell each other what they chose and I kept all the outfits hidden until the big day. They kept asking for my fashion advice and some of them, as real girls, either couldn’t find anything they liked or they liked everything. Here are some of the outfits we got them. Now, looking at them, I see that my favourite colours blue, purple and pink prevail, oops ))


Together we chose the music for the fashion show – “Only girl” by Rihanna and “I wanna go” by Britney Spears. For two weeks, every day, after school and homework was done, we were rehearsing the catwalk, practising the steps and the movements, making sure that they were doing everything synchronically, with a smile, and maintained constant eye contact with a public. These were the main criteria, as well as choice of outfit, to be the winner of the contest. Some girls took it very seriously (I love that competitive Latin nature) which was very good to see, they were even practicing without me, imagining they were real models.

The day of the contest was my last day at the orphanage. S came from England to see it, too, and he also brought my cuddly toys. I had a collection of soft teddy bears that I decided to give to the girls as prizes for their participation in the contest.

Although the video is not the best quality, I hope you will enjoy watching it.

The winner had  special prizes – an mp3 player, a crown and a sash “Miss Elim 2011” .Two ladies, Remigia and Delfina, who live and look after them, got little gifts and flowers from the girls. The judges were male volunteers who were there at the time, and Jeremy, the director of the orphanage, who they lovingly call “Hermano Jeremy”.

Little Gladis - the winner!

After the fashion show, like real models, girls had a photo session, we had a cake with hot chocolate and they danced. They know so many dances, it's incredible, and they always come up with more. There is a tradition to perform a "baile de despedida", " a goodbye dance", for volunteers who are leaving. They danced for me and said some beautiful words, it was a very touching evening all round.

I knew I would be back to Cusco and I was, in April 2012. At home I printed all the photos we had from “Miss Elim 2011” and to remember the event I also brought a scrapbook that we eventually completed together with the girls. Each girl had a page dedicated to her, with questions they had to answer about thesmselves. They then wrote some nice things about each other on the other side of the page. I also brought some books with activities for them, one of which was designing t-shirts on paper. It was lovely seeing them again and girls were happy to see me too, they even screamed for joy.

They asked me with a lot of hope if we were going to have “Miss Elim 2012”. Even before coming to them again I knew it was going to happen, that’s why I already had bought some presents in London. This time for our experienced models the contest was a lot harder. It had the following categories:

Miss Elim

As I did not buy clothes for the girls on my second visit, they had to choose their outfits themselves. The winner in this category was the best at modelling the clothes of her choice, was confident in catwalking, smiled and looked at the audience.

Miss Peru

To make the fashion show more exciting, we decided that they would model Peruvian national costumes. The winner was also judged by her ability to model, smile, maintain eye contact, as well as by the presentation of their costume. It was a very hard choice to define the winner, because when looking at Peruvian girls modelling their national costumes, you just become fascinated with the amazing colours and culture.

Miss London

In this category girls had to show how good they were at English. I found short English poems that we translated into Spanish, so they would understand them. The girl who was most confident in both languages, did not make mistakes and looked at the judges was awarded “Miss London”.

Little Kitten
Little kitten rolling around,
Chasing a piece of string,
Fluid in its beauty,
Amazed at everything.

(taken from

Miss Photo

Finally, one of the most exciting categories of the contest – Miss Photo. Every girl had her own model portfolio, which we also put in the scrapbook. The girl with the most interesting photos, poses and outfits, and the most interesting portfolio design was the winner. They were preparing for several weeks. We went for a walk into Cusco town center to find different posing places, they kept competing over who had more replica designer handbags photos and whose poses were more original. We had A LOT of fun! I then printed them with a small polaroid I had brought from home. It is a great camera - it instantly prints little photos which can be used as stickers.

Lucero - the winner in Miss Photo category

We had 4 winners this time! After the contest we went to a local chicken place, it is like fish & chips, but with chicken. Good idea, isn’t it? It was very nice to see them smiling and doing silly things because they were happy. I , myself, was happy that I gave them opportunities for creativity, that I did something that other volunteers hadn’t done with them, that I let them feel confident and feminine. After I had left, they were performing the fashion show for some other people in Cusco, I was told.

Just some more photos out of hundreds that I have ))

If you want to see them bigger, please click here

This is taken from the site I have created for raising money for my volunteering project:

"Two things about these children struck me in particular. First, is how grateful they are. They appreciate everything given to them and they treasure it all, they are very polite, they want affection and when they hug you so close and tight, you do feel like you are special to them. A bit of a difference from some of the children I witness nowadays... Second, is how they all help each other. Their age varies from 5 to 16 and they are one big family. They wash their replica designer handbags, they help the lady who looks after them with washing the dishes and cooking, and they help each other with homework and generally support each other. "

If you are interested to read more you can go to my fundraising page

The actual site of the orphanage to find more info about them is

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