27 Apr Liam shares his experience volunteering as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at EQWIP HUBs Peru

Liam is currently volunteering as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer operating out of the EQWIP HUBs Peru, country office in Lima with other members of the project. It’s a typical office, with desks and conference rooms located inside the building of one of EQWIP HUBs’ local partner organizations. Once a week Liam travels to the EQWIP HUBs in northern Lima, and every 3 months he travels to the EQWIP HUBs in Chiclayo to check-in on their progress.

We caught up with Liam to ask him what it’s like to live and volunteer as a Monitoring and Evaluation officer in EQWIP HUBs Lima, Peru.

My lifestyle is quite normal. Lima is a big city which is something I have never experienced before but I have adapted very well.  I love my home, where I live in the city and my life in general.  I use a bicycle to get around which is a central aspect of my life because public transportation is very hectic in Lima.  Otherwise, my life continues as it did in Canada. Grocery stores and farmers markets are readily available, and I am always surrounded by tasty, cheap food.  I also regularly go to the gym and play tennis.

What does your role as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer consist of?

My primary role as a M&E Officer is to assess the quality of the service that we are providing, collecting information and thinking about ways to either have a better impact or capture the information in a manner that demonstrates that impact more clearly. 

I have also delivered workshops on personal health, as that is more in-line with my educational background and I have served as a coach to 3 winners from Lima of the 1st round of the Youth Innovation Fund.  This was a role that I was not expecting to do, and I was quite nervous about at first, but part of this experience is doing things that you are not expecting and being pushed out of your comfort zone – that’s where true growth occurs.  In the end, I have developed close relationships with all three of the women and now consider them my friends.  I have watched them, and their businesses grow first-hand over the past 6 months and plan to keep in touch even after my official role with them ends.

What have you learned in your volunteer role?

In my role as a M&E Officer I have increased my expertise and handling of that system each progressive month I have been here, to the point where I have become the primary contact person for most M&E related inquiries within the team.  I have really developed a macro-scale understanding of the project and our relationship to Canada.  How logic models work and their importance to the project itself.  How projects are literally built upon these logic models through specific measurement indicators and tools to collect those measurements. I have developed a deep understanding of project definitions, how to identify, categorize and sort information over time to systematize, and comment upon that data and present it in a coherent and favourable fashion to Canada. There is a lot of filing and organization involved, as well as management of charts and numbers.

What sort of in-country support have you received?

There is a great deal of in-country support available where you receive as much as you request.  If you’re independent then you’re allowed to be, and vice versa. The staff members are the experts as well as the already placed volunteers serve as references and major resources for support; especially through the first month until the volunteers feel settled. The entire team is expected to contribute, devote energy and attention whenever necessary to assist in the acclimation and settling of new volunteers. Of course, this support doesn’t end at any point in the placement, it may just become less necessary as one becomes comfortable and familiar with their environments. However, all requests for support from volunteers is addressed with utmost importance by staff.

All volunteers are assigned a supervisor upon arrival, a staff member with whom they’ll work closely with or even share direct work-related responsibilities. These relationships, again from my experience, develop according to the preference of the volunteer and according to how the placement is progressing for the volunteer.  It also depends on the managerial style of the supervisor.  However, in Peru, most supervision is fluid in the sense that no one is looming over you expecting a specific outcome. However, you are expected to take initiative in guiding the relationship as well as your experience. 

What have you learned while volunteering abroad?

I learned that mastering a new language opens your mind and yourself to a world of possibilities. And, learning Spanish is probably one of the most rewarding yet challenging things I have ever done.  My social skills have increased substantially during my time here, not only in self-discipline but in managing others and guiding conversations as well as meetings in ways that are necessary and efficient in the workplace.  I have also learned to believe in my ideas and listen to my intuition when I have something valuable to share. Luckily, I have worked with a team that has been very receptive to listening and allowing me to experiment with my ideas.

You will learn more about yourself through the process of discovering and confronting something unknown and unfamiliar.  If you have travelled it will be a familiar feeling, but it is different than travelling because you are stationary, you are not a tourist.  You learn a depth to the people, the culture and the community that you rarely can touch as a tourist.  You also have the opportunity to develop professionally – there is a great deal that needs to be done and if you are a motivated and ambitious person opportunities and responsibilities will be given to enrich the experience both personally and professionally. Ultimately, I believe what you learn is up to you, your experience is your responsibility, you will only get from the experience what you put into it, but it is an unending well of possibility.

Volunteering overseas is a truly unique and transformative experience. That’s why EQWIP HUBs offers Canadians life changing international volunteer opportunities in Bolivia, Ghana, Indonesia, Peru, Senegal and Tanzania. Working in partnership with a global network, you will collaborate with local youth seeking new, job-ready skills and acquire some of your own in the process. With departures throughout the year in January, March, May, July, September and November, we can find the right position for you based on your skills and availability.

A world of experience is available. Are you?

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EQWIP HUBs powered by Canada World Youth and Youth Challenge International is funded, in part, by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada.