Rachel Virtue-Taylor is going to be trading in her violin for a Spanish dictionary for spring break.
The Squamish resident and strings teacher at Cedar Valley Waldorf School (CVWS) is heading to Peru from March 14 to 30 and plans to spend her time working at four different orphanages in the South American country.
“I have a soft spot for South America and I feel like Peru is kind of overlooked,” she said. “Certain countries or continents have much more focus on them but they have the same issues in South America. I couldn’t stand the idea of not doing something productive over the break and have wanted to do something like this for a long time.”
Virtue-Taylor will spend her time in Lima, the country’s capital, living with a homestay family and devoting her time to improving the lives of youth and women in the city. She said volunteering is something about which she’s always been passionate.
“Volunteering is something I’ve always tried to do,” she said. “When I lived in Toronto I would volunteer at a soup kitchen and I helped build a few houses in Scarborough, but I’ve never been able to get out and do it. I’m stoked and super excited.”
She will work at four different locations during her time in Peru, including an orphanage with children aged five and under, one with children from five to 15, and orphanage with disabled children and a location helping women who are victims of violence.
Virtue-Taylor pointed out that she has lots of experience working with kids and is very comfortable with children. She teaches Grades 4 to 7 at CVWS and also teaches private lessons at the Squamish Academy of Music.
“I love kids,” she said. “The kids in my classes are very excited for me and seem more supportive than the parents. They ask a lot of questions about the kids in Peru and I think they’re really interested in my trip.”
Although she’s never been to Peru and doesn’t speak much Spanish, Virtue-Taylor said she’s confident she will be able to adjust to the country.
“I’m half-Mexican so I’m hoping my natural Mexican abilities can come out,” she joked. “My parents weren’t totally surprised when I told them I was going but they were a little worried. But I think parents need to realize that volunteering is such a good thing and we need to encourage young people to do it.”
The 24-year-old said she hopes to raise money to help the orphanages out and also bring over some useful supplies. She said items like pencils, sports equipment and toys are all things they can use and she will be accepting donations until she leaves.