Pittsfield man heads to South America to make a difference
PITTSFIELD -- On Sunday, Mark Amero flew to Cusco, Peru, hoping to make a difference in the lives of orphaned children.
The city man will spend the month of February volunteering at a very understaffed medical clinic and orphanage run by nuns.
"I was tired of seeing people being too poor and have no entitlement," he said prior to his trip. "So I wanted to go to another country and see what I can offer those who truly needed help."
Amero, along with six other Americans from around the U.S., are participating in the goodwill excursion through the Global Volunteer Network. Based in New Zealand, GVN for the past 11 years has provided volunteers for grassroots organizations in 19 countries on five continents.
According to the GVN, the other volunteers will be teaching English, building schools and orphanages, and assisting on wildlife, conservation and agricultural projects in and around Cusco.
GVN participants must pay their own transportation costs and living expenses while overseas. Amero says he raised well over $3,200 to fund his trip.
Currently unemployed, the health care professional saw an opportunity to use his down time and skill-set to help children without families.
"I have a chance to be an influence to a child," he said "I'll get to sit down and play games with them."
As the historical capitol of the Inca Empire, Cusco is Peru's major tourist area, drawing tourists from around the world. However, few visitors see the struggles of the region's rural population, more than half of which live below the poverty line, according GVN.
The organization's founder, Colin Salisbury, says the volunteers visit will be far from a relaxing vacation.
"Mark will be working five days a week and will be provided simple living arrangements," Salisbury said in a written statement. "His dedication and the impact he will have are noteworthy."
Amero says he plans to learn more about the people he's helping, during his weekends off.
"I do intend to see Machu Picchu and there's also the beautiful country side," he noted. "There's a lot to do in Cusco."
Machu Picchu was built by the Incas in 1450, and abandoned a century later around the time of the Spanish conquest. The site was unknown to the outside world, until it was brought to international attention in 1911 by American historian Hiram Bingham. Since its discovery, Machu Picchu has been under constant restoration and is a destination spot for thousands of international visitors each year.
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