If we would ask you how many places you have visited, you would definitely have 4-5 places in your mind. If we would ask what you remember about these places, then you would probably say the mountains, the beaches, the blue sky, crystal blue clear water. But how many of you would remember the people you’ve met along the way. With many of us living in fear, very few would remember anything that involved others. The truth is, there are travelers who’ve connected with the places they’ve traveled to and that created something extraordinary for themselves. We present you…Jay Chavez. Today, she is known to us a founder of ‘Traveller Not Tourist’. At age 26, she went to Peru for six months on a trip that led to her setting up a volunteering agency. Five years later, she has changed the lives of hundreds of Peruvian children.
She was born in Peru, but her parents were on a teaching exchange. She always felt a connection with the South American country. Her parents came back to the UK before she was 3. Later in 2006 she embarked on a 6 month visit to her birth land. She wanted to connect with the culture and people but she hardly knew that how much she would be involved and how her life would change forever. She went there as a tourist but looking at the stark needs of the people all around her, feeling compelled to do something to create a better life for the local children.
During her journey, she fell in love with a Peruvian man, Luis Chavez. She met him while traveling and shared her longing to improve the world. They both spent the beginning of the first few months of their relationship volunteering in a rundown school that was struggling to survive and that had ran completely out of donations. Jay recalls, “We began bringing tourists along to help and the idea for Traveller Not Tourist (TNT) was born.” She then when on to say, “I want to make it very clear that there is no way I would have done any of this without Luis – we were 50/50 partners in this venture all the way.” The name of the company came from couple’s mutual belief that a tourist can be someone who considers the human and environmental impact of their voyage and strive to enhance the positive influence their presence has on places they visit.
Jay says, “Our mission, is to give foreigners the opportunity to be involved in the true Peruvian reality and to empower children below the poverty line to create a better future for themselves. We started with just a laptop and the idea, built a website with some out-of-date software that we bought from the market for £1, and got stuck in.”
The following year, they set up TNT to provide volunteering opportunities for foreign tourists. Five years later, TNT built a school teaching English to 50 children, assisted in running an orphanage, and is now building an additional orphanage. After helping so much and achieving this much Jay Says, “Starting out wasn’t easy, there were some days we only just managed to buy lunch. Luis sold many possessions to fund the organization and was working all hours.”
Jay attributes TNT’s surprising success to the same “Law of attraction” that has bought her and her husband together. She believes, “It’s like some invisible force pulling the things we need towards us.” They have been assisting an orphanage by the name of Casa Hogar Luz Alba in response to their request for help. About this Jay says, “We immediately started sending volunteers to help and the orphanage remains a sanctuary of shelter, nourishment and love.”
With time, more people have started to find about them, resulting in increased number of volunteers as well as donations. Jay recalls, “We bought a piece of land and the volunteers made us really proud. After a while we had our very own custom built classroom complete with child-sized tables and chairs, even a couple of toilets. You don’t know what you can do until you try.”
“At that point, we paused to take it all in. It felt like we’d been trudging uphill looking at our feet and when we stopped and looked around, we found ourselves at the summit with the world spread out below,” she recounts.
Now Jay has launched a Bristol based charity that raises money to support TNT’s activities in Peru-called Pachawawas. Currently they are fundraising £75,000 to build a new orphanage. To date this lovely couple have worked with 1, 500 volunteers in Peru and changed the lives of hundreds of local children and as Jay asserts, TNT’s journey has been hugely fulfilling for her as well: “I can’t begin to describe the amount of valuable experiences, life lessons, and joy volunteering has given me.”
Update per Jay and Luis Chavez:
“We currently work only with the Casa Hogar Luz Alba and, as of June 1st, we will be passing on-the-ground operations over to a wonderful lady named Sofia, who will be taking very good care of our volunteers while we focus more attention on our online presence and recruiting (although we will be available for consultancy as well). We would also like to offer help to any other projects across the world who work with foreign volunteers. We can offer consultancy and marketing help as well as all the necessary documents and procedures to do what we do in Arequipa. We will be launching our new website, complete with all new branding on June 1st so please do check it out!”
Let us all continue to support their work as they continue to push forward in creating more opportunities internationally.