Guinea Pig Giving

While abroad, I’ve noticed that many people show generosity through food.

One of my favorite stories is about a concept I call Guinea Pig Giving. When I was volunteering in Peru, we were working outside all day to install a new system to chlorinate drinking water. After we finished the day’s work, we headed to a local’s home.

Americans and Peruvians working together to provide clean drinking water.

Peruvian houses are interesting because the backyard is in the middle of the house, and all the rooms are centered around it. So as we’re sitting in the backyard, one of the Peruvians asked me in Spanish, “So, do you like pets?” I replied “Well, I love pets! My family has two dogs!” After I said that, he got a very confused look on his face, but smiled and changed the subject.

Little did I know, that in Peru, the Spanish word for “pet” was actually slang for “guinea pig”. The joke is that Americans (gringos) like to keep guinea pigs as pets, while in Peru, guinea pigs are a common meal. So I actually replied that “I love eating pets, oh and my family does too because we have two dogs!” So some people in Peru now know me as a weird dog-eating gringa (disclaimer: my family and I are not planning on eating our dogs, we love them)…

The point of the Guinea Pig Giving story is that after the whole confusion of the “pet” slang was settled, the locals fed us a guinea pig lunch. In Peru, guinea pig is a delicacy, reserved for very special occasions. We were a raggedy crew of gringos, people they’d never met before, and the Peruvians served us a Christmas-worthy meal.

My Peruvian family.

The local Peruvians I was living and working with were far below the poverty line. Their community qualified for two Peace Corps volunteers to be stationed there. Before their Peace Corps volunteers started implementing water projects, many of the locals did not have functioning bathrooms or clean drinking water. Yet, these people opened their hearts and homes to us. They prepared a beautiful meal for us. Of the little they had to give, they offered us everything they had.

Whether you’re traveling the world or on your couch at home, you have the opportunity to give. Make it professional by finding ways for your organization to spread awareness for a cause that you believe in. Keep it personal by spending one extra hour a week with someone you love. No matter where you are in the world, you are a global citizen. If your impact reaches one other person besides yourself, then you are a Guinea Pig Giver. Do it your way.

What’s your advice for how we can give back? The comments are yours.

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