When you volunteer in Peru, you discover a truly unique destination in South America. As you explore its ancient ruins, canopied jungles, and epic coastline, you’ll understand why Peru is quite literally the stuff of legend. Once you’ve climbed Machu Picchu, descended into the Amazon Basin, and had every adventure in-between, you’ll come to see that it’s the Peruvian people that make these places so special. Peruvian culture is a melting pot, claiming Japanese, African, Chinese, and European influences, not to mention roots tracing back to the centuries-old Incan culture. As a volunteer in Peru, you’ll be making a real and sustainable impact as you become immersed in this fascinating culture.
In the 1980s, the political extremism of the Sendero Luminoso (“Shining Path”), which originated in the Andes, caused significant numbers of rural residents to seek refuge in Peru’s more urban areas like the capital of Lima. Although the movement saw its end in 1993, the influx of migrants over the last several decades has resulted in a serious strain on social resources, leaving children and the elderly especially vulnerable. Volunteering in Lima, you’ll work alongside and for the benefit of these people, supporting grassroots efforts to provide essential services to those in need.
Where you’ll stay in Peru
Your home away from home is located in a lovely community in the city of Lima, just a short walk from tons of conveniences. From laundry services to delicious restaurants, it’s just around the corner. With little gardens full of plum trees and grapevines situated both inside and outside of your home base, you’ll never feel too far from nature.
The Peru home base in Lima has bedrooms upstairs and downstairs and wood floors throughout. Living areas are communal with more than enough space to keep your belongings. Plus, the common area is a great spot to play board games with fellow volunteers, or study up on your español!
And then there’s the food in Peru. Breakfast will be delicious and hearty, and include eggs, breads, fruits, juices, and a tasty cup of coffee. For lunch and dinner, you’ll enjoy incredible local meals made up of meats and veggies, all served with a side of amazing spicy sauce that will quickly become a new favorite!
Who will support you
Before joining the program, Enrique “Kique” Bossio was the Peru and Bolivia Country Director for the Canadian University Service Overseas (CUSO). He also served as an executive committee member for the Movimiento Homosexual de Lima (MHOL), an internationally recognized organization advocating for the rights of the gay and lesbian community as well as individuals affected by HIV/AIDS. Kique has established an AIDS hotline, a Peers Education program, and Safer Sex workshops for MHOL, and has interned with Human Rights Watch in Washington, DC. Born and raised in Peru, Kique has studied in Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Universidad de Lima, and the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont. Kique is always happy to help volunteers in any way he can, and strives to make the experience as meaningful and memorable as possible.
At a fundamental stage in their growth and development, young children whose families face significant economic challenges often do not receive the support, attention, and education they need to thrive. Centers across Lima are greatly understaffed and caregivers are unable to provide the educational building blocks and individualized attention required for each child. Become a mentor, teacher, and hero when you work with The Child Development Project. By leading and participating in enriching activities and games to inspire a love of learning, your efforts will be an inspiration for future generations.
In many communities, as in Lima, there’s a disparity in the amount of information, outreach, and support available to the population surrounding their healthcare needs. Help to bridge this gap by contributing to the social determinants of health, including education, access to resources, and care for the most vulnerable members of the community. Through The Global Health Project, you’ll gain an in-depth understanding of the many components of health while making real sustainable contributions to community organizations. Join us in empowering healthier communities!
Things to Do
First, you'll check out the oldest district of the city, characterized by colonial Spanish buildings and baroque churches. Visit the Iglesia de San Francisco known for its underground tunnels and serving as Lima’s first cemetery. On another Peruvian jaunt, you’ll take a neighborhood tour of all the local gems with a chance to visit Peru’s stunning Afro-Peruvian and Chinese-Peruvian neighborhoods, showcasing rich Peruvian culture that most tourists never get a chance to see.
Our Spanish lessons will help you communicate with ease during your volunteer experience, and out in the community while you're exploring. Courses are held twice a week at the Home-Base, and are tailored for beginner, intermediate, and advanced speakers. Whether you want the know-how to find "el baño" at a restaurant, or are hoping to put your Peruvian slang to the test, your language instructor will help you get there.
Cook Peruvian Cuisine
Biweekly cooking classes will introduce you to a variety of tasty Peruvian dishes, and provide an opportunity to practice your español. Our cooks will describe the history of each dish and its ingredients in Spanish while demonstrating how they are prepared. Don't forget to snag some of the recipes to share with friends and family. After all, they'll probably enjoy checking out your hundreds of photos from Peru with a plate full of humitas -- fresh corn tamales -- to snack on.
Peruvian History Lessons
Guest speakers will capture important aspects of Peruvian culture and history, including the story of Villa El Salvador, a community in which a number of program participants volunteer. A prominent member of the community will recount how the residents of Villa El Salvador fought to transform their community from a temporary shantytown to a Nobel Peace Prize nominee. You’ll learn about the community's current challenges and how these challenges directly impact the beneficiaries of your volunteer work.
Learn Peruvian Dance
Learn a sampling of traditional Peruvian dances essential to the culture, but rarely studied by tourists. We’ll bring a professional dance teacher to your Home-Base to instruct you and your fellow volunteers in Afro-Peruvian dances originated by slaves during the colonial period, as well as Criollo, a form of dance that incorporates African, Spanish, and Andean influences.
Explore Machu Picchu
Lace up your hiking boots and hike the four-day Inca Trail from Cusco to reach Machu Picchu’s sun gate just in time for a once-in-a-lifetime sunrise over the nearly 600 year-old Incan ruins. You can also choose the one-day hike or take the train, but be sure to allow yourself a couple of days to explore the entire complex. Wander through the ruins of the temples and see for yourself why Machu Picchu is one of the new wonders of the world.
Cusco is more than just the gateway to Machu Picchu and a convenient stop on the way to the Amazon; it’s also an incredible historical and archaeological treasure. Visit Choquequirao to explore the ruins of this small Incan City, then head back to town to check out Spanish cathedrals and chow down on some of the amazing cuy -- guinea pig, a Peruvian delicacy. Take a photo or two of the “White Christ” statue watching over the city with arms outstretched.
Boat Around Lake Titicaca
Visit South America's largest lake and boat around to each of the man-made inhabited islands, made entirely of reeds. After a day on the lake, visit Puno, the folklore capital of Peru, to share a story and a cup of tea with some local residents.
See Colca Canyon
Arequipa is Peru's second largest city and also one of its most beautiful, with ethereal white stone buildings nestled in the foothills of Peru’s southern volcanic belt. Hit the markets to purchase some of the aromatic spices you've been tasting in local cuisine, and visit the Santa Catalina Monastery for a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Climb volcanoes, or if you've got time for a longer jaunt, hike the Colca Canyon, for some serious bragging rights.
Race Down the Sand Dunes
Fill your lungs with desert air on the bumpy buggy ride through the dunes in Huacachina. If you're a snowboarder, you’ll love riding the steep sandy dunes. Then, hop on a short flight for a bird's eye view of the ancient and awe-inspiring Nazca lines; these intricate designs were created on such an expansive scale that they're only visible from the air. Don't miss a chance to visit the beautiful black sand beaches and sea lion colonies at nearby Paracas National Park.
Live Like a Local
Peru’s largest city is the perfect place to practice your Spanish. Sing a duet with new friends at a karaoke bar downtown, or join in with the local kids as they splash around in the fountains of the Parque de la Reserva. Once you've toweled off, be sure to hang around for the nightly light and water show that starts after dark.