Volunteer Programs in Peru
Peru is one of the world’s richest countries in terms of natural resources. However, it’s social development has not kept pace with its commercial development, and Peruvians still wrestle with illiteracy and basic social justice. Peru is a safe country, but visitors are often taken aback by the tremendous differences in socioeconomic levels and lack of access to education and healthcare. Peru works hard at self-improvement, making it an ideal place for international volunteers to get involved, contribute to sustainable programs, and provide help to vulnerable populations. There’s no shortage of tings to get done in Peru and international volunteers can truly learn to serve here.
Peru is one of the most enigmatic South American countries. It’s bordered by Ecuador and Colombia to the North, Brazil to the East, and Bolivia and Chile to the South. With a population of 30 million people, Peru is home to the amazing Andes mountains, the lush Amazon jungle, the Atacama Desert, and the beautiful Pacific coastline. Over the last decade, Peru has also become a destination for culinary tourism thanks to its very original and creative cuisine, as well as its wine and pisco producing regions.
Where to Volunteer in Peru
Maximo Nivel offers volunteer abroad projects in and around the city of Cusco.
Cusco was the ancient capital city of the Inca Empire and today it is the mecca for travelers visiting South America. Everyone comes to Cusco and it is one of the major international travel and study abroad destinations in Latin America. This is where most volunteer programs are organized and Maximo Nivel offers projects both in and outside of the city center. This gives volunteers the opportunity to serve in both urban and rural communities.
More than 25% of the Peruvian population lives in poverty; alcoholism and lack of education are also critical social issues. Children living in poverty or coming from broken homes do not always receive the attention and support necessary for proper development. Families often struggle to adequately provide for their children, and kids then fall behind on their academics, health, and social skills. Volunteers are placed in community centers, and schools, where you work closely with project staff to engage children in activities, homework, and play time. It’s also important that volunteers help with hygiene education and cleaning. Your assistance creates a safe, positive space, and provides the structure kids need to live full, healthy lives.
In Peru, English language skills are absolutely critical for academic and professional advancement. Everyone understands the importance of English for global business, education, and research. Peruvians who do not speak English struggle to keep up with the economic success of their own country, which creates an even bigger gap between the wealthy and the poor.
International volunteers teach English in after-school programs, community centers, and at a local military facility. These people lack the resources to pay for English classes, but you can help better equip these kids, teens, and adults to communicate and have access to opportunities that move them beyond poverty. Teaching English projects consist of creating lesson plans, teaching classes, one-on-one tutoring, and organizing educational games and activities. You may also work in support activities such as cleaning and fixing up the teaching areas.
Maximo Nivel provides all teaching English volunteers with a crash course in teaching English as a Second Language, which provides you with basic theories and strategies to effectively teach ESL. Maximo Nivel has a full academic team that helps provide materials and ideas for your classes.
The Amazon jungle is one of the great rainforests of the world, and it plays an important role in the Earth’s sustainability. Over the years, deforestation began with small farmers and quickly grew with the effects of commercial logging operations. Now, with increased environmental protection and private and public initiatives, deforestation has slowed. However, your help is needed to continue these efforts and to rebuild as much jungle as possible. Reforestation efforts include planting trees, shrubs, and orchids as well as removing invasive species of bamboo. Volunteers also work with wildlife and animal monitoring, trail maintenance, and educational workshops for local communities. Your work is important to save and protect the Amazon jungle to benefit future generations of people and animals.
Maximo Nivel construction projects are great projects because you can see the impact you make every day. Our local construction foreman leads volunteers in building community centers and clinics, expanding animal shelters, and refurbishing schools. Give back to local communities through real community development–help provide access to adequate education and healthcare facilities, which in turn reduces the risk for disease and increases literacy rates. Volunteer work involves digging, removing dirt, mixing cement, carrying brick, preparing adobe, painting, and plastering. Get physical and embrace the hard work required to truly do good for others.
Maximo Nivel works with several dog shelters to provide housing, healthcare, and adoption services in and around Cusco. In Peru, domesticated dogs are often neglected or abandoned by their owners, resulting in a large number of strays and street dogs. These animals go hungry, their health suffers, and they can create safety issues for the public. These shelter projects typically house over 50 dogs who need love, attention, and care. Volunteers help to provide exercise, grooming, and medical treatment–bathing, brushing walking, and providing basic obedience training; you also clean kennels! Volunteers also help with education, spay/neuter programs, and fundraising. Animal care projects depend heavily on volunteer efforts, so if you’re a true animal lover, come join us!
The Zoo project is led by the national university based in Cusco. Its primary mission is to care for rescued and injured animals, and for animals that have been confiscated from people who steal them from the wild. The zoo is a rehabilitation center that cares and nurtures the animals before hopefully releasing them back into the wild. The zoo does not exploit the animals, which means there is a low visitor turnout and a general lack of funding. Volunteer efforts focus on the treatment and care of the animals. Responsibilities include feeding, cage cleaning, light construction work, and some basic conservation work. Volunteers work alongside professional staff and university students so you move with confidence around the animals.
Peru’s government provides universal healthcare to its citizens, however many areas still have very limited access, zero resources, and poor training. If you believe in community service and making healthcare accessible to all people, a medical volunteer project in Peru is a great place to start your work. Maximo Nivel’s Medical Specialist leads volunteers at rural clinics where volunteers work with medical professionals to provide patient care including check-ups, vital signs, needs assessments, patient records, and preparing materials and equipment. Volunteer groups can get involved with medical campaigns where we arrange various sites to provide medical services to underprivileged communities outside of Cusco. Dental and hygiene education are also provided to promote preventative care. Medical projects have a huge impact in the communities we serve, and you can be proud of your medical work abroad.
In developing countries like Peru, individuals with special needs can be marginalized and left to fend for themselves. These people are not provided adequate resources necessary to thrive at their highest potential. Volunteers work in assisted living facilities dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals with mental or physical disabilities. Other projects include a facility for children battling Leukemia, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities for people with HIV. Volunteer tasks include assisting during mealtimes, conversation-talk therapy, exercise workshops, arts and crafts activities, as well as sorting and distributing medicine. Qualified volunteers can also get involved with physical therapy projects. Our best healthcare volunteers possess patience, compassion, and sensitivity. These projects help make the “invisible population” more visible. Being “different” or “disabled” is not easy in Peru and as a volunteer, you can help these amazing people feel important and cared for.
Maximo Nivel’s Andean Immersion project provides a new level of service learning. Volunteers are placed in an indigenous, Quechua-speaking community high in the Andes mountains, approximately 1 hour from Cusco. Volunteers live and work alongside a traditional Andean family and take part in tasks including agriculture such as raising corn and potatoes; herding animals including sheep and cows; light construction; working with kids at the local school; and traditional weaving. This is an off-the-grid project placement and is a true immersion experience. Note that work varies based on seasonal needs and weather conditions. This is an excellent project for volunteers interested in anthropology, gender-roles, and indigenous cultures. Volunteers must be sensitive, respectful, and open-minded as the lifestyle is very different from back home.
Our eco-agriculture project in Peru takes place in the Huyro Region in the highlands of the Amazonian rainforest, approximately 3 hours from our campus in Cusco. Here you will work with local tea, coffee, and cacao growers in a collective farming project. Volunteers work in every step of the production process including picking, weeding, planting new trees, roasting, and even packaging. You also provide support for reforestation efforts and various community activities, as the project focuses on having the biggest impact in terms of output, efficient farming practices, and environmental sustainability. Take part in the production of some of the highest quality tea, coffee, and chocolate in the world and experience traditional life with an Amazonian family of farmers.