With plenty of beach and Amazonian rainforest, Peru will present you with more mountains to climb and cities to explore than you’ll know what to do with – not to mention an array of volunteer opportunities that vary in focus, structure, and size. Volunteering abroad in Peru is the experience of a lifetime. No matter what program you choose, the magic of Peru’s ancient history combined with its enchanting contemporary culture will have you hooked as soon as you arrive. Start your journey by choosing a volunteer program that will provide you with the structure you need and the freedom to immerse yourself in a vibrant, captivating locale.
Problems affecting health in Peru include water sanitation, air pollution, HIV/AIDS, lack of education, funding and technological resources to health care. Volunteers with a career in the health professions are sorely needed in Peru.
Women in Peru must face machismo (an attitude common in Spanish and Latin American cultures that displays aggressive and excessive masculinity) and gender discrimination regularly. Domestic and sexual abuse is fairly common. A long history of social prejudice causes women to face higher unemployment and poverty levels than men. Any volunteer project that helps empower women will also benefit the general population of Peru.
Youth Development and Education
Many children don’t receive the support and care they need. Education is lacking and underfunded. Volunteering in schools or orphanages is a great way to help secure a better future for the youth of Peru.
According to a 2010 report, Peru’s poverty level has been cited as high as 49% and was most recently recorded at 30%. Indigenous people in rural areas receive little to no support from governments and can use help from volunteers to improve their quality of life.
With a general migration of Peru’s population from rural to urban areas, there has been a strain on the agricultural industry. There is much work for volunteers in improving sustainable farming techniques, air and water quality, and waste disposal.
Planning Your Trip
Volunteer Support: If you volunteer in Peru through an organization, they should have a support system in place. Don’t hesitate to ask them questions and get all the help you need. Your home country’s embassy or consulate can be reached in Lima for information and support as well. Getting involved in new things and meeting new people will help you make the best of your experience. Check out groups like Expats in Peru for support from other foreigners in Peru.
NGO/Nonprofit/Volunteer History in Peru: Peru has a long history of aid development and NGO support. The country has even been called the "Kingdom of the NGO." From research-based organizations to NGOs advocating for indigenous peoples’ rights to development-focused groups, you’re sure to find any type of nonprofit organization you’re interested in. Here’s a complete list of NGOs in Peru.
Know Before You Go: A basic level of Spanish is suggested but many organizations cater to English-speaking visitors. Volunteers in Peru should always keep an open mind when visiting a new, diverse place like Peru.
How Volunteering in Peru Will Help Your Future: Networking and volunteering with a well-established Peruvian organization will give you experience like no other experience could. Your Spanish skills will improve considerably. Living in such a diverse culture will also give you valuable insight into working with new and different people. Document your experience and continue to learn from it the rest of your life.
Free or Low-Cost Volunteering Opportunities: Free opportunities can be found through organizations such as WWOOF and HelpX. Low-cost opportunities include projects run by Love Volunteers and IVHQ. To help defray program costs, consider applying for a grant or scholarship to volunteer in Peru like the Ethical Global Engagement Grants offered by Omprakash.
How to Save Money While Volunteering: Consider all of your options when on a budget. Walk or take a bus versus a taxi. Learn to cook some authentic meals instead of going out. Shop at locally-owned stores and markets. Know where your money is going. Find out which banks have ATMs fees for your bank and which don’t.
Best Places to Volunteer: The following cities and towns are popular among volunteers and host well-established programs.
- Lima (the capital): good for a large range of programs including education, healthcare, and community development
- Arequipa: good for education, healthcare, support of women and children
- Huancayo: good for healthcare, youth education
- Cusco: good for community development, healthcare, agriculture
- Iquitos: good for wildlife, conservation and preservation, eco-alternatives, environment
- Trujillo: good for teaching English, youth development
Questions to Ask: What amenities will be available? What type of transportation will I need to rely on daily? What will the weather be like when I’m there? How much Spanish do I need to know? Are there other foreign volunteers where I’m going?
Health and Safety of Volunteers in Peru
No vaccinations are required to go to Peru but an immunization against Yellow Fever is suggested by the Embassy of Peru and U.S. Department of State. Other recommended vaccinations for volunteers traveling to Peru include typhoid, hepatitis A and hepatitis B. If you are going to a more rural region, including the Amazon, yellow fever and malaria vaccinations may be necessary. A simple pain reliever and diarrhea/stomach medicine are also suggested. It’s important to be cautious about new foods and let your body adjust. Don’t drink tap water! Check out MD Travel Health for more information.
Peru isn’t any more safe or dangerous for volunteers than most South American countries. Protests, theft, and reckless driving are the worst you will encounter. Always have your belongings secured and be aware of your surroundings. Foreigners always have a way of standing out to thieves.
Visas for Volunteering in Peru
A tourist visa is not necessary for U.S., U.K., Canadian, or Australian citizens for a visit up to 183 days. Tourist visas for most visitors can be obtained at airport immigration or any Peruvian border. More information on business and other visas can be found at VISA HQ.
Volunteer Programs in Peru
InterExchange Foundation Christianson Fellowship
The InterExchange Foundation Christianson Fellowship awards up to $10,000 to young Americans who are passionate about helping communities abroad thrive and are eager to learn about the local culture. Fellows identify a project or an organization working on an issue they care about, and with the support of the Christianson Fellowship, contribute their skills and passion to that endeavor for at least six months on-location abroad. This intercultural experience is a meaningful way to help others, improve skills, and gain insight about another culture.
Operation Groundswell Financial Needs Grant
For those interested in an Operation Groundswell program, consider applying for financial assistance through the Operation Groundswell Financial Needs Grant. You'll submit information about yourself, the program you want to go on, and why you need financial assistance, and the OG team will review your information to determine what financial assistance they can provide. Applications are accepted throughout the year, so be sure to apply as soon as you apply for the Operation Groundswell program you choose.
Rustic Pathways Scholarships
Every year, travel company Rustic Pathways give away $250,000 to students from across the world. Scholarships are varied and it's worth checking back in after they've been awarded as late-season scholarship redistribution -- where uncollected grants are reallocated to new applicants -- takes place a few months later. Among their scholarships, the most relevant to prospective volunteers are the following: