Once a capital of the Incan Empire and now the capital of tourism for the country of Peru, Cusco is an impressive city. With Incan ruins nearby, centuries of history and stories, and a cuisine that is so unique and delicious, this city is an amazing opportunity for volunteering. Even though everyone seems to come here for that one little stop down the train tracks (Machu Picchu), this city holds so many enchanting avenues and valleys for all who step on its land. With a huge influx every year of tourists and citizens who attend to these tourists, it is no wonder there are so many volunteering options here.

Photo credit: Art Dino.

Lima is a large city so there are many volunteer opportunities. The volunteer programs are mostly dedicated to helping children and helping community development. Most types of volunteer programs are separated into short-stay, and long-stay durations. Short-stay volunteers will usually work on projects that are currently underway. In contrast, long-stay volunteers have the ability to start their own projects.

Children

Education in Lima is really important and a lot of the educational programs need help. English as a second language is valued in Peruvian society. Therefore teaching English to children is a great option for native English-speaking volunteers. The children can also end up teaching you some Spanish. Besides English, there are many other educational subjects that can be taught. It’s also great to participate in recreational activities with abandoned children.

Community Development

There are certain areas of Lima in need of housing repairs. A lot of residents don’t have the time or money to repair their homes. The elderly and widows are especially in need of assistance when it comes to housing repairs. These people aren’t capable of repairing homes by themselves and so they rely on volunteers for assistance. Another community development option is to help with local farming projects.

Health

Health care volunteers are always needed in Lima. There is poverty in many areas of the city and the government does little to help the situation. Many residents are not getting the health care treatment that they need. Volunteers are able to work in both hospitals and public schools.

Volunteering Tips

Know Before You Go:You need to keep in mind that right now, Peru does not grant special visas for volunteers. Therefore you will need to enter the country with a tourist visa. If you are volunteering for long-stay duration then you will have to go renew your tourist visa at some point during your stay. In Lima, there are also snacks in the late afternoon at around 5:00 PM. Also Peruvian dishes are spicy so keep that in mind when ordering at eateries. The best way to get around is also by taxi. Lima does not yet have public transportation and privately owned buses can get crowded but you do not have to tip them because tips are usually reserved for restaurants.

How to Save Money While Volunteering: Lima, like the rest of Peru, has relatively low living costs. Everything is mostly affordable when compared to the bigger cities in the United States. Housing is really convenient because rentals are easy to find. However, apartments are always less expensive. Food throughout Lima is also relatively cheap so there should be no worry on how to save money in regards to food. If you are shopping for gifts make sure to go to small stands and try bargaining. A lot of the times if you buy more than one good, you will have an easier time settling a lower price. Unfortunately, haggling does not work with the bigger stores in Lima.

Health and Safety of Volunteers in Lima

Before coming to Lima, you should go see your doctor for a thorough medical examination. You should have health insurance and speak to your doctor about any necessary vaccinations. Some of these necessary vaccinations include: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Typhoid. You don’t need to worry about Malaria because it only exists in the rural parts of the country. When you first arrive it might take some time to get used to the Peruvian food and your local surroundings. Therefore you should take a day of rest before starting your volunteer work. Lima consists of many districts, and some are safer than others. The safest districts are Miraflores and San Isidro.

It’s important to know where you are at all times.There are a few safety guidelines (for all districts) that should be followed by all volunteers. You must keep your money in a safe place because there are pickpockets on the streets of Lima. Also don’t leave your passport or cash out in the open- even in your room. At night, it’s not advisable to take a taxi home alone or walk home alone after 22:00. It’s best to keep a low profile in Lima. Don’t walk around flashing your camera or any electronic devices. You would be asking for trouble. If you follow these basic guidelines then you should be completely safe in Lima.

Contributed by Chris Smith

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