I find it difficult to express in words the amazing experience I had volunteering with United Planet in Peru. I took a short, 10 day trip, and had the time of my life. Everything about the program met or exceeded my expectations, and I can confidently say that I made an impact in the local community there.
Working with the United Planet coordinators was easy and took all the stress out of planning my trip. They were responsive to my questions, and followed up with me in a timely manner. They also provided virtual trainings online for me before my trip that answered many questions that I didn't even know I had!
My host family in Cuzco was very sweet and they had two young daughters that were a joy to interact with and practice my Spanish with (and help them with their English). They provided me with three very good, authentic meals per day, but I did get the chance to experience the local restaurants and nightlife in the city as well.
Mafred, the United Planet coordinator in Peru is the owner of a Spanish school in Cuzco. Here, I got the chance to make friends with volunteers from all around the world. This was super interesting and not something I was expecting. Manfred and Niko, who worked with Manfred, were so much fun and helped me in so many ways during my time there. Oh, and the Spanish lessons were top notch too.
I had the chance to volunteer at an all girls orphanage that was just a short bus ride from my host family and the Spanish school. The conditions were pretty bad, but that's why they need volunteers, right? All of the kids were so sweet. United Planet advised us to bring along activities for them to do, so I went to the dollar store and bought a bunch of school supplies, educational workbooks, and some games. We had a blast and I could really tell that the girls enjoyed having someone there to care about them and interact with them in a meaningful way.
Along with volunteering, United Planet provides excursions to sites around your destination. I got to see all of the Inca ruins around Cuzco, museums, churches, and...oh yeah...Machu Picchu!!! Riding the train through the Andes to Aguas Calientes at the base of MP was like something out of a movie. Actually exploring MP and climbing Huana Picchu was just indescribably incredible. Easily one of the best days of my life.
I would highly recommend United Planet for anyone who is looking to travel and make a difference in the world. I plan on taking another trip this year with United Planet.
Oh, and if you do go to Peru, make sure to order Cuy. ;)