Have you considered having an experience abroad, but are still not sure about where to go? Ella Smyth, Project Manager of Volunteers Peru, gives us a glimpse into her experience in South America. Here you will find some good reasons to choose Peru as your next travel destination. Let’s volunteer in Peru!
I have been working as the project manager of Volunteers Peru for eight months now, and before this I had a previous experience volunteering with a different project, also based in Arequipa. This experience puts me in a fairly good position to encourage you to get involved in social projects and contributing your time and effort to support a good cause. Here are some reasons to volunteer in Peru:
1. Cultural learning
Peru is a beautiful, fascinating and diverse country with great food, friendly people and lots to do, perhaps too much! Most visitors have to make some careful selections, as they are not able to see everything that Peru has to offer in the relatively short time that they visit.
It would be very easy to write a list of why anyone should spend some time in Peru and get to know its people, including doing the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, eating ceviche by beautiful beaches, drinking chicha and dancing at a local festival, or working alongside impossibly adorable children. Not to say that these are not reasons to volunteer in Peru. But if we want volunteerism to be well thought-out, ethical and responsible, then it is important to also think through some reasons for volunteering in Peru that focus on the issues and the context with which international volunteers should hope to engage.
Volunteering is also about mutual exchange and learning, and leaving something positive of yourself behind in the community in which you spend some time
Volunteers Peru was founded by Marita Bellido in 2013. Originally from Tomepampa, Cotahuasi, she started her work as a coordinator by sending volunteers to Tomepampa’s local school. As she moved to Arequipa, she began to look for a project to support in the city and formed a link with the Casa Hogar Torre Fuerte girls’ home. Thus, Volunteers Peru was born. Our team of volunteers support the children at both projects. We aim to create responsible and ethical volunteer programs which foster mutual understanding and cultural exchange.
At the school in Tomepampa, our volunteers support the education of the students by providing classroom support in English and other subject areas. They also carry out extra homework help sessions after school. Tomepampa is in a remote region and volunteers can bring a different perspective to the classroom. At Torre Fuerte girls’ home, volunteers support both girls and staff in domestic chores as needed, help the girls with their homework, and contribute to a safe and stable home environment.
2. Preserving biodiversity
Peru is known as one of the world’s ten “megadiverse” countries due to its huge diversity of ecosystems and species. Almost 60% of Peru is covered by Amazon rainforest, although less than 15% of the population live in this region. However, deforestation, land clearances, construction of oil pipes and climate change have led to an increase in the number of endangered species in this beautiful region. We’re still in time to make our contribution to preserving and protecting communities and wildlife in this wonderful country.
3. Contributing to equity and inclusion
In terms of income, South America is a notoriously unequal continent, with fabulous wealth and grinding poverty living side. Peru, unfortunately, does not buck this trend. There has been some substantial economic growth over the last ten years. However, this has mostly remained concentrated in urban coastal areas, particularly Lima. There has not been much of a “trickle down” effect to the poorest, whose lives continue much as they always did.
Sadly, it is not only income inequality that plagues Peru. There is also a significant racial divide, with the indigenous Quechua and Aymara people generally commanding a lower income and registering fewer years of education than the white and mixed-race populations. There is also an ingrained machista culture in Peru, which means that women and girls generally earn less and have less control over decision-making than men.
These economic and social inequalities mean that there is much to be done in Peru to improve the situations of those whose lives are the most difficult.
There are many programs working with deprived communities and groups where volunteers can make a positive and lasting difference.
Volunteer World lists several volunteer programs in Peru that fit a diversity of skills and interests of potential volunteers, and most importantly, make a positive and sustainable contribution to the local community.
You are interested and you want to apply for an Volunteers Peru Volunteer program? Click here for a teaching placement. Or click here to support the staff in a girls home. Apply now. Volunteers Peru is waiting for your application!