Travelling through Peru is one thing. You can see the sites and have adventures, but, if you want to immerse yourself into the rich Peruvian culture, learn about global issues, develop your own skills and have unforgettable experiences. Then, volunteering in Peru is what you’re looking for.
There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer in Peru. From Teaching English in the Amazon Rainforest to helping at a local orphanage but you need to be wise when choosing which program or opportunity to pursue. Make sure that the organization you are going with are credible and don’t exploit people, animals or yourself in any way.
You Will Understand Peru More Deeply
By volunteering, you are reaching out with your own heart and hand to have a unique experience of the country and culture. And perhaps unknowingly, you will learn a lot about Peru’s societal problems and the issues that 3rd world countries face as a whole.
You can read all about poverty and its effects on people or watch the deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest on the news. But until you actually get out there and try to do something about it and see it for yourself, these problems don’t affect you in a visceral or real way.
I believe the most effective way to understand anything is by getting out there and trying it, seeing it, feeling it and letting it take a piece of your vulnerable heart.
I learnt from volunteering at a local orphanage about what the life of an orphan is like, how orphanages actually work and how they can be of great help. I learnt while working at an NGO about the cycle of poverty and what organizations can do to break that cycle. I learnt about the power of education by teaching English to passionate local restaurant workers for a free meal.
People are what hold the key to understanding a culture and a society. By helping and interacting with people in a real and authentic way, you are incidentally gaining a unique insight into Peru that others may never have
Practice Your Spanish
If you’re a language learning enthusiast, then, you will know that there is nothing better than interacting with locals and talking a lot, to improve your skills. I talked about this in a previous post, but Spanish is a very widely spoken and popular language. So, it will be a lifelong asset to anyone.
Spanish in Peru is different from Chile or Argentina where they use lots of slang and talk very fast with heavy accents. Peruvian Spanish is generally very clear and easy to understand.
By learning at least a little Spanish before volunteering in Peru, you will have a much richer experience. The language is deeply rooted in the culture and people will open up to you more if you speak the common tongue.
You Will Grow Personally
What better way to test yourself and grow, than diving head-on into the world and trying to see what you can do to make it just a little better?
Whilst volunteering in Peru, you may see or experience things that are extremely confronting or deeply sad and you will have to learn to process them. And that’s not an easy thing to do.
But if you can face these issues with courage and maturity. You will become a wiser, more responsible and well-rounded person. You will be more grateful for what you have, but, you will also realize, that if you have the ability to, then you have a responsibility to give back to those who need it. You take care of yourself so you can take care of others.
Learn New Skills and Gain Valuable Experience
You may not have thought about this, but, volunteering abroad gives you some very useful skills and highly valued experience for future employers and work opportunities.
Whether or not social work is your passion and a possible career path or not, volunteering abroad looks great on any resume. This is because it shows your future employer that you are a dedicated, independent, driven and committed individual.
Volunteering abroad also increases your professional network…
Anyone who travels abroad and uses that time to help others without pay when they could be sitting on a beach in Lima or partying in Arequipa, has passion and purpose.
Volunteering can also be a fantastic way to build your skills and experience in a particular area. Rather than taking another course or reading another book, why not delve into the real world to discover and learn more about your area of interest.
Here are some specific areas where you can find awesome volunteering programs in Peru:
- Scientific Research
- Social Work
- English Teaching
- Environmental Conservation and Research
- Wildlife Conservation and Care
(make sure you research each one thoroughly before paying for the program)
Volunteering In Peru Will Give You Unforgettable Memories
Whilst volunteering at a local orphanage in Arequipa, Peru. There was one day that stood out to me the most. I came to the orphanage on a Tuesday and there seemed to be some sort of party going on. There were decorations everywhere and everyone was dancing. I joined in with my terribly awkward salsa skills.
I found out later, that it was a party to say goodbye to one of the children. She had been adopted and was going to move to Lima, away from her family at the orphanage.
It was one of those things that was both happy and sad at the same time. But it was more happy than sad.
The child being adopted was only 7 years old which meant she could have a better life and get used to having a real family who cared for her. But at the same time, she had to leave everything she knew; her ‘sisters’ at the orphanage, the people who looked after her every day, the volunteers.
Some of the children at the orphanage cried, but, you could tell they were happy for her. I also knew this child and was sad that I wouldn’t see her again but I knew she would be better off this way and I was happy that she finally found a place to call home.
The memories will cascade through your mind. They will fall and they will fade but they will never go away. Not completely.
Make Lifelong Connections
As I knocked on the front door, my favourite little kid Luigi, came and started shouting things in Spanish with a beaming look on his face. My Spanish wasn’t too bad then, but I still couldn’t always understand him when he talked excitedly.
I told little Luigi a while ago that I go on adventures in a boat that floats through the universe. I used to point up at the sky and explain to him where my boat was and tell him about my galactic adventures through the stars.
So, every time I left for the day he always said he wanted to come join me on my universe navigating boat.
Maybe this is a strange example to use, because Luigi is just a 5-year-old kid, but I made a connection with him that I will never forget. I’d like to see him again when he’s grown-up. I hope that he gets adopted by good parents who care for him as he deserves.
Volunteering can also be a great way to make friends with foreigners in Peru because a lot of them are drawn to these volunteering opportunities. If you are staying in Peru for an extended period of time, then this can be a great opportunity to build yourself a solid base of awesome friends.
Helping People Makes You Happy
Whether you like it or not, there are so many people out in the world (especially in 3rd world countries) who don’t have the privileges you might have. People who struggle to get through the week, people born without a family, people with serious illnesses. These people are going to struggle whether you are there to help them or not. It’s not a nice thing to think about, but it’s the truth.
8.6% of the world, or 736 million people, live in extreme poverty on $1.90 or less a day.– Andrea Peer, World Vision
The great thing is that you really can do something about it. You can help a lot by simply being there and providing a helping hand.
You will walk away from your volunteering experience knowing that you helped someone when you didn’t have to.
And knowing that will make you happy. As it should. You got to see the difference that you made with your own eyes. You made a genuine connection with those you helped and you left with a permanent mark in that place that will never go away.
You did something of true value, you grew as a person, you learned about Peru on a deeper level, and as a result, the positive ripple effect you made will go on forever in the void of time. Helping inspire one child, bringing optimism to a struggling mother, Teaching English to a teenager living in poverty. It will never be forgotten and it will always be significant.
What better metric to measure the success of your life than how profoundly and widely you helped others?