Just mention the word Peru to anyone, and no doubt their head is already conjuring up images of the breath-taking Machu Picchu, the awe-inspiring (and highly instagrammable) Rainbow Mountains, and of course… llamas! All the llamas.
These are just the tip of the Peruvian iceberg so to speak. We highly encourage you to learn much more about this amazing country, with its incredible indigenous culture, cuisine, and wildlife! But, have you ever considered taking things a step further and thinking about the issues that Peru faces, and what you could do to help?
While wonderful, Peru faces problems such as poverty, women’s rights issues, and indigenous communities and ecosystems on the verge of collapse. Volunteering in Peru is a fantastic and worthwhile way to not only experience and enjoy the country, but leave behind something positive.
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- Top 4 Volunteer Projects in Peru
- What You Need to Know About Volunteering in Peru
- Why Volunteer in Peru?
- Before You Volunteer in Peru
- Costs of Volunteering in Peru
- Choosing a Volunteer Project in Peru
- Top Volunteer Projects in Peru
- DIY Volunteering in Peru
- What to Expect When Volunteering in Peru
- Final Thoughts
Top 4 Volunteer Projects in Peru
Animal Survival and Rehabilitation
- > Shelter Help
- > Puerto Maldonado
Help in a Stray Dog Rescue Centre
- > Shelter Help
- > Sacred Valley of the Incas
Teach English to Kids
- > English Teacher
- > Trujillo
Social Impact NGO Working with Women and Children
- > Many roles!
- > Arequipa
What You Need to Know About Volunteering in Peru
There are so many incredible places and organizations to choose from, you might have a hard time narrowing down the best one for you. You’ll find your safe-bet English teaching positions, shelter work where you’ll help strays, and a ton of conservation opportunities (Peru does house part of the Amazon Rainforest, after all).
No matter what kind of project you decide to go for, it is always important to bear in mind that no volunteering position is a walk in the park (or jungle… ha ha). They require hard work, dedication, and a positive can-do attitude. If this doesn’t sound like you, you may want to reconsider and save yourself, and others, a load of time and aggro. No hard feelings, volunteering isn’t for everyone!
Okay, so this DOES sound like you, what next? Where can you find safe, ethical, and legitimate places to volunteer? Well, if you’re a regular reader then you’ll already know that Worldpackers is our #1 bae and that we’re big fans of Workaway too! Both of these sites are easy to navigate, have clear and concise information, and are based on a review system.
Worldpackers: connecting travellers with meaningful travel experiences.
Why Volunteer in Peru?
Right, time for the hard sell – except it really isn’t a hard sell at all! Volunteering in Peru would be the trip of a lifetime, I can guarantee that, but for all you type A’s out there, here’s a list of reasons:
- Volunteering has got to be one of THE best ways of experiencing local culture, making local friends, and learning the incredible everyday stories of the Peruvian people. Lots of positions include meals too, so you’ll get to dine over top-notch and authentic dishes like ceviche and lomo saltado *drools*
- Unfortunately, most projects, while seriously beneficial to the local communities and environment, simply don’t get enough funding. They actually need volunteers (like you!) not only for manpower but to keep the projects going. The up-front costs you pay are a huge help to keeping these worthwhile causes running.
- Volunteering is challenging and hard, but it will change you for the better! If you’re looking for a way to up your personal growth and push yourself to the limit, this is definitely something you’ve got to experience.
- I don’t need to say this, but I will, volunteering looks seriously good on college applications, job applications, damn, even on your tinder! So what are you waiting for? Swipe right and sign up!
Before You Volunteer in Peru
So my top-notch writing skills have painted a glorious picture, and you are 12/10 ready for your volunteering adventure in Peru. Just before you rush off to brush up on your Spanish skills (dónde está el… baño?), let me give you an insight on some important things you should know.
Peru doesn’t have a “volunteer visa”, but travelers planning to volunteer are allowed to do so on a typical tourist visa. It is important to note that volunteering means you will not receive any form of payment or monetary compensation. Let’s stay on the right side of immigration, shall we?
Depending on your nationality, you may need to apply for a tourist visa before you arrive, or you might be able to get one on entry. Your nationality will also decide how long you can stay, and in what time frame.
These are of course the visa rules in a pre-COVID era, COVID may very likely change these.
At the moment, Peru doesn’t have any mandatory vaccines to gain entry, however, we highly recommend scheduling an appointment with a travel doctor 6-8 weeks before your trip to get their suggestions. Peru has known cases of Zika virus, so if you are a pregnant woman, definitely speak to a medical professional before you book anything to get their input.
Your doctor will most likely recommend Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Diphtheria, and Rabies jabs, and possibly Yellow Fever depending on where you’ll be going. These aren’t strictly vaccines, but Malaria is a risk in Peru, especially in the Amazon so you may be advised to take Malaria tablets.
Like I mentioned before, the Zika virus is present and there is a risk of Dengue Fever too. Consider taking bug spray, a whole lotta bug spray.
Peru at a Glance
- Official Language – Spanish
- Currency – Peruvian Sol | 1 USD = 4.11 PEN (September, 2021)
- Capital – Lima
Costs of Volunteering in Peru
I hate to be the one to break it to you… but volunteering is rarely free. There are costs involved (they are totally worth it), but don’t worry as your money is going to a good place.
If you were paying attention earlier, I mentioned that a lot of organizations are sadly underfunded and actually need your contributions to run day-to-day operations, pay the salaries of full-time staff, and finance big projects. The silver lining here though is that your contribution, most of the time, will cover your accommodation, meals, and transport cost while you’re there!
It won’t include any flights, visa costs, and depending on where you’ll be volunteering, airport transfers to the project itself. Having said this, some placements do include airport transfers, so make sure to double-check.
Last but not least, you’ll have plenty of free time throughout your volunteering, so be sure to budget in some extra spending money. Whether you’re taking a quick trip to check out the surrounding area or a weekend off to hike the Inca Trail, you’ll want to have some spare cash!
Choosing a Volunteer Project in Peru
There you have it, all the basics you need to know before deciding to volunteer in Peru. Now it’s time for you to do some serious thinking about what kind of placement you would be interested in (side note – if you’re not into creepy crawlies, then maybe you shouldn’t opt for a conservation project in the middle of the rainforest?? The bugs WILL find you, trust me).
Here are the kinds of opportunities you may find:
- Conservation – Peru is a hotbed for biodiversity, so there’s no shortage of conservation placements, especially in the jungle. These really are the most costly kinds of volunteering because your money will go towards funding research, special equipment, and hiring scientific experts. Ethical conservation projects are geared towards science, so expect lots of taking surveys and cleaning out enclosures VS petting wild animals.
- Social Impact – Unfortunately, Peru has issues centering around indigenous people’s and women’s rights, and domestic violence. Some NGOs focus on empowering indigenous people and women by giving them a safe space, as well as providing them with the skills to make a living such as learning English, learning business skills, and handicraft workshops. Working with people in need, while rewarding, can also be tough emotionally so make sure you’re prepared.
- Teaching – Surprise, surprise, teaching has made the list! This is one of the most common types of volunteer placements in the world and there’s a reason why. Teaching, especially teaching English, is accessible to a large number of volunteers, and even though most of us in the English-speaking world may take it for granted, speaking English is an invaluable life skill for many people to learn. Volunteer opportunities in Peru also include teaching art and crafts to lower-income children.
All opportunities are different, and will have their own requirements about how long you’ll need to commit. If you only have a couple of weeks to spare then don’t fret as there are plenty of placements where this is the minimum commitment. If you wanna go all out, you’ll also find some that will take you for over 6 months!
Something important to know is that some placements will require you to have some basic level Spanish or even be relatively fluent, so keep an eye out for that.
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Top Volunteer Projects in Peru
Peru is full to the brim with incredible projects! If you wanna get down and dirty doing some rainforest surveys, or look after dogs at a shelter, with a little digging you’ll find your perfect opportunity.
We always like to give you guys a helping hand so we’ve handpicked some of our favorite placements to make your quest easier. Here we go:
- Opportunity: Shelter Help
- Location: Puerto Maldonado
This is a fantastic project for those wishing to place themselves in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. You’ll be helping conserve and improve the existing biodiversity present in the Amazon’s and eating tasty Peruvian cuisine while you do it! Your main duties will include preparing food for the animals, creating animal enrichment toys repairing damaged closures or trail maintenance. It all depends on what the project needs most.
You’ll also be provided with a cultural orientation once you arrive and offered loads of adventure recommendations around the area when you aren’t busy rehabilitating wildlife as you will have one day off a week.
Accommodation and meals are provided, and there is constant support on the ground including airport pickup and ongoing training. You’ll be expected to work around seven hours a day, six days a week.
- Opportunity: Shelter Help
- Location: Sacred Valley of the Incas
We think this incredible placement is a top choice for anyone who loves man’s best friend. This newly opened rescue center in the Sacred Valley of the Incas looks after and rehomes stray dogs, while also working on awareness in the local community! Your main duties will include helping in the day-to-day operation of the shelter, such as cleaning kennels, preparing food, and walking the pups.
Additionally, you can also help in some light construction of the building, visit schools to raise awareness of animal welfare, and help them with some online tasks.
Accommodation is provided, and there is a shared kitchen where you can cook up a storm! You’ll be expected to work six hours a day, and have two days off a week.
- Opportunity: Cultural Exchange
- Location: Shintuya
This volunteer opportunity in Peru is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in local culture. You will be staying on the shores of the Madre de Dios river in a small community of 60 houses, and working alongside an Amazonian native and his wife in preserving the forest and local culture.
You will trade accommodation and meals in exchange for a small daily contribution and roughly 25 hours of work per week.
During the cultural exchange, you will be helping with reforestation, learning about traditional medicines, helping with building repairs, and more. This is a position within a remote community so it is extra important to be open-minded and respect their culture.
- Opportunity: English Teacher
- Location: Trujillo
If you have your heart set on an English teaching opportunity then you’re in luck! This position is super worthwhile, providing classes to primary school children who come from poorer backgrounds and might not be able to afford private lessons. The organization has both international and local volunteers, so there’ll be an opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and make some friends too!
You’ll be expected to work 25 hours a week, with two days off. There is a weekly fee which covers accommodation, wifi, and a ride to and from the school on workdays. On your days off, the placement has organized events and activities so you can explore the surrounding area and learn more about the local culture with fellow volunteers.
- Opportunity: Many roles!
- Location: Arequipa
This NGO has a large team of people whose primary goal is to improve the lives of women and young people, provide entrepreneurship workshops, and professional skill development. Accommodation, breakfast, and lunch are included, in exchange for 20-25 hours a week of work, with two days off.
If you have teachable skills or have knowledge in things like English, nutrition, yoga, or even self-development, you will bring something valuable to this NGO. They also look for people with graphic design, marketing, or social media experience/skills.
At the end of your stay, you will get a certificate, which is not only cool but is also a nice souvenir to bring back home and remind yourself of the good work you did.
- Opportunity: Arts and Crafts Teacher
- Location: Quillabamba
All you creatives out there who love kids, but tremble at the thought of teaching English, this ones for you. This art academy is the only one in the area and has been founded to give kids a safe and stable place to express their emotions through art, music, and dance.
You’ll be required to assist in small classes with roughly 8 children, including some with learning difficulties. Activities include painting, origami, ballet, and more!
This placement also serves as a cultural exchange, with Spanish classes, and the chance to explore the area with locals and other volunteers. You’ll be provided with free accommodation, breakfast, and lunch, plus a kitchen to cook dinner. Days are 4-5 hours long, with two days off a week.
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DIY Volunteering in Peru
If you’re a tough cookie to crack and nothing in the above list spoke to you, what if I told you there are plenty of other mind-blowing projects out there just waiting to be discovered?! This will call for some DIY-ing but there are a ton of NGOs, programs, and non-profits out there that don’t always have the time or funds to extensively advertise.
Try giving “volunteering in Peru” a quick Google search, or peruse the world of travel blogs, Instagram, and Facebook to find some hidden gems!
Before you go off though, hold your horses, as we wouldn’t be doing our part if we didn’t at least give you some top-tier DIY volunteering opportunities. So keep reading:
The Manu Learning Centre (MLC) sits on a nature reserve that 30 years ago was logged farmland. Since then, extensive reforestation and research by in-house scientists have shown that 87% of the biodiversity has returned! The MLC uses funds from volunteers, interns, and tours to finance research, support agroforestry plots, and run the center.
Volunteers at MLC can expect a varied and exhilarating itinerary that focuses on experiential learning! Expect to take part and be taught how to take butterfly surveys, identify rainforest birds and amphibian species, and help local families with their bio-gardens which are an important source of nutrition for their kids.
The Inkaterra Asociación (ITA) is a non-profit that focuses on scientific research and funds itself through ecotourism. Their focus is conservation, as well as the education and wellness of the local communities. The group has so far created the Andean Bear Rescue Center, the World Birding Rally, an international competition to promote bird watching in Peru, and more!
You will receive full lodge and board, and assist with a wide range of things that are dependent on the season and current projects. Examples include monitoring wildlife through trap cameras, helping to manage forest nurseries, and surveying bird species.
Fauna Forever is a non-profit organization that was founded in the mid-1990s with the task of monitoring the beneficial effects of ecotourism on the wildlife in Tambopata National Reserve and Bahuaja Sonene National Park. Since then they have conducted scientific research, work with local government, and help indigenous peoples conserve their knowledge and practices.
Volunteers for this project will be working closely with forest communities to put together and manage long-term development goals covering education, conservation, health, communication, and more. These activities also encompass helping with environmental education, helping to map natural resources, and assisting with ecotourism amongst other things.
We think this has got to be one of the coolest ways to volunteer in Peru, especially if you’re a techy! It is centered around using technology to understand wildlife behavior and how to better conserve the Amazon. You’ll be learning/using drones, passive integrated transponders (what are those???) camera traps, and a load more in the jungle.
This is another Fauna Forever project, but this fantastic organization actually has several volunteer projects and internships to choose from in different fields! Volunteer fees regardless of the project will cover accommodation at the lodge, all meals, field training plus supervision, transfers, and any permits required for research.
Intiwawa is an NGO founded between Peruvians and Germans with the goal of fighting poverty in the Arequipa slums. This is done through providing educational support, dentist visits for kids, art and cultural projects, and working closely with parents to empower women through textile projects.
Your role as the marketing and communication coordinator is to represent the organization through various social media platforms, create marketing materials for projects, and work with other team members on campaigns and content. Volunteers are expected to put in 20-25 hours a week following a flexible schedule.
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What to Expect When Volunteering in Peru
Hopefully you have found something you like and are seriously considering some epic volunteering in Peru, but what exactly should you expect? Sadly, I don’t have all the answers (shocking, I know) BUT I can give you a rough idea.
Accommodation varies between projects, but an important thing to bear in mind is that pretty much all of the funds raised by organizations go back into the projects themselves. Don’t expect a luxury five-star stay, but do expect to be somewhere safe, clean, and comfortable.
Most places offer dorm-style accommodation, though it isn’t uncommon to be staying with a host family either! These places often have communal kitchens, shared lounges, and shared bathrooms (hooray if you’ve got a private toilet).
Some placements don’t offer accommodation, and you may be tasked with finding your own place to kick back. In this case, budget-conscious folks should check out hostels, guesthouses, and homestays. If you’re okay with a little splurge, take a look at Airbnb, and remember their long-term rental feature for the chance at a discount!
If you’re getting a project through sites like Worldpackers or Workaway you’ll probably be working around 20-25 hours a week with a couple of days off. Lots of projects will organize fun weekends off where you can hang out with local, and international, volunteers. However, you will of course be welcome to organize your own trips away.
Generally, getting around by bus is the preferred mode of travel for both locals and tourists. Bus services are reliable, cheap, and go to a lot of destinations. There are some well-known companies to choose from with both economic and “luxury” options.
Dos and Don’ts
Not to sound too preachy, but we have some handy dos and don’ts for you. These are just a few easy tips to ensure you have the most unforgettable experience possible:
- Do take your time in deciding what project/organization you want to volunteer with, and make sure that they are the right fit for you.
- Do be honest and upfront about how much time you’re willing to commit.
- Do undertake your duties with care and consideration, making sure you’re doing the best you can and listening to any feedback provided by supervisors.
- Do remain culturally sensitive and respect the local people, their customs, and their traditions.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up if something is bothering you or you don’t feel comfortable. The organization will work with you to solve your problem.
- Don’t get caught up in the pressure and stresses of volunteering and forget to enjoy yourself! You’re doing an amazing job and should be proud of what you’ve achieved!
We are positively drooling while looking at these amazing opportunities. There really does seem to be a perfect volunteer placement in Peru for whatever you’re looking to accomplish! If our epic placements didn’t float your boat, we encourage you to have a look out there yourself to find something stellar.
Hopefully, this little guide has given you an all-around idea of just what to expect, and maybe even convinced a few of you to take the leap and volunteer instead of your next vacation! If so, cheerio and good luck!
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