A specially designed 2 weeks program that offers a great blend of some meaningful volunteer work and exciting weekend trips. Witness a typical Peruvian lifestyle!
Volunteer in Cusco
Home to an incredibly diverse array of flora and fauna, these forests are at severe risk to deforestation through the effects of commercial logging and cattle production
Looking for a great future in medical field, or already a certified doctor/nurse? Then, this program is tailor made for you. Join the Medical Program in Peru.
Volunteer Projects and Internships in Cusco
Located in southeastern Peru, in the middle of the Peruvian Andes, Cusco is also known as the gateway to the world heritage site of Machu Picchu and for its incredible mix of colonial and ancient Inca architecture. The city is also a place full of contradictions, with both the local indigenous population in traditional clothing on the one hand, and a vibrant and urban city that thrives on tourism on the other.
Peru itself offers you the most amazing nature and wildlife and if you are thinking to become a volunteer, the country is perfect to combine both traveling and volunteering. Cusco is a great place to volunteer at for a couple of weeks, as the city offers you many different volunteering programs in various fields such as in the field of teaching, childcare, or medical training, just to name a few.
Facts & figures about Cusco
History: Can you believe that many buildings in Cusco are older than nine centuries? Dating back to the days of the Inca Empire and beyond, the Incan stonework is still visible in many parts of the city.
World Heritage Site: Due to its historical function as the capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983.
Festival: If you are planning to volunteer in summer you cannot miss Cusco’s biggest holiday. It is called Inti Raymi, which means sun festival, and celebrates the winter’s solstice and the power of the sun, bringing thousands of Peruvians and tourists into the city. Held on June 24th, Cusco’s streets are crowded and full of colorful parades, music, and traditional customs.
The shape of the city: Inca-era Cusco was meant to be built in the shape of a puma, the body composed of the city’s most important temples, buildings, and palaces.
Agriculture: Cusco is highly important as an agricultural region in Peru and yields a great variety of different fruits and vegetables. Almost unbelievable is the great variety of potatoes produced in Cusco, as there are more than 2.000.
Best Volunteer projects in Cusco
There are many volunteering opportunities for you in Cusco. Even though the economy of Peru has changed and developed positively in the last years, there is still a lot that needs to be done and helping hands are always needed. Depending on your interest and knowledge, you are able to choose from a variety of different programs, such as volunteering with children, volunteering in the field of healthcare, working with animals and many more.
To get a better overview of your volunteering options, please keep on reading as they will be introduced in the following. Here you will find an overview of the different volunteer projects that will surely help you to decide which project works best for you.
Teaching in Cusco
If you are interested in teaching and would like to become a volunteer in this field, Cusco is the perfect place for you. There are many different options for you to volunteer at, such as teaching English at a local Pre-school. The goal here is to help children to improve their language skills, which should help them to improve their lives in the future as speaking English in Peru becomes more important, mainly due to the travel industry.
As a volunteer in the field of teaching, you will play an important role in achieving the project’s goals and helping hands are more than welcome at any time. Amongst others, your tasks at a teaching program can look like this:
- Teach the basic concept of English in pre-schools
- Design lesson plans and further activities
- Network with local residents and local staff
In order to join this program, you do not need to be native in English but should speak English fluently. To communicate with the children and other co-workers of yours, speaking Spanish on a basic level is preferable.
Another teaching project that you can get involved at, is teaching English at schools, community centers, orphanages, and shelters. Here you will work either individually or will be assisting another teacher during their lecture. Also, helping hands are always needed in teaching disabled children. Usually, these schools are severely understaffed and thus rely on volunteers. You will support the teacher during the lessons and in fun teaching activities.
Another task could be the individual care of children and the creation of activities and entertainment of the children. In order to communicate with the children and your co-workers, speaking Spanish on a basic level is preferable.
Volunteer in Childcare
Volunteering for childcare in Peru is of high importance as many children do not get the care they need. In order to help the children that come from socially disadvantaged and poor families, different facilities provide shelter, food, education, and medical care to the children and youth. As such institutions rely on donations and helping hands, volunteers are more than welcome.
As a volunteer in such a project, you will either work in orphanages, day-care centers, rescue homes, or at a kindergarten. Usually, your work will be the support of the local staff and to help taking care of the children and other tasks such as:
- Helping children with their homework
- Teaching English
- Planning activities (e.g. dancing, painting, singing)
- Organization of educational activities
- Planning recreational field trips
- Helping with the daily tasks at the institution
Before you decide to volunteer at an orphanage program, make sure you are prepared for your task and understand what to expect. While working with orphans might sound noble at first, it is important to realize that more than 80% of children living in orphanages are not orphans. They are separated from their families because they are poor, disabled, from an ethnic minority or because they are suffering from other exclusion factors. You MUST have appropriate skills as well as a general interest in working with children and youth. In order to communicate with the children, locals, and your co-workers in Peru, speaking Spanish on an intermediate level is preferable.
Another project for you to work at in Cusco is an after-school project. Here, free classes and homework help are provided to underprivileged children. To join the project you do not need to be a native English speaker, but should speak the language fluently.
Volunteer in Medical Healthcare
Cusco also offers volunteering options in the field of healthcare. Especially local communities rely on the help of volunteers and their contribution is essential to a better healthcare. If you are already a certified doctor or nurse these projects are perfect for you. Of course, you are also more than welcome to attend if you are a medical or nursing student, as you will gain important knowledge for your future medical career.
Depending on your interest, your medical experience, and qualifications your volunteering tasks can include the following:
- Assist with various procedures such as suturing wounds or giving vaccinations
- Undertake basic hands-on involvement (e.g. Checking vital signs, blood pressure)
- Provide assistance to doctors and nurses
- Shadow the doctors on critical surgeries and operations
- Undertaking routine hospital tasks (e.g. making beds, cleaning, talking to patients, preparing medical materials)
Volunteering in the field of healthcare can make a huge difference. Sadly, many people living in Cusco do not have regular access to affordable medical treatment and cannot afford it. If you have no experience in the field of healthcare but are a pre-medical student you are also able to apply for these programs. In this case, your work would be of shadowing and observing the doctors and nurses. Please note that the language spoken in the hospitals and medical camps is both Spanish and English which you should speak on a basic to intermediate level.
If you are a dental student or a professional dentist, there are dental care programs for you to participate in. In providing primary and basic emergency care to low-income families, volunteers from abroad are more than welcome to join these projects. You will be placed in local dental clinics and work with licensed dentists assisting with prophylaxis, sealants, and restorations. In order to communicate with your co-workers and local patients, speaking Spanish and English on an intermediate level is preferable.
Conservation work in Cusco
If you love animals and would like to work as a volunteer there are different opportunities for you. One option that you are able to be part of is to protect the diverse wildlife in the region of Cusco. Due to its geographical location, Peru offers the perfect breeding ground for plants and animals. In order to protect and conserve them, your helping hands are always needed.
Volunteers at a zoological center will work closely with local communities in order to raise awareness, but also will they take care of different animals such as monkeys, bears, parrots and many more. In order for you to get an idea of your daily do’s and tasks as a wildlife volunteer in Cusco, have a look at this overview:
- Fertilize and water different plants
- Research and observe animals
- Prepare food and feed the animals
- Assist researchers and workers with everyday tasks
- Maintain and clean enclosures
Another project you are able to attend takes place in the Amazon Rainforest. Here you will be involved in different tasks, such as reforestation, animal observation, and animal care. Additional work can be working in the local, indigenous community by teaching English.
Combine Volunteering and Travel
What do you think about combining both volunteering and traveling? Those so-called Voluntourism programs are most suitable for volunteers who would like to make a contribution but do not have the time to stay as long as a month or longer. In these 2 weeks programs, the work focuses on volunteering in community centers on intercultural levels in order to help local families to get a better life. Your help is needed four hours daily from Monday to Friday, where you will have the following tasks:
- Assist the local staff at the projects
- Spend time with the children (play, plan activities)
- Teach the children
During your free time, you have the opportunity to explore Cusco, other local places, and heritage sites in Peru such as the Machu Picchu, or the Ollantaytambo ruins Peru has to offer. Some programs even include the opportunity to hike the Inca Trail. This famous 4-day adventure starts in Cusco and ends with a sunrise view of Machu Picchu.
Free-time activities in Cusco
Even though volunteering abroad takes a lot of your time, you will have time to explore the amazing landscape Peru and Cusco itself have to offer. Exploring the city of Cusco is a must do during your time as a volunteer in Cusco. Start your city tour at the very center of Cusco at the Plaza de Armas and take a stroll through the city, where you will find different bars, shops, and restaurants.
Furthermore, take a look at the buildings and the colonial architecture and plan some time to visit the Sacsayhuaman ruins that are located outside of Cusco. When in Cusco do not miss the San Pedro Market, which is said to have the most exotic fruits and vegetables, and is, furthermore, the perfect lunch spot to try some local and traditional food, such as typical empanadas. Of course, you need to see the ancient Inca city as it is on top of every bucket list for Peru. Also referred to “The Lost City of the Incas”, the Machu Picchu is one of the most famous ruins in the world.
You should plan some time to explore other parts of Peru, as the country has the most amazing nature and wildlife to offer. As Peru is known for its spectacular rainforests and its unique biodiversity plan some time and visit a part of it. From Cusco, you can plan a trip to the Manu National Park, also UNESCO World Heritage with over 15.000 species of plants, and home to 400 different mammals and reptiles. The journey itself is stunning, as it leads over the Andes.
Things to know before you volunteer in Cusco
When traveling abroad as a volunteer, there are always a few things you should inform yourself about beforehand and that you should keep in mind to make sure that you will have a pleasant stay. This is some useful information about Cusco and Peru and some tips that might help you.
Best travel season
The best season to volunteer in Cusco is during its ‘winter season’ that lasts from June to September. The rainy season starts in November and ends in March and most streets have limited access due to the strong rain. Please note that whenever you decide to plan your trip you should bring warm clothing because it gets chilly during the nighttime.
Safety & precautions
It is always advised to be cautious, no matter what destination you travel to. Even though Cusco is a great place to visit, you should be aware of certain situations and take a few precautions:
- Please be aware of robbery. Always make sure to keep your belongings safe. Bring a copy of your passport and do not carry a lot of money around
- Avoid walking alone in quiet areas or at night
- If you want to take a taxi, only use officially registered vehicles
As Cusco is located 3.400 meters above the sea level, altitude sickness can become a problem. In order to get used to your new surrounding, take it easy on your first days, do not go on long hikes and always keep in mind to stay hydrated.
Culture and religion
The culture in Peru is diverse and influenced by the native Incas, the Spanish conquistadors and immigrant groups such as Africans, Japanese, Chinese and Europeans. Most important, and independent of religion, is the family in Peru. Different generations of a family live together and take care of each other.
Before you start volunteering in Cusco, make sure you have the right vaccinations. These should be checked ideally 4-6 weeks before your trips. The US-based health protection agency CDC recommends getting the following vaccinations:
- measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)
- varicella (chickenpox)
- polio vaccine
- your yearly flu shot
Due to contaminated food or water, it is also recommended to get vaccinations against Hepatitis A and Typhoid.
Who can volunteer in Cusco
As you will have noticed by now, there are many different projects that expect different skills and abilities from their volunteers. While you can find out the specific requirements for each project on their program page, here are some general requirements that apply to most projects in Cusco:
- You need to be at least 18 years old for most of the volunteer projects. When in doubt, we advise you get in contact with the local project manager, as in some projects you can also volunteer when you're 16 years old. There’s no age limit upwards: just check the 50+ icon on the program pages.
- You need to have basic English skills to join a volunteer project in Cusco. Please note that some teaching projects might ask for more advanced skills though.
- You are more than welcome to bring your friends or family to work for the social project. Just contact the project manager and ask them for the available opportunities.
How can I volunteer in Cusco?
So you’re ready to volunteer in Cusco but you’re not quite sure how to get started? Take a look at the following 3 steps that will prepare you for your Cusco volunteer program abroad and an unforgettable adventure:
- Check whether there’s a match between you and the project by looking at their requirements.
- Take a look at the location of the project and decide whether it would be a location you are excited about.
- Get in touch with the organization and see whether your expectations and your schedule match up
Once this is sorted. Let’s take a look at the practical steps:
Insurance (Health & travel) We recommend our volunteers to get both, health and travel insurance. In fact, this is even a requirement for most programs abroad. Get in touch with your program contact person to find out if an insurance plan is already in place for volunteers.
Visa, Passport and Documentation Once you know your destination, take the following 3 steps before setting off on your life changing adventure!
- Look into the visa requirements for your nationality.
- Make sure you have a valid passport considering the requirement of the host country.
- Prepare the correct documents to fulfill the visa application.
That’s it! You’re ready to volunteer in Cusco and experience a destination with some of the greatest ancient cultures!