Volunteer in Peru - Cusco
At a glance…
- Available year-round
- 10 meaningful project options
- Projects based in Cusco and the surrounding valleys
- Accommodation in home-stays or communal dormitory-style rooms
- Between 25 and 60 volunteers start in Cusco each month
- Program fees include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, breakfast and dinner during volunteer program period and in-country 24/7 volunteer support
- Program fees from $320 for 1 week
- One week mini adventure available
- Most affordable fees - as the world leader in affordable volunteer travel, we’re able to keep our fees low by partnering with a local organization in Peru to support meaningful community projects and local employment.
- Superior support - your experienced IVHQ Program Manager, teamed with our local team in Peru will ensure you feel supported every step of the way - from planning to volunteering.
- Responsible projects - we’re dedicated to ensuring that our projects are responsibly run and have sustainable positive impacts that are supporting local needs.
- Online training - as soon as you register on an IVHQ program, you will gain access to our interactive volunteer training to ensure you’re well prepared for your program.
- Safety-first - volunteer safety is a top priority for IVHQ and we have clear standards for risk management on each program. You can feel confident that you are placed with trustworthy institutions, organisations and families that have been screened by our local teams.
- New friendships - as an IVHQer, you’ll always be in the company of friendly locals and like-minded volunteer travelers who will quickly become your life-long friends.
- Epic weekend adventures - you’ll have your weekends free to explore Peru with your new-found friends.
The IVHQ Peru - Cusco volunteer program has volunteer placements located in Cusco and surrounding valleys. Cusco is one of the oldest cities in South America and situated in close proximity to the tourist mecca of Machu Picchu.
Volunteer programs begin on every Monday of each month. Volunteers can choose to volunteer for any duration from 1 week to 24 weeks.
The aim of the Childcare project is for volunteers to provide individual attention and assistance to children from diverse backgrounds. Many children at the placements we work with do not receive the level of affection and education that they deserve, volunteers therefore play an important role in working alongside local staff to improve the educational, emotional and hygiene conditions of the children. Volunteers work in orphanages, community centers, schools and kindergartens. Work varies but generally consists of providing individual attention, playing with children, organizing games and activities, assisting with homework, English classes and educating children about hygiene.
Special Needs Care
Compassionate volunteers looking to make a real difference can join our Special Needs Care project in Peru - Cusco. Volunteers work in homes for mentally and physically disabled children where the levels of disability can range from moderate to extreme. Volunteers assist with the personal care of the children, providing specialized attention and helping with feeding, clothing, bathing, and organizing crafts and games for playtime. The range of disabilities found among the children is wide, so volunteers must come prepared to help with both basic life functions and engaging the children in imaginative games.
Construction and Renovation
One of the ways we provide support to the different placements we work with in Cusco is through our Construction and Renovation project. Many of these placements are under-funded, run-down, and in need of renovation work. Volunteers work alongside a local construction worker who provides them with direction and motivation. Volunteers work on a variety of buildings, including schools, orphanages, community centers and clinics. Volunteer work varies but generally consists of renovating buildings, re-painting community centers, and building new institutions such as orphanages. Volunteers do not need to have experience with construction work, however, having good energy levels, a reasonable level of fitness and good dedication will go a long way to ensuring you get the most out of your volunteer project. Please note, the Construction and Renovation project has an extra cost of US$65 per week for supervision, materials and the logistics involved in this project. This amount will be included in the Program Fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply.
The Jungle Conservation project offers volunteers the opportunity to live and work onsite at an Amazonian jungle conservation base. We work with up to three different placements for this project and the travel time to your project base may take from 6 to 10 hours (by bus) from central Cusco. Note that travel time also varies depending on the road conditions. The main tasks involved are reforestation, trail and home-base maintenance, conducting animal inventories, and basic research, but these tasks vary based on the project placement and the field conditions at the project sites. There is activity throughout the year with a lot of work to be done and this is a great opportunity to contribute to the unique Amazon eco-system. The local staff place volunteers in the location where the most need for help is, at the time of your program, also taking into consideration current field conditions. It is important to note that volunteers do not choose their location. Please note, the Jungle Conservation project has a minimum of 2 weeks and an extra cost of US$65 per week for supervision, materials and the logistics involved in this project. This amount will be included in the Program Fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply.
Cusco is the tourism capital of South America and many local children will tell you that they want to be tourist guides when they grow up. They are also aware that this dream requires a high level of English and are therefore very excited to learn English. As tourism forms an integral part of the local economy, the ability to speak English gives locals a genuine opportunity to support themselves and find work. Volunteers work in local schools, community and rehabilitation centers. Work varies but generally consists of providing tutoring to local students, setting up small workshops, assisting local teachers, and organizing educational games and activities. As volunteers work with the support of IVHQ’s local team and placement staff, they do not need to be qualified or experienced teachers to participate. However, we encourage volunteers to come prepared by completing some relevant training, like a teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) course. Visit our Online TEFL course page to learn how to gain an internationally-recognized TEFL certification at a discounted rate.
Clinics and hospitals for low income families in Cusco tend to be under-funded and under-staffed. As a result, volunteers play an important role in assisting local nurses and doctors, dentists and specialists while also learning about the healthcare system in Cusco. It is important that Medical volunteers have realistic expectations with regard to the activities that they will get involved in. Pre-medical students, first year or second year medical and nursing students can participate in the following areas within the clinic and hospital placements: taking weight, height, blood pressure, heart rate and temperature, making beds, cleaning, talking with patients, preparing materials, administering vaccinations and sterilizing equipment. Third and fourth year medical and nursing students, as well as fully qualified medical professionals can also participate in the following areas: cleaning wounds, giving injections and sutures, consult rooms and specialized departments, assisting doctors taking physicals and histories, giving vaccinations, taking records, drawing blood samples, and basic assistance with physiotherapy. Please note, at a minimum, volunteers need to be training and have clinical experience in a medical setting. The level of placement will also be dependent on the volunteer’s level of Spanish, as a basic level is recommended, but a higher level preferred. All volunteers must bring evidence of their level of education and scrubs and any basic medical equipment or medications they may have. The Medical project has an extra cost of US$65 per week for supervision, materials and the logistics involved in this project. This amount will be included in the Program Fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply.
This unique project is very different from the other projects offered on the Cusco program. You will be volunteering in a small rural village in the Andes Mountains outside of Cusco, Peru. Volunteers have the opportunity to live with a Quechua-speaking family (Quechua and limited Spanish - no spoken English), where the pace of life is slower and the standard of living is very basic. The goal of this project is to share in everyday life with the host family and community, this means that schedules and work can vary greatly. Village life is often affected by harvest seasons, the needs of the community, weather and family events. Andean culture often includes some division of labor by gender, so your assigned tasks may vary. Volunteers are encouraged to be self-motivated and activities could involve helping with construction and agricultural jobs (planting, harvesting, storing and transporting crops. Also animal related tasks, such as herding, pasturing, feeding, cleaning pens, and collecting food). Volunteers may also have the opportunity to learn about traditional weaving skills and natural dyes by working with the women who create traditional textile products to sell at local markets. There is also scope to assist in teaching English classes. An intermediate level of Spanish is recommended, but all volunteers can. The houses are made of adobe with no central heating and the altitude makes for very cold nights. Volunteers on this project must be packed and prepared for basic accommodation and eating traditional Andean-style food. There is running, unheated water (occasional shortages), limited electricity and no internet. On weekends, volunteers commonly make the 90 minute trip back to Cusco to socialize with other volunteers and enjoy tourism activities. Working hours vary according to the needs of the project, but you can expect to work an average of 4-6 hours per day, Monday to Friday. You may also work some weekends. Please note, the Andean Immersion project has an extra cost of US$65 per week for supervision, materials and the logistics involved in this project. This amount will be included in the Program Fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply.
The Animal Care project in Cusco has two placement options - volunteers may work at a small zoo/rescue center or they may work at a dog shelter. You are welcome to state a preference for the placement you want, however it’s important to know that preferences cannot be guaranteed. The zoo (officially a rescue center) is administered by the biology faculty at a local university. The zoo has different species from the jungle and the Andean highlands such as condors, eagles, monkeys, felines, bears, llamas, deer, colorful birds, and turtles. Animals are accepted whenever they have been harmed by humans or when they have become dependent on humans and have been abandoned. This project focuses on all aspects of animal care and there is scope for volunteers to use their initiative. Volunteers will be provided with a very specific schedule and list of things to do, including journal keeping. The project currently takes place in the morning, from 8 a.m. until noon. At the dog shelter, the aim is to assist in the protection of these animals, providing human company, medical treatment, and playtime. All of the dogs that are cared for in the shelter are vaccinated. Tasks include bathing and brushing the dogs, providing basic obedience training, cleaning cages, helping during feeding time, maintaining the shelter grounds, sharing love and affection, and walking and playing with the animals. Other activities may include some small construction projects (i.e. building dog runs and creating fences), along with photography, administration, and fundraising for the shelter’s operations.
Spanish Service Learning Course
Students from around the world have an opportunity to gain university credit while volunteering in Cusco, Peru through the Spanish Service Learning Course (SPAN203SL), which is accredited by California State University, Monterey Bay. The purpose of the Spanish Service Learning Course is to foster a sense of civic responsibility and community, to expose students to local culture and language, and to create an opportunity for students to broaden their global perspective and identity. For further details, see our Spanish Service Learning Course page.
Students attend 5 guided reflections, write a daily journal and then complete a final reflection paper. The Spanish Service Learning Course and optional language lessons are offered in conjunction with the volunteer work and can all be included in your daily schedule as an IVHQ volunteer. The workshops and written assignments are conducted in English, however the remainder of the course and the entire volunteer experience offer total Spanish immersion. Volunteers choose their work from a range of options including: Teaching English, Childcare, Special Needs Care, Animal Care, Construction and Renovation and Medical and arranging the course accreditation is done through your IVHQ Program Manager and the local team in Peru after you have registered. When applying online, please apply for the Spanish Service Learning Course project and indicate your volunteer work preference in the ‘Comments’ section of your application.
The course fee is US$880 and is paid directly to IVHQ’s local team to cover all aspects of the course and accreditation. This course fee is in addition to the IVHQ Registration Fee and the Program Fee which volunteers pay to cover the volunteer section of the course requirements. Volunteers can join the Spanish Service Learning Course any time of year and it requires a minimum duration of 4 weeks. Attendance for the whole duration is mandatory.
The Peru - Cusco Holiday Experience project is held during the weeks of Christmas and New Years and provides the opportunity to participate in a variety of different projects and activities in the local community. The project was designed by our local team as an alternative to the standard projects which have frequent public holiday closures over the Christmas and New Years period. Volunteers on the Holiday Experience project assist in a range of tasks, such as coordinating holiday parties for underprivileged children and elderly, assisting in the daily life and work of a nearby Andean village (such as cooking, weaving, farming), and renovating a local community center. On the major holidays that fall during this period, volunteers have the day off to explore Cusco and the surrounding areas, which is a beautiful and unique experience during the festive season. Please note, in 2018, this project is only available to volunteers who begin the weeks of 24th and 31st December. The Holiday Experience project requires an extra cost of US$75 per week for supervision, materials and the logistics involved in this project which will be included in the program fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply. Volunteers who continue on the program beyond these weeks will resume on a standard volunteer project of their choice.
The program orientation begins every Monday and volunteers need to arrive in Cusco on the Sunday before orientation.
After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at the Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ) in Cusco. Your airport pick-up is included in your Program Fee.
When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and transported to the local team’s main office and then to your homestay. Your accommodation is covered by your Program Fee and includes the night before your program orientation.
If you are traveling in Peru prior to your volunteer program, we can arrange for you to be picked up in Cusco on the day before your program orientation.
Orientation is hosted by our local team at their offices in Cusco. Orientation begins on Monday morning and covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Cusco – introduction to Peru, Peruvian customs, language lesson details, rules and expectations, safety, travel opportunities in Cusco, introduction to your project and placement. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socializing. On arrival you will be transported to your accommodation and introduced to your host, and the following day you will complete orientation.
First Day: On your first day of volunteering, typically Tuesday, you will be escorted to your placement by a local coordinator and introduced to the placement staff you will be working with.
Weekdays: Volunteers will have a morning, afternoon or evening shift which will last about 3 to 4 hours. A typical afternoon schedule would be as follows:
12.00 PM Lunch at a local restaurant.
1.00 PM Leave the homestay and travel to your placement, where you will be given a structure sheet and a plan for your work. Volunteer roles and hours are dependent on your project and placement.
4.00 PM Work at the placement usually ends. You are free to go sightseeing or do some shopping. If you are taking a Spanish language course, this will usually take place in the morning and will last 1 to 2 hours.
7.00 PM Dinner with the host family.
As the Cusco program has projects that are located in different locations, your accommodation specifics will depend on the project(s) that you have chosen to join. If you are volunteering on the Teaching English, Special Needs Care, Childcare, Medical, Animal Care or Construction and Renovation projects, you will be accommodated in Cusco. However if you are volunteering on the Jungle Conservation or Andean Immersion projects, you will be based further afield. Transportation to the Jungle Conservation and Andean Immersion sites takes place after arriving to Cusco and receiving the general program orientation, so depending on when you arrive, you may spend a few nights in Cusco at a homestay before being transported to your project site.
For volunteers participating on the Cusco-based projects (as mentioned above), you will be accommodated in a homestay, hosted by a local family. Volunteers can expect to share a room with one or two other volunteers of the same gender. For individuals or couples who would like more privacy, private or matrimonial rooms are available as an accommodation upgrade for an additional cost. Living is comfortable and all central Cusco-based accommodation has electricity, running water and western bathrooms, however showers can be low pressure and unheated. Bedrooms are comprised of single beds or bunk beds with bedding provided.
Accommodation on the Jungle Conservation project is located onsite at the conservation reserve where you will be based. Living is rustic and communal, but comfortable. Volunteers are accommodated in bungalows or dormitory-style rooms. On the Andean Immersion project, volunteers stay onsite at the Andean Immersion farm with a local host-family (please note that your host family will not speak any English). Volunteers can expect to share a room with others of the same gender. Accommodation upgrades are not available on the Jungle Conservation and Andean Immersion projects.
You will have access to computers and WiFi at the local team’s office in central Cusco, and there is WiFi available at some of the homestays in Cusco. These is no WiFi available on the Jungle Conservation and Andean Immersion projects, due to their remote locations.
In Cusco, volunteers are provided breakfast and dinner at their accommodation. A typical Peruvian breakfast is provided and consists of bread, spreads, fruit and eggs accompanied with tea or coffee. Dinner commonly consists of meat (often chicken), soups, pastas, starches and vegetables. We recommend budgeting between US$3 and US$5 per day to purchase lunch and upon your arrival, the local staff will provide recommendations on economical places to eat in Cusco. For volunteers on the Jungle Conservation and Andean Immersion project, you will be provided with lunch, given the limited availability of restaurants in the rural settings these projects are based in. Please be sure to let us know of any specific dietary requirements you have so we can make special arrangements for you.
“I was so impressed with my entire Peruvian experience, and feel like I really had the opportunity to immerse myself in Peruvian life and to help out in a small way. I am so grateful to the IVHQ team for making my adventure possible and giving the the most rewarding experience of my small lifetime. I look forward to volunteering with IVHQ in the very near future.” - Genevieve Rogan (Teaching English Volunteer in Peru - Cusco)
During the weekend, volunteers have spare time to relax or take the opportunity to explore other parts of Cusco and Peru. Long weekends can be taken to travel further afield to visit destinations, such as Machu Picchu. Sunday is a religious day of rest and most stores and restaurants are closed on Sundays, as most Peruvians devote the day to spending time with their families. If you wish, you can accompany your host family to their local church, as a Latin American church service is unique and special experience for many volunteers.
See our Peru - Cusco Travel and Tours page for more volunteer travel options in Peru!
|Currency||Peruvian Nuevo Sol (PEN)|
Weather and climate: Peru, unlike other equatorial countries, does not have an exclusively tropical climate; the influence of the Andes and the Humboldt Current causes great climatic diversity within the country. In the mountainous region, rain is frequent during summer and temperatures and humidity diminish with altitude up to the frozen peaks of the Andes. The Jungle is characterized by heavy rainfall and high temperatures, with the exception of its southernmost part, which has cold winters and seasonal rainfall.
Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate, unless volunteering with a parent or guardian. All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check to IVHQ’s local team on arrival in Cusco. Additional requirements apply for Medical volunteers, please read the project description.
Free Interactive Volunteer Training - All volunteers are encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training, which is available exclusively to registered IVHQ volunteers. The training is designed to build an understanding of important aspects that need to be considered before embarking on an IVHQ program. It helps volunteers to prepare in the right way by providing advice on what it takes to be a safe, responsible and valuable volunteer. Try a sample of the training here.
Fluency in Spanish is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Peru - Cusco volunteer program, however on certain projects, such as Teaching English, Medical, and the Andean Immersion project, volunteer work will be restricted with limited language ability. We recommend that volunteers take advantage of the very affordable language lessons offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers by our local team in Cusco. Past volunteers feel that taking these lessons help immensely with day-to-day volunteer work and communicating with local people. Volunteers interested in taking Spanish lessons can arrange these directly with the local team once in Cusco. Please note that Spanish lessons are not available to volunteers on the Jungle Conservation and Andean Immersion projects.
Mini Adventure in Peru With IVHQ
Be sure to see all the sites in Peru while you are in country - the Mini Adventure combines the major hot spots of Peru into a 1-week excursion that can be added at the beginning or end of your volunteer program. You will be accompanied by a certified, bilingual tour guide for each trip, using Cusco as your home base between tours. The 6-day program compliments your volunteer experience, without the stress of trip planning. If you would like to add a Mini Adventure to your trip, you can arrange this directly with our local staff once you are registered for the program. The cost is US$795 and includes a Cusco city tour, 1-day Sacred Valley tour, Machu Picchu overnight trip with Vistadome Train, and a 2-day Lake Titicaca tour.
Volunteer Language Lessons
Fluency in Spanish is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Peru - Cusco program, however on certain projects; Medical in particular, volunteer work will be restricted with limited language ability. We recommend that volunteers take advantage of the very affordable language lessons offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers by our partner staff in Cusco. Past volunteers feel that taking these lessons help immensely with day-to-day volunteer work and communicating with local people. Volunteers interested in taking Spanish lessons can arrange these directly with the local staff once in Cusco at the program orientation. The language lessons are tailored to each volunteer’s current level of Spanish and classes run from Monday through to Friday. The cost is very affordable and offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers.
- 4-Hour Small Group Classes: US$125 per week
- 2-Hour Small Group Classes: US$65 per week
- 1-Hour Private Classes: US$65 per week