Free (or Cheap) Volunteer Work in Peru
More people visit Machu Picchu than anywhere else on the continent, some of which want to stay longer in Peru. We certainly did, stopping still, renting an apartment, and getting a volunteer job in Cusco just nine days into our around the world trip in 2002.
Grassroots Volunteering in Peru
The organisations listed below have either got in touch with us to add their details to this or another of our websites, or we otherwise have reason to believe they are actively looking for international volunteers and charge reasonable or no fees to join in, live and work with them:
A wildlife rescue and rainforest conservation project in the Amazon basin of Peru, Esperanza Verde’s aim is to work closely with the local community to offer alternative sources of income so that the forest can be managed in a sustainable way. The project currently owns 140 hectares of rainforest and needs volunteers to help with ongoing construction, build enclosures and the quarantine and veterinary clinic. In addition you can help with mapping the area, and participating in our reforestation project by replanting, among other things, fruit trees that originate from the area. Caretaking of the animals is one of the most important daily tasks, making sure that they are all kept fed, the enclosures clean and healthy. An intermediate knowledge of Spanish is handy but not a requirement. Minimum stay is eight weeks.
Where: Near the town of Curimana.
Accommodation & Costs: Their volunteer house accommodates up to 12 volunteers, with shared rooms of 2 to 3 persons per room, for around £80 per week including food.
Centro Educativo Las Hormiguitas
Las Hormiguitas is a small, non profit NGO dedicated to enriching the lives of local children, aged between seven and 14, by offering a range of activities, including arts and crafts, chess and other board games, educational reinforcement, football, and environmental education. There is a lot to be done and, besides occasional help from the children’s parents, and volunteers from another organisation, it’s just the project coordinator, so any help and ideas for improving and expanding the project you are willing to give is more than welcome.
Ideally, they’d like to have more educators to support the classes and activities; an administrator and/or coordinator; and eventually builders and handy people to construct a permanent home if ever they find a suitable bit of land. Help is needed all year, but particularly in January and February when the kids are off school..
Where: Sauce, San Martín.
Accommodation & Costs: For the time being volunteers will have to find their own accommodation but they hope this will change soon. Expect to pay £6 a day / £100 a month for a simple room with access to a kitchen and a bathroom. There is not a fee to volunteer though donations, monetary or otherwise, are more than welcome.
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VolunTeach Peru’s volunteer requirements revolve, as their name would suggest, around teaching. They have two programmes of interest. The first is a paid teaching assistantship that does not incur any programme fees but candidates must commit to at least six months (though four months might be possible), and up to nine. Applicants are paid $500 per month and should be a native level English speaking university graduate or undergraduate. Teaching experience is an advantage. A second programme, Teaching Assistant Experience, is available to university undergraduates or recent graduates, aged 18 to 24. This comes with a one off fee but includes accommodation.
Where: Lima, Cajamarca, Huaraz, Piura, Arequipa, Chiclayo, Trujillo and Iquitos.
Accommodation & Costs: Accommodation advice is offered for the paid programme. Food and accommodation are provided with Peruvian host families for those on the fee based Teaching Assistant Experience. Fees are around £170 to £430 per month depending on programme duration.
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AYNI focuses its initiatives in two major areas, sustainable development and education. The organisation works together with the community of Alto de los More to alleviate or address some of the major barriers of living in extreme poverty. What started out as an individual attempt at impacting positive change in one part of the planet, quickly turned into a grassroots group of dedicated volunteers from around the Globe. Margie Orsi, AYNI’s founder intended to stay only six months but 14 years later she is continuing to work in this small isolated rural village of indigenous Peruvians, with a network of ambitious volunteers, a handful of donators, and a lot of sacrifice. Volunteers take on many roles with Ayni, including teacher, social worker, community developer. The school semesters in Peru run from April to July and from August to December and it is prefered volunteers stay for at least a full semester, or a minimum of three months if this is not possible. Volunteers should have functional Spanish before they arrive.
Where: Piura, Nothern Peru.
Accommodation & Costs: Volunteers should be self funding and Ayni will help volunteers find accommodation locally. Volunteers are also expected to pay a $200 deposit, $100 of which is returned after volunteering.
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HOOP (Helping Overcome Obstacles Peru)
Volunteers and interns working with HOOP help to provide free English teaching and other educational support, plus a range of programmes in social work, health, finance and business, to disadvantaged children and their families. Volunteers focus on the day to day progress of individual children and mothers, providing English classes and other community development workshops.
HOOP interns focus on the larger picture, working alongside office staff to sustain and grow HOOP and are a chance to grow your professional skills and gain valuable insight into the non profit sector. Volunteers must be fluent in English. Basic or intermediate Spanish is preferred, but a willingness to learn is also acceptable. Experience working with children and experience living or working abroad is also preferred.
Accommodation & Costs: Both interns and volunteers pay a one off admin fee of $250 and are responsible for their own costs incurred including accommodation and food.
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Peru Luz de Esperanza
A family in the Andes invites volunteers to live with them, to practice their Spanish and learn Peruvian customs and traditions. Most of the work involves teaching, but they also have a good amount of community engagement, construction and development projects. Knowing at least the basics of Spanish will make your stay easier and more rewarding but is not a necessity. Minimum stay one week.
Where: Chupaca, Junin.
Accommodation & Costs: They told us home stay accommodation and meals is $150. We presume this is per week, in which case they get the benefit of the doubt for being added here as they said it is possible to arrange your own accommodation. However, we suspect for many people staying with the family may be a high point of your travels.
Hostel Work Exchanges
Many hostels use help exchange networks (see below) to find volunteer staff but the following either advertise on their websites or are particularly noted for taking on volunteers:
The Irish branded party hostel chain accepts volunteers in their hostels in Peru, in Arequipa, Cusco, Huacachina and Mancora.
If you are fluent in English and know some Spanish, Intro say they always have some open positions for fellow travellers in Cusco. The same people have another hostel in Lima.
More Hostel Work Exchanges
Hangout for free – behind the bar or reception – in exchange for investing a little elbow grease into Pariwana, in Cusco, who are constantly looking for enthusiastic and outgoing individuals. They have another hostel in Lima.
A while ago, someone from Hostal California Mollendo got in touch with the words “teach English, cleaner rooms, front desk” and not much else. They also posted the following comment to a post we wrote on hostel work exchanges on another website of ours: “Hello, we are hostal california mollendo in South Coast of Perú we nedd volunteers to teach English 4 hours for day 5 days in a week free weekend we offer acomodation free please send CV to firstname.lastname@example.org.” They still seem to be around and perhaps worth hitting up for a work exchange.
The same might still be true for travellers visiting Lobitos, though it is some years since we’ve seen references to volunteering in the surf hostel La Casona. It was possible to stay here working for accommodation and a meal, either in the bar or restaurant or helping to repair and decorate the house. Creative and innovative ideas were welcomed too.
Other Opportunities to Volunteer in Peru
It was quite some time ago when a former project manager and volunteer coordinator got in touch with us to petition for the inclusion on this site for Kiya Survivors, a UK based charity who operate projects in Cusco, in nearby Urubamba, and in the north of the country, to make a positive difference to the lives of disadvantaged children, young people and their families. They’ve been around for a while and one of the editors of this site has a vague memory of visiting them in 2002 while updating the file on local volunteer projects for the now defunct South American Explorers. More information can be found in their brochure, including on fees, which range from £90 to £150, depending on the location and duration of your stay. This covers accommodation with a local family.
The same person had also volunteered from time to time with Aldea Yanapay and said they will speak to Yuri, who runs the project. We didn’t hear back from Yuri but he has two schools, one in Cusco and one in the Sacred Valley. There is no fee to help out here. We didn’t hear from Dana, of Threads of Peru, either but a look a their blog reveals they have some fascinating volunteer vacancies going from time to time.
Help Exchange Networks in Peru
Volunteer Latin America – https://www.volunteerlatinamerica.com/volunteer-abroad/peru
Workaway – https://www.workaway.info/hostlist-PE.html
Hovos – https://www.hovos.com/host/South-America/Peru/
Other Ways to Travel or Stay for Free in Peru
Stay for free in return for caring for local residents’ homes or pets. Join Trusted Housesitters to live rent free as a house sitter (Americans may prefer this link). You can also get a free $25 Airbnb credit from us here.
Volunteering at Quellomayo – Lucy Graham dropped in on an Anglo-Peruvian family living near Machu Picchu to help on their farm.
Volunteering at an Animal Orphanage in Iquitos, Peru: Saving the Red Faced Uakari – Corey Callahan pushes his body on 30km treks through the Amazon to help a fellow primate.
Life as a Volunteer in Peru – A sneak peek into Eartha’s life teaching English to kids and adults in Huaycan.
* not all these volunteer experiences are with grassroots NGOs or low cost organisations
Image courtesy Esperanza Verde