Community Partner since 2004.

Hands on help

Volunteering gives you the chance to be a part of something bigger than yourself, find purpose, and use your civic responsibility for the greater good. On a Global Volunteers service program, you can provide hands on help to communities in need around the world. Without the help of volunteers, our partner communities would struggle to meet their basic needs. As a Global Volunteer, you won’t just be a bystander watching how local people are working for their communities – you’ll be an important part of that local development process. You’ll be right in there, working alongside local people who seek to better their community.

“I love rubbing elbows with young people of other cultures.”
– Dr. Bill Chase, 5-time Global Volunteer 

We have all kinds of projects around the world and so surely there is one that is the perfect match for your skills and interests. Join us. Take the leap to get your hands dirty, make a difference, learn about yourself and another culture, and help a community in need.

Here are the top 5 ways you can provide hands on help:

Top 5 Projects Providing Hands On Help


1) Paint and Repair Buildings

If you can wield a paintbrush or pound a hammer, we need your skills. Help preserve and maintain community facilities by renovating, repairing, and painting classrooms, community centers, health clinics, and childcare facilities. Brighten the lives of children by providing nicer facilities with a fresh coat of paint. Help with plumbing, electrical, and carpentry assistance. Teach young people to develop their trade skills. If you have experience in any of these areas, you can be of tremendous assistance in many communities.

Cook Islands | Cuba | Ecuador | Greece | Peru | Romania | St. Lucia | Tanzania | U.S.A. – Montana | U.S.A. – West Virginia

Hands on help

Volunteers Sue and Fran paint a mural in the Cook Islands

2) Tutoring and Classroom Teaching

Is math, chemistry, physics, geography, or biology among your passions? Tutor children at the primary or secondary school level. Work one-on-one and in small groups with students of all ages. In some communities, you will assist teachers and in others, you will plan your own lessons and activities. This may be the most fun you’ve ever had!

Cook IslandsPeru | St. Lucia | Tanzania

Hands on help

Volunteer Don tutors students in Peru

3) Gardening

Do you have a green thumb? Help establish, plant, weed, and harvest household, school, and community gardens. Help community leaders, students, and parents raise bountiful crops of fruits and vegetables.

CubaPeru | Tanzania

Hands on help

Student volunteers gardening alongside Cubans

“This has reminded me how good it feels to connect with others and how rewarding it is to give to others.”
– Melissa Ferrell, attorney and mother who volunteered with two of her sons in Ecuador

4) Parent Workshops

If you have a background in healthcare, food, nutrition, education, or business, we need your skills in Tanzania where volunteer professionals conduct interactive workshops with pregnant women and parents. Parents thirst for knowledge and want the appropriate technology so they can ensure the health and well-being of their children. You can present on a variety of topics, such as staying healthy during pregnancy; caring for newborns; healthy diets; child brain development; growing fruits and vegetables; raising poultry; preparing nutritious meals; positive discipline; psychosocial support; stress management; disease prevention ;and using games and toys to stimulate babies’ physical, social, cognitive, and emotional development. In coordination with our staff and Reaching Children’s Advisory Committee Chair, you select your topic. Our Tanzania staff will translate your presentation. Use your expertise to give hands on help in Tanzania!


Hands on help

Volunteer Ruth giving a presentation to Tanzanian women

5) Childcare

Offer the “extra” attention at-risk kids crave and deserve, while also mentoring them in social skills and hygiene. Stimulate their young minds and bodies. Work with children 1 to 5 years of age through co-creating arts and crafts, playing with toys, reading storybooks, teaching hand washing with soap and water, and more.

“I feel extremely fortunate to have spent the last week in Calderón with everyone at the daycare center. Although we did accomplish a lot in terms of SMART goals, it just doesn’t seem right to call it ‘work’. It truly is an opportunity.”
– John Fiegel, Cook Islands and Ecuador volunteer

Cook Islands | EcuadorPeruSt. Lucia | Tanzania

Hands on help

Volunteer John, Teacher Karina, and children giving thanks for their lunch in Ecuador


“I wish every American could do a Global Volunteers adventure. To get “into the trenches” in another culture is deeply humbling.”
– Suzanne Cochran, Ecuador volunteer


Be the change you wish to see in the world by providing real hands on help, as requested by communities around the world. Work under local leaders’ direction to improve their communities, and be a positive force for change. You can do this! 

Hands on help

Teachers Jorge and Karen with volunteers Lena, Jen, and Justin in Costa Rica

Chat online with a Volunteer Coordinator about which of our programs best suits your skills and interests. Chat online about volunteering abroad

new volunteer opportunity for families

As we shared before, Global Volunteers has recently been invited by the Municipality of Miraflores to partner with them in various human development projects. We asked the Miller family about their experience to learn about this new volunteer opportunity for families.

What led you to join in this new volunteer opportunity for families?

Irene: I wanted to do a family volunteer trip. I started to research and narrowed it down to several organizations. But I found I could relate to Global Volunteers’ focus on the children. I thought we could relate to that as a family; that’s why I chose Global Volunteers.

Hannah: I think that this is the best way to volunteer and travel. When you volunteer while you travel you get to know the community, actually. When you volunteer you really see the community and learn the culture.

“I wanted to take a vacation that was meaningful. I wanted to learn about another culture. I found I could relate to Global Volunteers’ focus on the children.” Irene.

new volunteer opportunity for families

The Miller family with the rest of the volunteer team in Barranco, Peru.

What projects have you been working on?

Irene: We’ve been working on a variety of projects according to our skills. My husband has a painting company, so he is working on maintenance projects, painting and repair projects in the community center.

I’ve been working with the elementary school children teaching them conversational English through games, books and other activities. My youngest daughter, Grace, is 11, and she’s been working alongside me in the classroom.

Hannah: I was working in the classrooms in the mornings. We have small groups of 5 or 6 kids, and we do basic games, like bingo or word games, where we teach the children basic English. One day I also worked in the library, organizing books by genre.

Irene: The work changes based on the needs of the community, for instance if a teacher is absent we go and help.

new volunteer opportunity for families

Irene in a class teaching conversational English at the community center in Miraflores.

How do you think this is helping the community?

Irene: We bring a different culture to them; they have the chance to learn another culture. They are learning another language. Right now, we are working at the community center, we are helping repair and fix the community center. This sends a message of worldwide peace. It’s important for them viewing us coming here.

Hannah: It’s important that they see that people care about them and want to help.

Irene: The children don’t have much. But they have a lot of love to give. We’ve experience that. We are leaving and the one girl is crying.

new volunteer opportunity for families

Students and families bring food for the volunteers to thank them for their service.


“There is this one boy, Adrian. He has down syndrome. I only saw him the first day for about an hour and a half. He said he was cold, so I gave him my jacket. And then on the last day he just comes running up to me and says: ‘Bye! Adios! Adios!'” Hannah.

new volunteer opportunity for families

Grace and Hannah with one fo the boys at the elementary school.

Irene: The community organized a welfare party. There were about 300 kids. And they said bye, we love you. It was very moving. I think we showed we cared about them, that they mean something to us. I think that as much as they got something out of this, we got something out of it as well. Besides, it’s a good bonding experience for our family. We also got to make new friends. And our team leader, Maru, was excellent.

“As much as they got something out of this, we got something out of it as well. Besides, it’s a good bonding experience for our family.” Irene.

Check out the whole interview:

Peru Volunteer and Travel

Lima, Peru – a South American city with both an ancient and contemporary vibe  – has been our partner community in Peru since 2004. This is a great opportunity for Peru volunteer travel.  Miraflores, one of the most beautiful and tourist-friendly districts in Lima is our “home.”  This area combines both a variety of meaningful service opportunities and significant points of archeological interest – all within a short taxi ride. Volunteers express great satisfaction with the option to balance their service program with both daytime volunteer projects and after-work and weekend exploration.  Learn more about both here!

What’s New in Peru?

The Miraflores Human Development Department is our newest partner for community projects. We began teaching English to public school students – largely children of maids and day laborers – in the summer of 2017. At the same time, we initiated adult conversational English at the Miraflores Community Center. This greatly broadens our service “footprint” in the area, enabling us to broadly serve families of greatest need.  Mary Ann, a summer volunteer, shares her experience with this new program:

One Volunteer Voice

“I have been traveling a lot, always as a tourist,” Mary Ann says.  “And I’ve noticed on my last couple of trips that they felt very Americanized. I just wanted to get into the heart of some place. So I started investigating a volunteer vacation. Global Volunteers had the best online reviews.  Peru felt like the best fit.”

 “My trips felt very Americanized… And I wanted to expand. I just wanted to get into the heart of some place.”

New volunteer project in Peru

Brian, Mary Ann’s son, teaching English to staff from the Municipality of Miraflores.

“In the mornings, we taught at the ‘Manuel Bonilla’ elementary school. We worked with groups of children, mostly fifth graders and sixth graders. Some speak no English at all, others speak a little. Their English is limited, but we help them figure it out.”

“They’re amazing kids. We played games, sang songs. My favorite: We made books. They made their own little English books, which they’re very proud of, and I’m very proud of too.”

“In the afternoons, we presented English lessons for all ages at the Community Center. They all want to learn English and came in eagerly.  We also started some projects in the workshops. I actually got to help in the bakery -it was fabulous.

Check out the full interview with Mary Ann:

New volunteer project in Peru

Joni, Peru Volunteer, working with children at the kindergarten in the community center.

What’s Old in Peru?

A major advantage of Peru volunteer and travel opportunities is exploring the cultural and historical attractions in free time. Peru’s archeological wonders start right in Miraflores!  We know you’ll be interested in exploring these intriguing sites during at the end of your workday on a service program.

For instance, the 1,500-year-old Huaca Pucllana archaeological complex is a fascinating site within our home base of Miraflores. And, just a “stone’s throw” away – 19 miles (45 minutes by car) from Lima on the Pan-American Highway South – is Pachacámac, the most important pre-Inca ceremonial center on the Peruvian coast.  Others are also within an easy distance. Enjoy these attractions after a day of fulfilling work with children and students — and explore intriguing art and cultural sites on the weekend.

Of course, the Nazca Lines are one of the primary weekend excursions, and Machu Picchu draws volunteers at the end of the program.  You won’t be disappointed in Peru’s many archeological wonders –  one of the immense benefits of serving with Global Volunteers.

no downside to volunteering as a family

The Grossman family just served abroad for the first time. They had a great time and were able to make a difference for many neglected children in Peru. Their experience shows that there is no downside to volunteering as a family. 

Liza is 12, but she has already traveled outside the U.S. as a volunteer. She served at PPA, a children’s home in Peru, taking care of many toddlers and playing with children of all ages. After a week of service she concludes:

“There is just no downside to coming!”

no downside to volunteering as a family

Liza and Aaron playing jenga with two girls in Peru.

Ben is 14, and he has already peeled more garlic than most of us in our entire lives. That surely doesn’t sound appealing, but it is actually a great virtue. Ben came to volunteer and serve to improve the lives of hundreds of orphan or neglected children, some his age or even older. When there was a need for help at the kitchen, he went for it. He could have refused once he found out what was his task, bu he didn’t. It definitely wasn’t an easy or comfortable task, but he did his best with a great attitude because he wasn’t thinking about himself. He was thinking about the children he had seen and played with. Its’ called being selfless, and it’s something to admire.

no downside to volunteering as a family

Ben peeling garlic for children’s meals at the PPA kitchen.

We don’t need to know Melissa’s or Aaron’s age. But we can congratulate them for teaching their children such priceless and unforgettable lessons. We can also thank them for the love and kindness they showed to the children in Peru. Thanks to them, the children from PPA now know how to play twister. I know, it’s a silly game. But that’s not the point.

Aaron and Melissa left the comfort of their home and traveled just to be with these children. They took the time to play with them, look them in the eyes, speak to them (language doesn’t matter here), and explain the game to them. No one had done that before. These children seldom get that kind of attention. And the children knew Aaron and Melissa were there for them. They noticed. And they might forget the game, but they will never forget that these two people cared for them.

no downside to volunteering as a family

Melissa and Aaron teaching children how to play twister.


Check out their interview at PPA:

volunteer experience for students

Global Volunteers’ service-learning program in Lima, Peru offers an incredible volunteer experience for students. Peru Country Manager Daniel Salazar reflects on the service of a recent group of student volunteers from St. John Fisher College. It was a wonderful life experience for both the students and the children they served.

A few days ago we received the visit of a group of students from St. John Fisher College. As a group of pharmacy and nursing students, they came to use their skills and knowledge to teach a series of workshops to both children and staff at PPA, a children´s home in Lima. It was great experience for everyone. The local doctor and the aides were glad to work improving their skills to have a safer environment for the children. The children loved the students because they came, because they were there to teach them, and above all, because they were there to just be with them and play with them.

volunteer experience for students

Volunteers playing with girls at PPA in Peru.

volunteer experience for students

Volunteers teaching children how to properly wash their hands.

True, no size of group can adequately handle the energy and curiosity of the children at PPA. No school or science can prepare you to deal with the antics of these children. But it is also true that you don’t quite understand how much these children crave for someone to pay attention to them until you come and see their faces when they realize you came just to be with them.

We tried to tell the students how good the food was, how beautiful the Malecon right behind the hotel was, and how majestic Machu Picchu was. But they didn’t quite get it, until they were there. And of course, we told them how cute the children were, but we failed again. Probably our biggest failure was trying to explain how meaningful the relationships they would form with the children would be. There again, like every volunteer or group of volunteers that has come to serve, the one thing they take with them in their hearts and never forget is the friendship they make with these children. Once more, a group of volunteers came to serve, but they got way more back in return. They not only applied what they had learned in school, to the benefit of the children, but also left having learned more about humanity.

volunteer experience for students

Volunteers with one of the aides and the children after teaching a hand-washing workshop.

Maru and I, the Peru Country Managers, will miss them. The children will never forget them. And we hope they return and that more groups like them can come, serve and experience what this group just experienced.

This is them:

Service Vacations with Global Volunteers

Here’s one couple’s story of how they fell in love on one of their service vacations with Global Volunteers – and not fell in love with each other, but instead with three little Peruvian sisters. Told by Jim, two-time Global Volunteer.

Let me be honest. When my wife Connie and I decided to visit Peru, my goal was adventure — not falling in love.

In the summer of 2016, we signed up with Global Volunteers, a Minnesota nonprofit organization, to do volunteer work in Peru in March 2017. We would help out at an orphanage in Lima, the nation’s capital. And then we would hike in the Andes. I’ve been interested in going to Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas, for more than 30 years. It’s been on my bucket list and now that I’m retired, I’m trying to fulfill as many of these life goals as possible.

Connie and I enjoy going on “service vacations.” In 2014, I flew to Nepal to help build two houses in the Himalayas as part of a Habitat for Humanity team. In 2015, Connie and I helped build a house together in Argentina as part of another Habitat team. And last year, we taught English and worked on other projects in Cuba with Global Volunteers.

We feel good about these efforts because we are using our time and energy to work on worthwhile humanitarian projects while also getting to know the countries in which we are serving. I’m convinced that we learn far more about the people of other nations by working shoulder to shoulder with them. It’s never been important to me to stay at luxury hotels or eat at fancy restaurants.

Service Vacations in Peru

Connie and Jim (center) with another volunteer and the owner of Marbella Cafe where volunteers often eat lunch

Which brings me to our most recent trip to Peru. We volunteered at the PPA, a large sprawling state orphanage overlooking the Pacific Ocean. More than 250 children ranging from infants to 17-year-olds live there. Connie and I were assigned to work with three sisters who had only recently been sent to live there. We would participate in ”sibling playtime” with them.

When we arrived at the PPA, we were sent to meet the oldest of the three sisters we were going to work with. We walked with her to pick up her two younger sisters. Within minutes of being reunited with her siblings, the oldest sister’s demeanor changed from sadness to joy. She smiled and laughed and all three little girls hugged each other. We took them to a playground and for the next two hours, we pushed them on swings, helped them climb up play structures and ran around. We had a great time.

Service Vacations at a Peruvian Orphanage

Jim and Connie at the playground having fun with some of the children

For me, it was love at first sight. The three sisters are dark-eyed, beautiful little girls. The oldest sister, 8, is a street-smart, independent-minded girl who has never been to school. She is clever and can be rebellious. She is intensely protective of her sisters.

The middle sister, 4, is a real beauty. She is a charmer and talks in a tiny, little voice. I became her surrogate Dad, or perhaps her grandfather, and she jumped into my arms every chance that she could.

The youngest sister, 2, is a strong, feisty little girl. She loves to climb and run around. She is a natural athlete. I’m convinced that she has the ability to accomplish anything she sets out to do.

Each afternoon for the next two weeks, we assembled the three girls and played together. We chased each other, rode on the teeter totters, crayoned in coloring books, made bracelets, read, and played board games together. One afternoon, we took the girls to the Lima Zoo. They had only seen animals, such as a giraffe, lion and tiger, in picture books and on TV before going to there. The girls loved eating ice cream and frolicking on a McDonald’s-like play structure together.

Service Vacations - Volunteer with Children

Playing with one of the sisters at the PPA

In a large institution like the PPA, the children are segregated by age and sex. Brothers and sisters don’t get to play with one another whenever they want. That’s why the “sibling playtime” program run by Global Volunteers is so important.

In addition to playing with the three sisters, we also interacted with other infants and toddlers and worked with them at physical therapy sessions. A loving physical therapist, Maria, worked with them to develop their social and physical skills.

At the end of two weeks, it was hard to say goodbye to the three little sisters. They are beautiful children. We will write to them, and I hope that we might someday see them again.

Service Vacations in Lima, Peru

Connie and Jim with their Peruvian family of sisters!

I should add that Connie and I did visit Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of the Incas high up in the Andes. They were magnificent. But the highlight of our Peruvian adventure was our Global Volunteers’ visit to the PPA orphanage…

It’s where we fell in love with three little girls.

Learn more about service trips in Peru

Interested in working with children at the PPA with Global Volunteers? Visit our Peru page to learn more about service opportunities in Lima.

Learn more about Teach English Abroad Summer

Best Volunteer Programs in South America

There are many natural and cultural attractions that inspire travelers to explore South America – especially in Ecuador and Peru (Machu Picchu and the Galápagos Islands to mention a couple). However, to know a place and culture is to know her people. When you volunteer in South America, you obtain a unique perspective through the lives of the local people. Learn about the vibrant cultures, strong family traditions, and proud national identities in South America by volunteering.

In the words of alumni Global Volunteers, these are the best volunteer programs in South America…

Childcare Programs in Peru and Ecuador

Serve at Lima, Peru’s largest children’s home, Puericultorio Pérez Araníbar (PPA). Or, volunteer at and support two daycare centers for children and families living on the margins in Quito, Ecuador.

PPA – Largest Children’s Home in Lima, Peru

Thoughts from Peru Global Volunteer Carolina: On the penultimate day in Peru, it was time to reflect on our collective experience serving at PPA:

  • The warm feelings within on hearing the squeals of joy as young children ran up to hug us as we walked across the PPA campus.
  • The happy and boisterous play of the five bonded siblings as they competed with us in a lively game of Uno. They rarely see each other at PPA, but through the Siblings Project we gather them and give them the opportunity to interact with each other.
  • The illuminating but distressful information gathered on our home visits to the shantytowns where the children of PPA come from.
  • The contented feeling of knowing we made an impact, gained appreciation of the Peruvian culture, and attained our group objectives.
best volunteer programs in South America

Volunteering at PPA and offering love and attention to the children will give you more than you can imagine

(Learn more about volunteering in Peru.)

Support Daycare Centers in Quito, Ecuador

Reflections from Ecuador Global Volunteer Sarah: Serving in Ecuador was an experience unlike anything I have witnessed in my life. Although I didn’t speak the same language as the tías who care for the children, they always made every effort to make me feel important and include me in their classrooms. I’ve learned that facial expressions and hand gestures can communicate more effectively than words sometimes. I’ve learned that you don’t have to have the newest crayons or the shiniest walls or the best books to make a child feel loved and help them to begin their learning. None of the kids that I worked with come from luxurious homes, but they lack nothing in spunk, personality, and love.

The Daycare center where I served will always hold a place in my heart; one much bigger than I could have ever dreamed. I’m so thankful for the opportunities that I have had, the friendships that I have made, and the love I have received. God is so good to show me a life so beautifully and wonderfully different than the one that I have always known.

best volunteer programs in South America

Volunteers Hadley and Margaret dancing with children in Ecuador.

(Learn more about volunteering in Ecuador.)

Teaching Programs in Peru

Help university students in Lima, Peru anchor their independence through conversational English practice and lesson reviews.

La Molina Language Center – Conversational English Classes for University Students

Journal entry by Peru Global Volunteer Deb: Today was our final day at La Molina. We could not have foreseen that we would be the active learners in this ongoing exchange of respect, culture, camaraderie, and knowledge. Every day new lessons were learned – about ourselves and each other, lessons about risk-taking and vulnerability, motivation and ambition, friendship and trust, focus and determination.

If English is the language of opportunity, it has been our rare privilege to play a small supportive role in our students’ quest for graduate studies, professional employment, and success. We have been inspired by the motivation of our students; our hearts have been warmed by the graciousness of the students, staff, and faculty of La Molina.

Our departure was as warm as our reception, marked by hugs and tears. Students honored us with gifts and promises to continue our friendships via email. The director of the Language Center and his staff presented us with certificates and tokens of appreciation, and invitations to return. We left a piece of our hearts at La Molina today.

best volunteer programs in South America

Volunteer Cora teaching one of her conversational English classes at La Molina University

(Learn more about volunteering in Peru.)

Construction Programs in Peru and Ecuador

Do you like to work with your hands? Help protect and maintain school facilities in Alto Progreso, Peru by painting, repairing and reconstructing buildings. Or, assist with upgrading classrooms, building playgrounds, and painting and cleaning projects at daycare facilities in Quito, Ecuador.

Alto Progreso – Labor Projects for Groups

Reflections from Peru Global Volunteer Tehya: The streets turn from concrete to mud; the mood changes as I look around. With a heavy heart, I follow my team up the  steps while passing the plywood shacks supported by sand or old tires, to find my first ray of sunshine. It appears in the form of the community leader of Alto Progreso, Haydee. With her warm smile and contagious laugh, my heart is immediately lifted as I find myself proud to stand in their new soup kitchen, and excited to see their hand-carved soccer field.

These are proud people, as they should be for all their hard work and desire to better their community. They are excited to show us around and share their plans to better their future. I no longer see only garbage and shacks, I no longer hear only loud horns and roosters crowing, I now see potential and effort as I listen to people laughing with pride and light hearts.

As I sit here reflecting hours later, I still marvel at their soccer field, hand-carved without machines by the people of the community, every Sunday for ten years. As little as they have for any sort of materials, they make up for it with dedication, hard work, and support for their community. They do it all for their families and community. As economically impoverished as Alto Progreso is, it is rich in other ways that many from our “First World” seem to have forgotten about.

best volunteer programs in South America

Alto Progreso, the shanty town in Peru where Global Volunteers serve

(Learn more about volunteering in Peru.)

Labor Projects at Daycare Centers in Quito

Testimonial from Ecuador Global Volunteer Micah, who helped reupholster high chairs: This service trip has taught me more than I imagined it would – it was a life-changing volunteer experience. I learned how to renovate high chairs for toddlers… l learned that one of the main purposes of human life is to serve those who are different than yourself. Therefore, I am forever grateful for the experience, the team, and most importantly the children for such an incredible and enlightening experience.

Best Volunteer Programs in South America - Ecuador

Volunteer Micah helping reupholster high chairs at one of the daycare centers in Quito

(Learn more about volunteering in Ecuador.)

Request Info: Best Volunteer Programs in South America

Volunteer programs in Peru and Ecuador start year-round. Request a free e-catalog using the form below for more information about these volunteer opportunities as well as our other worldwide service programs. (The tax-deductible volunteer program fees for both Peru and Ecuador start at $2,595. Discounts are available for students, family and multi-person groups, and returning volunteers.)

Get started! Request a free e-catalog.

Request a program catalog here or by calling 800-487-1074.

Need assistance with this form?

Poverty in Lima Peru

Volunteers serving at Puericultorio  Perez Aranibar (PPA) typically accompany local partners on home visits. These journal excerpts depict such a day through the words of Global Volunteer, Mykaela.  After witnessing the areas of extreme poverty in Lima, Peru and the surrounding areas, she concluded that poverty must be the worst of all evils.  Most of the children living at PPA come from such neighborhoods.

At the PPA, Elizabeth, a PPA social worker and Mr. Luis, our driver, directed our bus out towards the shanty towns for our visit to children’s homes. As we drove further away from the Miraflores area, Lima started to change. It was like an entirely different city.

Poverty in Lima Peru

Volunteers playing soccer with the children at PPA.

When we arrived at the first neighborhood on the outskirts of the city, the first house we visited was the home of a mom who is addicted to alcohol and street drugs. She wanted her children (who are living at the PPA) returned to her. She was attending therapy with the Ministry of Women. The grandma of the kids could possibly take them. Elizabeth did not seem very hopeful about the situation.

Then we headed to the second home. We ended up at a true Peruvian market. One of the vendors in the market was the grandma of the second family of children.  She wanted the kids back, but it would be hard for her to support them. The mother of the children was a drug addict and did not want her children back.  The grandma was happy to show us her fruit stand and take pictures with us. The market was filled with real Peruvian music and freshly slaughtered chickens. The conditions were quite shocking for many members of the group.

The third stop was at a small, tidy home. The father had a new partner and hoped (the government) would return his children to him. There was a chance he could get his children back and he seemed ready to do so.

At that point, it was late in the day so we ate a very late lunch. The poverty in Lima, Peru gave us a lot to reflect on.  For many of us, the day of home visits was life changing.

I believe poverty must be the worst of all evils, because seeds of all other evils seem to thrive in the presence of poverty.

Our first week in Peru truly impacted each one of us. Learn how to gain a first-hand perspective of these lessons as a volunteer in Peru with Global Volunteers.

Poverty in Lima Peru

Children gaze out from a shanty town in Lima.  The soccer field where they stand took 14 years to build by hand.

Cooking with Stones and Burying Your Food

Last weekend I went to the Andes region in Peru, to the city of Huancayo. There I encountered many customs that you might have never heard of and you might find interesting. I will share them with you in a few blog-posts. First of all, allow me to share the custom that brings the sweetest memories: Pachamanca. Pachawhat? The word is even foreign to me, as it isn’t Spanish. But Pachamanca is, in short, what the title of this blog-post says: cooking with stones and burying your food.

Pachamanca is a Quechua word literally meaning “Earth-pot” (pacha “earth” and manka “pot”). That is, Pachamanca is a dish cooked using hot stones and then buried under grass and dirt. Sounds yummy? Well, it actually is amazingly yummy. See, the stones are heated over a fire, and just like charcoal  give a nice different taste to your meat in a barbecue, so do the stones. Then there is the meat itself, which is fresh and as organic as you can possibly have it. It comes in the usual choices of lamb, pork, chicken, or guinea pig. The meet is beautifully seasoned and usually accompanied by sweet potato, potato,  lima beans, corn, tamale and humita.

If you still have doubts about how good this dish is, let’s just say it’s a classic in Andean cuisine. It’s been going on for about five thousand years, even much before than the Incas were around. So it’s safe to say that Pachamanca has stood the taste of time, and it’s becoming ever more popular. Though not as easily available in Lima due to the difficulties in its preparation, you can still find Pachamanca in many restaurants in Lima. While you are serving in one of our service programs in Lima, we recommend that you try cooking with stones and burying your food, or just have Pachamanca once it’s ready. Either way I guarantee you won’t regret it!

Cooking with Stones and Burying Your Food

Women in Huancayo preparing Pachamanca.

Cooking with Stones and Burying Your Food

The Pachamanca dish I tried in Huancayo. Sooo good!

family volunteering in Peru

Summer Family Volunteering in Peru – Sydney Hill and her new friends in Alto Progreso.

The teens shared an interest in soccer.  The children welcomed hugs and games just as kids everywhere do.  Neighbors worked together to build a stairway for safety and access on the steep cliff. At the conclusion of their two-week project, they felt they shared important, life-enhancing experiences together.

“Everyone really wanted to go. We were all super excited, ” said 14-year-old Beau.

But, these “neighbors” live nearly 3, 000 miles away, and traveled more than 10 hours to lend a hand to families in Alto Progreso, Peru.

family volunteering program

Jennifer, Sydney and Ryan play with toddlers.

 True Service was Goal for Hill Family Volunteering Program 

Jennifer and Ryan Hill of East Lake Woodlands, FL and their daughter Sydney and son Beau had one singular request for their family volunteer vacation:  “We want to help where we’re needed most.” 

They decided Alto Progreso, Peru was the place where each family member could offer the greatest contribution.  Planted on a desolate and dusty mountainside, this community is cut off from running water, public transportation and the public education system.  Helping improve life here, the Hills reasoned, would be highly meaningful.

Early in the service program, they met Haydee Mendoza, community leader and mother.  “Haydee beamed at the roads being built, walls, stairs and the like.  She shared stories of success and failures over her time as president of the community association, ” Jennifer said.  The differences between Haydee’s neighborhood of Alto Progreso and the Hill’s in Florida was staggering.  But the family appreciated the warm welcome of the local people, and the pride they felt about the modest upgrades the community recently made.

“Haydee took us to the hidden gem – the childcare facility run by her sister. This building used to be the community center, but was now helping single mothers by giving free childcare so they could work.” Jennifer and Sydney played with the babies in the bright, colorful playroom while husband Ryan “entertained everyone endlessly” while cheerful music played.  ”The children showed every toy to us.”

family volunteering to build stairs

Jennifer, Ryan and Beau help build stairs.

For two weeks, the family worked hand-in-hand with Alto Progreso residents – painting the inside and outside of the new community center, carrying cement bags, building forms, and helping construct a new set of stairs.  It was obvious the work they did was greatly needed and appreciated… even by the volunteers.  Beau, the youngest Hill family member, regarded the stairs project as a work-out to strengthen his lower body.  “Beau was able to feel like he could trust his legs to do more hard labor tasks, ” Jennifer reported.

He also said he was grateful to have time to spend with the local kids to get to know them as he worked.  Most important, they learned they “were able to complete a difficult task and keep doing more.”

Summer family volunteering

Jennifer plays Uno with girls at the PPA.

 They Also Helped Out Together at Lima’s Largest Orphanage

Part of the time, the family volunteered together at the Puericultorio  Perez Aranibar (PPA), a large orphanage inside Lima.  Teaching the teens conversational English and playing games with the younger children, Beau and 17-year-old Sydney felt they developed a genuine understanding of the local people’s lives.  “On the outside their lives and towns look depressing to live in, but once you get to know the people of the community, they’re almost just like yourself, ” said Sydney.  “You learn that not everything in life is a choice.”

Beau added:  “I’d say that helping makes you feel good, and seeing a different way of life really opens up new perspectives.”

family volunteering with children in Peru

Sydney spends quality time on the playground.

Jennifer recalled the last day of volunteering.  “Back to the community center, it was more full than I had ever seen it.  Many children were finishing their lunch.  Syd’s usual crowd of young girls showered her with love as we colored.  We played active games – roja luz y verde luz, agua y cemento and pato, pato, ganzo.   Ryan did all of the painting he could to finish the exterior. ”

“When it was time to leave, Ximena cried, telling Sydney good-bye, clinging to her and sobbing.  Syd walked her part-way home to help her cheer up.”

What did they hope to gain as a family volunteering in Peru?  Jennifer stated simply:  “In addition to helping a community, Ryan and I wanted to teach the family about the importance of being humble and having a giving spirit – to appreciate and respect how other people live and work.”

Smiling, she concluded Global Volunteers in Peru is an ideal volunteer opportunity for families.  “Go! Your family will be better because of it, ” she said.

“I honestly felt sad to leave, and could not believe we were not coming back again anytime soon.  I’m a jumble of emotions, and will selfishly keep the rest of my thoughts to myself.  In my heart, I hope this is buenos noches and not adios for the Hill Family in Alto Progresso.”  – Jennifer’s entry in the volunteers’ team journal

Learn how to volunteer abroad with your family!

Visit our Volunteer as a Family page to learn more about family volunteering opportunities worldwide, or request our family volunteering tip sheet with the form below.

Send me a family volunteering tip sheet.


Request a program catalog here or by calling 800-487-1074.

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