Putney Student Travel: Community Service Peru

Putney, VT

Overview

Immerse yourself in village life in Peru’s Sacred Valley on this community service program. High school students complete meaningful volunteer projects, experience the colorful and rich culture of the descendants of the Incas, and visit some of the most iconic sites of the Inca empire, including Machu Picchu.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Volunteer with local workers to improve the local community center or school.
  • Practice Spanish as you play fútbol with Peruvian friends.
  • Hike ancient Inca trails through the mountains to remote Andean villages.
  • Sample regional specialties at one of Cusco’s many open-air markets.
  • Ascend to the mysterious mountaintop citadel of Machu Picchu.

OVERVIEW

Village Life and Service

Fly to Lima and head to Pisac, a town in Peru’s Sacred Valley, nestled into the towering South American Andes. Spend a day adapting to the altitude (about 9,000 feet) and joining in a detailed orientation to Peru and to the high school community service program. Go whitewater rafting on the Urubamba River to get to know your group, leaders, and the Sacred Valley itself. Explore the imposing Pisac ruins to familiarize yourself with the Incas, a people whose influence is still woven into the fabric of modern Peru, and visit Pisac’s renowned artisanal market for a taste of local life.

After an orientation in Pisac, we travel to our host village in a more remote part of the Sacred Valley, where we complete meaningful community service while getting to know the people, history, and culture of Peru. In close partnership with local community organizations, we join in  construction and teaching projects alongside our local friends.  Specific volunteer projects are decided in the spring based on community need; in the past they have included building a classroom, painting a mural, constructing a community center, and creating and teaching language lessons for young students.  In the afternoons after the work day is finished, spend time playing soccer with your new friends, hike remnants of ancient Inca footpaths into the surrounding mountains, or relax and play music with your Peruvian peers.  Students enrolled in Putney’s 24-day Peru program can expect to complete between 50 and 70 hours of community service work. Students enrolled in Putney’s 17-day program can expect to complete between 30 and 45 hours of community service work.

Our days are busy and full of activity. Accommodations in our host village are simple but safe and comfortable.  We live together as a group in a community building or school with separate quarters for boys and girls, and sleep on camping pads and sleeping bags. Help local cocineras shop for ingredients and prepare traditional Peruvian fare, as well as more familiar favorites.

On weekend excursions, trek to dramatic high mountain passes, hot springs, or an Inca quarry used as a burial ground. Explore the cobblestoned lanes and working aqueducts of Ollantaytambo, a picturesque town that has been occupied continuously since the time of the Inca.  Mountain bike to Salineras—Inca salt mines—and visit the world-famous Inca agricultural terraces at Moray. Try your hand at the ancient practice of weaving during a workshop in Chinchero.

Independent Projects

In addition to group volunteer projects, you also complete an independent project based on your own interests: create a Quechua phrasebook, practice weaving, photograph local children and display their portraits at the school, volunteer at the village clinic, learn to cook a traditional meal, organize a sports game for local kids, or spend a day herding llamas with a local shepherd.

Final Adventure

This community service program culminates when you travel by train deep into the Andes to explore the most famous archaeological site in the Americas—the mysterious mountaintop Inca stronghold of Machu Picchu. Take a guided tour for an insider’s understanding of this iconic wonder, and hike a nearby peak to gain a different vantage point. Spend a final weekend in Cusco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the historic capital of the Inca Empire. Explore the ruins of the sacred temple, Coricancha, and the terraced fortress of Sacsayhuamán, the site of one of the most important battles of the Spanish conquest.  Have a farewell dinner in Cusco with your group as you reflect on your experience before returning home.

Accommodations

Group accommodations are carefully selected by Putney Student Travel to emphasize convenience, a positive group environment, and wholesome interaction with local people and fellow travelers. Our living accommodations in Peru are very simple. We sleep in a community center in sleeping bags and on sleeping pads on floors lined with llama hides for warmth, with girls and boys in separate rooms. There are bathrooms in an adjacent room. The leaders reside together with the students. While we have access to electricity, it can be sporadic. During the weekend excursions, we stay in family-run hostels and inns.

Physical Challenge Level

Our programs are physically active. Days are filled with movement — playing with local children, working on a construction service project, helping to plant or harvest local food, or going on a hike. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities.

A Typical Day

7 a.m. — Breakfast
8 a.m.–12 p.m. — Community Service Work
12 p.m.–2 p.m. — Lunch and Rest
2 p.m.–4 p.m. — Community Service Work
4 p.m.–6 p.m. — Help prepare dinner, play soccer, relax
6 p.m. — Dinner
8 p.m. — Group Meeting and/or group activity

During the week, we wake up around 6:30-7am, eat breakfast together as a group, and then head to the work site from 8am-12pm. Work may include mixing or laying adobe bricks for construction, painting, participating in a local harvest, or teaching local kids. We’ll break for lunch and rest time, then return to work for a few hours in the afternoon. After work, relax, play soccer with local friends, help cook dinner, or spend time documenting your village experience through writing, photography or film. After a group dinner together, participate in a meeting to discuss the day, plan for upcoming excursions, or simply play a game together. Weekends are a time to explore. Hike to a nearby peak, ride bikes through the famed salt mines of Salineras, raft down the Urubamba River, ride horseback with local guides, or explore the cobblestoned beauty of Ollantaytambo, a quintessential Incan town renowned for its artisans’ workshops and towering ruins just behind the central square.

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