Both a beautiful and lively city, it is well worth spending more than just a few days in Cusco. Though they exist to help the poor and vulnerable of the city, the numerous NGOs in Cusco can also help to provide a niche to travellers looking to stay longer in the former capital of the lost Incan Empire.
Even a casual visitor spending only a few days in the city before and after engaging the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is likely to notice the street kids that ply their trade in and around the Plaza de Armas. Most NGOs in the area are involved with helping these children and other disadvantaged groups such as adolescent mothers and other disadvantaged women and are often creative in their methods to help Cusco’s disenfranchised citizens.
Volunteers can play a part in helping to train disadvantaged people in Cusco to provide Spanish or salsa lessons and homestays. People with marketing or tourism skills are always needed while other skills, such as social care or computing, are occasionally sought. They also invite anyone with ideas for helping out to get in touch.
The lairy text makes the website a bit hard to read in places but stick with it as Aldea Yanapay’s mission to help Cusco’s many street children is a worthy one. The school and cultural centre is part funded by a restaurant and hostel and volunteers can help out with a little of everything from teaching to sweeping.
Mantay helps young mothers with childcare, accommodation and other needed services. There is only a small amount of information for volunteers on their cute website but in between humming the jaunty little background tune it is possible to learn that volunteers are welcome to help with caring for the children, cleaning the house, cooking and maintaining a leatherworks programme.
Volunteers with basic Spanish and able to make a small donation are invited to help out daily at a community centre attended by up to 80 local children. Volunteers are expected to stay for one to three months. AMAS has no costs with regard to administration, advertising etc and all their work is undertaken by volunteers.
Though the hostel is up for sale and it is unclear if volunteers will continue to be needed in the future, for now a free bed, food and a discount on booze are offered to volunteer workers.
South American Explorers
SAE have several clubhouses in South America, including Cusco, from where they offer independent information and trip planning. Gap year volunteers and part time travellers (minimum three months) receive a free lunch or Spanish lessons. Volunteers with design skills are especially welcome and, should one arise, there is the chance of being offered a paid position. SAE also has a wealth of information on other NGOs in the area that may be looking for volunteers.
Aiming to improve the welfare of disadvantaged children, Maki’s projects include a dormitory for the kids to sleep for a few nights and a library. Long term volunteers can work in either project and should preferably speak Spanish and have teaching experience in sociology or psychology.
Sembrando Semillas Con Yoga
SSCY aims to address social concerns in the local community, such as alcoholism, and unemployment, and intends to build a sustainable living community based around the principles of yoga. They offer free daily classes to between 20 to 40 children in yoga, art, nutrition, recycling, Quechua, English, and other subjects. Based 30 minutes outside of Cusco, volunteers can help by teaching English, Yoga or creative workshops, cooking, organic farming and construction work. No fees to participate and free accommodation is offered. Food costs are shared.