I am so blessed to have the opportunity to volunteer abroad. With this being my 3rd volunteer trip, I kind of knew what to expect, but Cusco, Peru surpassed my expectations!
After volunteering in San Jose, Costa Rica with International Volunteer HQ in February of 2017, I knew I needed to plan another volunteer abroad trip with IVHQ. All of the staff are so helpful through the planning stages and help you through the entire process. After deciding your country, and type of program, you send a quick application and if all looks good - you're in! What I love most about IVHQ is that the fees are SO affordable! Not only that, but with a little help from friends and family and some dedicated fundraising, it makes it even easier. I managed to raise the entire cost of my trip to Costa Rica and approximately 2/3 of the cost of my trip to Peru by selling Christmas cookies, hosting a Paint Night, and other fundraisers!
To check out their website and programs, click here!
Some people ask why I volunteer abroad and not just backpack around continents and enjoy the freedom of travel. I like to travel with an impact. We are so blessed here in North America, that I feel as if I have so many skills and resources I can share with others around the world. While volunteering, I learn so much and have an experience I wouldn't have had any other way. You stay with a local host family, and see how they live. They provide shelter for you, cook wonderful meals, and are a friend in an otherwise strange country. My experience in a homestay has been nothing but positive! Maria, my host mom in Peru, was the sweetest lady! Constant hugs and delicious vegan meals, I was so impressed with the kindness and compassion she showed to each volunteer.
I chose to volunteer in the Animal Care program in Cusco, Peru. For those who know me, I am super compassionate towards animals and want to do anything and everything I can to help each animal live their best life. On my first day, it was a little challenging as I did not learn very much Spanish ahead of time. I highly suggest at least learning the basics before volunteering abroad! It would have definitely come in handy. But, we communicated in the best way we could and I felt as though everything was successful by the end of the week.
Our placement was at UNSAAC. It is a "Zoo" (called a zoo because they charge people to come in and view the animals as a way to support their rehabilitation project), and has many different species of animals such as monkeys, condors, parrots, bears, a puma, a llama and an alpaca. The animals that reside here are either injured, disabled, elderly, or were domestic animals and can't survive out in the wild on their own. Our job consisted of cleaning the enclosures, feeding the animals, grooming and educating visitors on the animals and their stories.
The Zoo is run by 2 employees only, and is funded partially by the university, Maximo Nivel, and by the help of visitors. They rely heavily on volunteers for support so that each animal receives the attention and care that they need. I loved every minute of being at the Zoologico and a week was definitely not long enough. Each animal became a friend as they began to trust me as the days progressed. I learned so much while volunteering and for that I am so thankful.
IVHQ is our contact until we reach Peru. While in Peru, our local resource is Maximo Nivel. They provide us with support, a safe place to meet other volunteers and spend our time, Spanish and English lessons, and coordinate the homestay and volunteer placements. This is my second experience with Maximo Nivel as we worked with them in Costa Rica as well. They are such an awesome program and really made my stay comfortable and welcoming. They offer free events and tours as a way to meet other volunteers. I made so many friends while in Peru and I owe it all to Maximo Nivel.
If you're interested in volunteering in Costa Rica, Guatemala or Peru, check out Maximo Nivel's website directly by clicking here!
If you have ever been considering volunteering abroad, I seriously suggest looking into it. IVHQ is a wonderful program that gives you the opportunity to visit your dream countries, while giving back to those in need. You will never learn so much in your life, and it's an experience that honestly cannot compare. As much as they say you help them by volunteering, I feel as though I have gained so much as well. My outlook on life has become so much better since I began volunteering abroad. God has given me such a great opportunity, and I am so glad I took it.
To check out my trip to Costa Rica with IVHQ and Maximo Nivel, click here!
Thanks for reading, guys! :)