When you choose to volunteer in Peru you travel to in the San Martín region, which is situated in the North of Perú. San Martín has an area of 51,000 km2
and has around 900,000 inhabitants. San Martín shares a border in the north and east with Loreto, in the south with Huánoco and in the west with La Libertad and Amazonas. Volunteers get to work in Nueva Union which is about an hour’s drive from Tarapoto the biggest city near Nuevo Union.
Peru is located on the west coast of South America. Territory-wise, it is the third largest country in South America. In the north Peru’s borderlines are shared with Ecuador and Colombia, in the east with Brazil and Bolivia, in the south with Chile and the entire west coast consists of the Pacific Ocean. Geographically, we can divide Peru into three regions: a narrow strip of about 100 kilometers of desert along the coast, to the east the Andes, after the Himalayas, the second largest mountain range in the world, situated between 3000 and 4000 meters and finally the huge Amazon with its rainforests.
Before the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, Peru was the empire of the Incas, of which Cuzco was the capital. Between the conquest by the Spaniards in 1572 and the independence in 1821, the country was governed by Spain.
The ancient Inca settlement Machu Picchu is just one of the many highlights that the country has to offer. The mix of ancient civilizations, a rich history, extraordinary landscapes, … There are only a few destinations that have as much to offer to its visitors as Peru.
From mountain range to jungle, from beach to desert, from colonial city to cosmopolitan city, it is truly a beautiful place to visit.
The real appeal of the country lies outside the capital. Before the current capital Lima, we had the ancient capital of Cusco. The center of the world in the time of the Incas, with its winding cobbled streets and more than 1000 years of history. It is the gateway to Machu Picchu and also an ideal base for those who want to explore the Inca trail.
Elsewhere in the country you will find the Nazca lines, the beautifully excavated ruins of Chan Chan and the Chachapoya Fort. These extraordinary complexes are all surrounded by beautiful landscapes.
Nueva Unión, is a bit more than an hour by car from Tarapoto. Apart from the last bit between the small town of Picota and Nueva Unión, the road is quite well maintained and runs almost parallel to the Huallaga river. Nueva Unión is a small settlement with around 400 inhabitants.
What do volunteers do?
As a volunteer you will work in the community center with 72 children with ages between 3 & 19 years.
We have a well-equipped library on the mezzanine of our center where the children can not only read quietly, but can also do their homework. The volunteer can also do activities with the mothers during the school year, such as cooking, baking and making handicrafts, of course to the extent that the volunteer finds his way in this.
There is also a playground that is well maintained and where there are many opportunities for sports and games.
The volunteer is supposed to have a good experience in organizing sports and games, crafts. Someone with a background in the boy scouts, for example, but also people who follow or have kindergarten or primary school training.
In addition to a good knowledge of Spanish, it is recommended to have a good basic knowledge of English in order to be able to teach English to the older children.
This depends on the period of the year. You discuss it with your mentor and the local managers. You have plenty of freedom to organize a variety of activities.
Minimum: 2 weeks
Scheme: year round
Maximum number of volunteers at the same time: 2
Isabel is the coordinator of our project. She is the first contact person of the volunteers and will welcome them at the airport of Tarapota.
She also guides the volunteers from Tarapota to Nueva Unión and discusses the planning with the people in charge of the village.
Tatiana is secretary of the parents’ association and responsible for the daily operation and maintenance of the center.
During your week (5 nights), the volunteer stays in Nueva Unión. More specifically in the “library” of the center (see pictures at the projects chapter). A few air mattresses are provided here.
The people of Tarapoto have a good excuse to take life easy. Quietly baking in the heat of the jungle sun, the city and its inhabitants do their business in a very relaxed way, buzzing around on motorcycles and motorcycle taxis. You will find few cars, but motorbikes and motorcycle taxis are difficult to miss.
Due to the lack of in-your-face promotion for tourist attractions, you sometimes actually wonder what to do. But when you dig a little deeper, you will find a wonderful mix of cultural and natural sights.
We will provide enough tourist information and your time will be far too short to even get bored. Some eye catchers:
Museo Regional Universidad Nacional de San Martin –
Tarapoto’s small and somewhat peculiar museum is located just on the main square on Jr. Maynas 177 (under the Universidad Nacional building).
Tabacalera del Oriente
A must-see destination for cigar worshipers. The Tabacalera del Oriente is the most overlooked jewel in Tarapoto. Visit early in the morning to see the 30 or so female workers rolling the cigars by hand.
Petroglyphs from Polish
Polish petroglyphs are 5 km from Tarapoto.
In the hills and jungle around Tarapoto, there are also numerous waterfalls where you can go for a refreshing swim. The waterfall of Ahuashiyacu in particular is very popular. They are a 20-minute drive from Tarapoto.
The Sauce lagoon, also known as the blue lake, is a 2.5-hour drive from Tarapoto and is well worth a day’s visit. The lake has a beautiful blue-green appearance. You can make a trip with a motor boat or take a beautiful walk.
It’s about a half an hour’s drive from Tarpoto and is one of the oldest towns in the Peruvian rainforest. The locals usually still dress in a traditional and very colorful way. The beautiful “Mirador de la Cruz” is certainly worth a visit. About 5 km north of Lamas is the Chapawanki waterfall.
Besides the Machu Picchu & the Inca trail, you can find the Nazca lines (which you can fly over with small planes), the beautifully excavated ruins of Chan Chan and the Chachapoyas. Surfers can indulge in the sand dunes in Ica. Also, in the dizzying landscapes of the Colca canyon, you can admire the Condor up close. In Huaras you can go on a beautiful mountain hike and even put on the skis. There is always something for everyone and everything is located in breathtaking landscapes.
We also advise you to ask our coordinator for tips on how to experience life as a Peruvian.
Volunteering abroad does cost money and it is not our intention that the community you are going to help has to pay for this. If there was enough money to bear these costs, we would rather spend them on a local employees who understand the local culture and daily customs.
If you want to learn more about our transparent system, take a look at our transparency page.
These costs, which you pay on site, are related to your stay in Peru such as your accommodation and meals. By paying locally, you are also sure that your contribution will end in Laos and will not stay behind at various “stations”. The cost in Peru is only €80/week.
What is included?
Probably there are other expenses that you have to keep in mind. Below a brief summary of the most common possible costs:
any projects require a continuity of volunteers to create impact and we want to ensure sufficient inflow of volunteers to keep every project viable. Unfortunately volunteer recruitment comes with a costs such as marketing. The fundraising done by the organizations in our alliance are exclusively used for development projects in the countries mentioned on this website.
The alliance fee serves to bear the costs of the alliance’s platform. We ask every participant a one-time alliance fee of € 130. This is a one-time contribution which you pay after being accepted for your first volunteer placement. After payment of this contribution you can do unlimited voluntary work in any project in the future (if there is availability and you meet the set requirements for that project).
As a member, we always inform you as soon as new projects are added in our alliance.
What is your alliance fee used for?
You can read more at our transparency page.
We will not let you leave without a thorough preparation. We have a detailed system, so you can sleep on both ears and leave with peace of mind. Once you have been accepted and everything has been put in order, you can count on the guidance of our experts.
As soon as you applied and you are accepted to volunteer we start with your preparation. You can already read a lot on this website, besides this we also prepare you through other channels. Once in the field you also can rely on our local team.
Volunteering abroad will have an impact on you but also on the local community. We think it’s very important, that you as a volunteer are aware about what to expect. So you can start prepared with your volunteering experience. When you are accepted as a volunteer and you confirmed from your side, you will receive the access codes for our secured volunteer page. At this page you can read all information which is important for your preparation, Such as information about your project, accommodation, How to apply for your visa, a packing list, a complete chapter about cultural differences and much more …
You will be assigned a mentor who you can contact for any help or needed advice. Our mentors are members of our alliance and have years of experience in the projects we support. This system ensures that you receive good guidance from VAA.
Your safety is very important to us. We only allow volunteers to travel to areas that are politically stable. If this is not the case, the project will not proceed. Every member of the alliance keeps a close eye on the security recommendations. Of course, we can also rely on the local employees of the projects. They live and work there themselves and know the area very well.
La Selva (Tarapoto & Nueva Unión)
During the period January – February, it will be between 28 and 32 °C in Lima and in Nueva Unión + 35 °C. It’s the rain season in Selva, which means it will rain for about an hour every day.
The Coast (la Costa)
This area is usually warm and sunny from December to March. From April to December there is often a persistent fog here (Garúa).
The Mountains (la Sierra)
In the Andes, the best time to stay is from May to October. It’s usually sunny and dry, with temperatures between 20 and 25 degrees during the day, but quite cold between 0 and 10 degrees in the evening. The rain season is from December to April. In this period there is often a lot of fog and rain.
Every project has at least one permanent employee. This employee organizes your project and your stay together with the participating organization of our alliance. During your stay you can always connect with them; they are available for advice and practical information, but you can also count on them in case of an emergency.
Upon arrival in Tarapoto you will be met by Ysabel our local Coordinator.
You will receive a detailed route description, once you are accepted as to volunteer in Peru. Here you can read everything regarding contacts, addresses, etc.
In the past we had problems with sharing our operations address therefore we deliberately not share this information in advance. The organizations within our alliance take their duties seriously, our projects are not tourist attractions and we do not want uninvited guests to disturb our operations. Moreover, it is very disturbing for the local employees of our alliance but also for other volunteers if someone suddenly appears at the projects to take a look.
We are not doctors and we do not know your personal & medical background. That is why we advise everyone to make an appointment with your doctor or travel vaccination center before traveling to your destination. You can always take a look at the website of the WHO for the latest situation in Peru.
Every organization within our alliance has an emergency procedure and you also receive all emergency telephone numbers once accepted as a volunteer. You will find all this information on your personal project page, you will receive the code as soon as you are accepted as a volunteer and you completed your application.
You only need an international passport for Peru. No visa is required as long as the volunteer stays in Peru for less than 3 months.
There is no typical day or script to follow – every day will be different and full of surprises. That is the beauty, but also challenge, of international volunteering. We expect you to understand this and be flexible, open and proactive at all times.
In Peru, where you do volunteer work, the average day depends on the period in which you do volunteer work. You discuss the work with your mentor and coordinator. Have a look at the projects for more information.
There are always new initiatives being launched and other volunteers looking for a helping hand. The projects are very dynamic and responsive to the community’s needs, and we encourage you to be flexible and willing to help wherever there is need. It is very likely that you will have the opportunity to work across multiple projects. Remember, the more you put into your experience, the more you will get out of it.
Our local team speaks Spanish only. It can be useful to take a dictionary with you.
This is ideal for those who want to improve their Spanish. There is no better language training than to stay among the people who speak the language.
Please note: we do expect you to have a basic knowledge of Spanish (see project descriptions).
All organizations active in the alliance take their work very seriously. From general preparations to details that you never imagined that they exist, but that are important to give you a safe, comfortable and meaningful experience. We invest a lot of time in preparing, following up and implementing our preparation materials, but also our projects on site. We hope that you, for your part, commit yourself 100% during your volunteer work and this is done in a respectful way for us, but even more so for the local community you are going to help.
Daily behavior when you volunteer in Peru