Photo by Nexos Voluntarios
Although Peru has experienced economic growth over the last decade, many Peruvians still face the harsh realities of poverty — a reality made more difficult in the current global financial crisis. To prevent the country’s poor citizens from slipping into the forgotten ranks of extreme poverty, Nexos Voluntarios (NeVo), a Peruvian nonprofit, promotes a variety of sustainable development projects that serve some of the country’s poorest citizens.
Nexos Voluntarios at a glance
Each year hard working volunteers fuel NeVo’s human rights, public health, environmental, educational, and community development programs. These initiatives bridge international volunteers and local Peruvian communities in the shared goal to implement sustainable programs with high impact results. While working together, volunteers experience a unique cross-cultural exchange that makes the time they spend in Peru memorable.
A road of change for Cuncani
Nexos Voluntarios operates several ongoing sustainable development programs in the Sacred Valley region outside of Cusco. Its newest project serves the remote Andean village of Cuncani that does not have access to basic services. Here 68 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty and families survive on zero to $140 USD each month. In Cuncani, many residents survive on small-scale agriculture and raise animals.
The long trip to Cuncani is dominated by towering mountains that resemble the fairy tale inspired landscapes present in the movie Lord of the Rings. While the beauty of the Sacred Valley is undeniable, the journey puts in the limelight the hardships of living in extreme isolation that are further compounded by limited infrastructure and government aid.
There is no direct route to Cuncani. NeVo managers begin their pre-dawn departure at 3 a.m. from the town of Calca in the Sacred Valley and catch a two-hour bus to Lares, the closest municipality to Cuncani. From Lares, NeVo managers and volunteers take a final 30-minute ride on a bumpy dirty road to reach their final destination.
Nexos Voluntarios’ sustainable development programs in Cuncani are gaining momentum and overtime will encompass a range of health, education and economic empowerment initiatives.
The nonprofit’s present school-based initiative aims to increase literacy rates in Cuncani and improve education. Of the near 350 community residents, only 12 percent have received a primary school education and only one person has completed secondary school. NeVo recently launched a school lunch program to encourage school attendance by providing each student with five lunches each week. This is one of many programs being initiated by the nonprofit to improve the communities overall quality of life and help its residents maintain their culture.
Seven-year-old Durian Puma is one of the 68 students that receives free lunches at the local school. Durian has big plans for his future, like many of his classmates, and wants to be a teacher. When he’s not doing math homework — his favorite school subject — he likes playing with his toy trucks.
Connect with the project
The skills and interests of every NeVo volunteer are matched with the needs of a specific project. From field experiences to group volunteer work, NeVo provides a comprehensive program that ranges anywhere from one week to eight weeks, and longer. NeVo takes care of considerations such as food and housing so that each volunteer can focus their attention and time abroad on what really matters — their work and interactions with the local communities. To learn more about volunteering in Peru with Nexos Voluntarios, click here.
Peru’s colorful culture, stunning landscapes and rich history captivates travelers from around the world, but the country still faces numerous challenges on its road to prosperity. For a truly unique Peruvian experience, consider the option of “responsible travel” and volunteer with Nexos Voluntarios.
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Britt is a California native who left her home to explore South America and now lives in Peru. She’s just a little obsessed about planning getaways with her family, scuba diving, and trekking.