Peru's Challenge was founded in 2003 by Australian Jane Gavel and Peruvian Selvy Ugaz. The program works with volunteers, creating opportunities for children living in the Andes, and since its inception has helped over 1000 families and educated around 500 children in four communities.
There are hundreds of small villages struggling to survive in devastating conditions. Seventy five percent of Cuzco's population lives in poverty, are malnourished and uneducated. Peru's Challenge stays for three to six years and moves on once a village is self-sustaining. Villagers don't want hand-outs. They just don't have funds to get started, but once they have the basics they don't look back.
Jules visited Cuzco in 2006 and joined Peru's Challenge to help raise the living standards of some of the poorest communities in the country. He was involved in the construction of a school. Everyone was delighted that over 250 Australian volunteers took on Peru's Challenge as a result of Jules' Getaway story.
It was time to return to see how things were progressing, as well as helping out in a new project. There are three on the go, ranging from English, art, sport and music lessons, construction of classrooms, housing, toilet blocks, sporting areas and water reservoirs. Improvement of health and hygiene are high on the agenda, as are micro financing and setting up small businesses. A new school underway at Quilla Huata 20 minutes away.
Jules went to the small village of Pumanarca, 40 minutes from Cuzco, Peru's tourism capital and gateway to Machu Picchu. Despite the proximity to tourists, mostly en route to Machu Picchu, tiny rural communities don't see any of the tourism cash, and volunteers are a lifeline for the children and their prosperity.
Volunteers stay for one or two months and put in up to 30 hours a week doing whatever needs to be done. In their spare time they play tourist and visit fascinating sites such as Machu Picchu.
Since Jules's last visit, the Pumamarca school has been completed and is being put to very good use. There are twice as many buildings as there were on the first visit. A series of greenhouses is used for growing food for the school's kitchen. Children tend the gardens and look after the hens which provide eggs. A new bread oven ensures everyone has fresh bread every day. Simple things to most of us were just dreams for poor villagers before Peru's Challenge and its volunteers got to work.
Cement and gravel are being given to villagers to put under their houses to prevent them being washed away during rainy seasons.
Jules was thrilled to catch up with Maria who was battling breast cancer on his last visit. Peru's Challenge was able to take her to Lima for treatment and now the future of Maria and her children is looking rosy.
Bathing is simply done under a tap, so Jules took a group for their first-ever swim.
Peru's Challenge offers complete volunteer packages. They offer affordable travel in South America and contribute directly to local communities.
You don't need to speak Spanish as a language course is included. Age is no barrier and groups of family or friends receive discounts. Volunteer houses are very comfortable and safe. Hot showers, television, kitchens and purified water.
Any areas of expertise you may have will be tailored into a program just for you.
Apart from the immense satisfaction of helping so many people, you will be living in one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places on earth. Cuzco is the oldest inhabited city in the western hemisphere, surrounded by sacred ruins of the Inca civilisation.
Cuzco lies at an altitude of 3400 metres in the Andes and has the thinnest air in South America. It is recommended that visitors take it slowly for the first couple of days to avoid headaches, nausea and tiredness.
Visit Peru's Challenge website for full information at www.peruschallenge.com.
Pumamarca, 40 minutes from Cuzco in Peru.
Peru's Challenge has three to 12 week programs. They start at $2171 per person. Children under 16 prices start at $1100. Air transfers from Lima, accommodation and various tours are included. They run year round, except in February.
LAN Airlines has return flights to Lima from:
- Sydney $2549
- Melbourne and Brisbane $2669
- Adelaide $2879
- Perth $3069
Prices correct at September 10, 2011.
For further information
Ph: 1800 221 572
Ph: 51 84 272 508
Visas: Australians do not require a visa to enter Peru. They do need a passport and return ticket.
Electricity: 220V, 60Hz using plugs with two flat prongs.
Time zone: GMT -5 hours.
Currency: The sol.Telephone code: +51.
It is recommended travellers see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there may be specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended. For further information log on to www.smartraveller.gov.au and www.welltogo.com.au.