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Volunteering in Peru

The Chijnaya Foundation’s Volunteer Program began in 2006 with eight volunteers living and working in the community of Chijnaya, Peru. In the following years, from two to eighteen students have participated in the rural communities of Ccotos, Tuni Grande, Tuni Requena, Coarita and Pucará. Although begun as a program for students at the Claremont Colleges, students may volunteers from other colleges and universities.

The Foundation is actively involved in eight communities supporting projects in agriculture, artisan development, community history, conservation, potable water systems, and health promotion. Volunteers are assigned to projects where their skills are matched to needs. Volunteer initiative and ingenuity are encouraged, and our volunteers have been highly successful and creative in working with villagers to develop useful programs.

Every project undertaken by the Chijnaya Foundation has been built with volunteer help.

Most volunteers do some teaching of English to adults and school children, approximately one or two hours per day. This is valuable for residents in areas receiving or planning to receive tourists to boost family incomes and for village youth planning to continue their education at the university level. It is also helpful to individuals who are beginning to use computers and the internet. Some volunteers may also teach classes in basic computer skills.

We welcome applications from students at colleges and universities throughout the United States and other countries and also from non-students, e.g. retirees, interested in assisting communities in the Andes.

Alongside our board members and our organizational partners, university student volunteers have played a critical role in advancing community-based projects.

To date students have volunteered from the following colleges: Pomona, Pitzer, Claremont McKenna, Scripps, Cerritos, Whitman, and Bates, and from the University of Pennsylvania, UC Berkeley, San Jose State, University of Iowa, Case Western University, and the University of Michigan.

Volunteer Testimonials

“Chijnaya is incredible. The Altiplano might be lacking in technology, but there is no lack of passion or community commitment in this little village. The people are progressive and organized. They see their dreams and have asked for guidance from Ralph Bolton to achieve those goals. Chijnayans are also the warmest people I have ever been met: I was cared for like the son of an Incan king. There were no lack of surprises during my stay. I became a god-parent of Adu, milked cows, ate goat jawbone, and played in their village soccer game (my muscles had never burned like that, things are quite a bit different at 13.000 ft.). Every day brings something new, but the clear, crisp blue skies are always there to stay.”

Derek Buchner Pomona ’09, stayed in Chijnaya during the summer of 2006

“Living in Chijnaya was an experience that truly changed my outlook on life. When you’re living life on less than a dollar a day, you become a lot more grateful for what you have. My homestay family in Chijnaya was extensive, and yet each one of them reached out to me and made me feel like I was at home. I no longer refer to them as my “homestay family” they are simply “my family.” My birthday happened to be during our stay and even though my family struggled to support themselves on a daily basis, they threw me the best birthday party I have ever had and invited all the other volunteers over for an elaborate dinner party, complete with dancing. In Chijnaya, you will hear the people talk over and over about the past volunteers who have lived there. They are so appreciative of all the work we do there. When I had to leave, my family and I cried for an hour in our yard. I couldn’t bear the thought that I might not see them again. I only hoped that next year when the new volunteers came, they would ask about for me because I know I will be asking about them for years to come.”

Becca Russell-Einhorn Pomona ’10, stayed in Chijnaya during the summer of 2008

“We are really so lucky to be blessed with access to electricity, running water, flushing toilets, entertainment, consistent sanitation and diverse food options everyday. And while we know that we should be grateful, think of those in need, and try to live more simply, it’s extremely hard to do and even harder to really imagine what life would be like without all of these luxuries. Living in rural Chijnaya showed me what that life was like — and the fact is living without movies and Thai Food was hard, but also one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. It was a challenge both physically and emotionally to live on a farm at 13,000 feet elevation with fewer friends and comforts than I am used to. But I had an amazing time; the people of Chijnaya are incredibly welcoming, optimistic, and passionate. They have taught me lessons I will always cherish, and inspired me to share those lessons. Part of me will always be in Peru, and I think of that landscape and that community as an integral part of who I am. I’m still in contact with the family I stayed with, and hope to visit again.”

– Ariel Gandolfo, Pomona ’11, stayed in Chijnaya during the summer of 2008

“Living in Chijnaya was unlike any experience I have ever had. Even though I had volunteered in Latin America prior to working with the Chijnaya Foundation, it is a completely different experience to actually live with the families with whom you are working. Living with a homestay family in the village gives you a very real sense of what life is like in Chijnaya, until you realize that you get to go back to the comfort of your home in the United States- a luxury that these people will never have. Spanning a cultural disconnect like the one between the suburbs of the United States and a rural village in the Altiplano of Southern Peru is a challenge, but one that will teach you some very valuable lessons about life, and will teach you to question what things are really important and necessary in life. While living in Peru made me long for many of the day-to-day things in life that I had come to take for granted, now that I am back I find myself missing the time I spent there- the sights, sounds, and celebrations of Chijnaya that we were so lovingly welcomed into from Day 1.”

Lissa Erickson, Whitman ’11, stayed in Chijnaya during the summer of 2008

Research Possibilities

Some volunteers may wish to combine volunteer work and research. We encourage research that contributes to the success of the Foundation’s projects. In the past volunteers have done research on tourism, milk production, and local history, and others have carried out documentary video projects.

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