The Disabilities Program
Volunteers provide much-needed support and assistance to children and young adults at various childcare facilities in Cusco. One such facility is a school for mentally disabled and deaf children and young adults aged from 3 to 25 years. Due to the varying ages and levels of disability there are five sections where the young people receive education which includes a deaf school, kindergarten, primary school, practical training, and a division for students with multiple complex behaviors which includes children and youth with severe mental disabilities, often accompanied by complex and difficult behavioral issues. In addition to these classes the school also has a speech therapist, physiotherapist and psychologist employed. Each class has an average 10 to 15 children, and is taught by one teacher. In the classes, children with different levels of ability are taught together, which makes the teacher's job even more difficult. The complex behaviors classes are smaller and more focused on teaching practical skills. The practical training is for the older students and gives them training in carpentry, sewing, crafts and baking, skills they will take with them when they finish school. These projects are severely understaffed and underfunded, which is why they are in urgent need of volunteers. For volunteers who truly want to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable children, this program serves to protect and care for those who need it most.
Goals of this Project:
- Provide essential childcare to vulnerable children of Cusco – Peru
- Improve the future prospects of disabled children in Peru
- Give impoverished children quality care, compassion and a sense of hope
- Enable inter-cultural exchange which benefits both locals and international volunteers alike
How You Can Help
Volunteers play an essential role in helping to teach disabled children in the fabulous city of Cusco. Unfortunately the school is severely understaffed, underfunded in urgent need of additional help. Volunteers support the teachers in the classroom with day-to-day activities as well at working with individual students. There are opportunities for volunteers to put forward their own ideas and help out with extra-curricular activities. The school regularly holds events for the various Peruvian holidays where volunteers can be actively involved in dances and plays, getting the children dressed up and preparing festive feasts. Volunteers are hugely appreciated and warmly welcomed by the children and staff.
When not working, volunteers will find Cusco is an exciting city, filled with many places to see and things to do. The Plaza de Armas, the heart of the city, close to where volunteers will be based, features a multitude of restaurants, cafes, and bars.
Volunteers will contribute in a number of ways on this program and can expect to undertake the following tasks:
- Help to teach vulnerable children in Peru
- Attend to and interact with disabled children
- Create activities and entertain the children with games and songs, etc
See the Additional Info. section for more information on how to support disabled children.
Love Volunteers welcomes all those 18 years and over who wish to assist in the support and development of some of Peru's most marginalized children and young adults. While this highly rewarding project does not require participants to have a background in the field of special needs care, as there are many ways you can assist, volunteers with suitable education, qualifications or experience are highly sought after. Regardless, a volunteer’s individual role can often be tailored to suit their particular skills and interests. Volunteers on this project will need an understanding of Spanish in order to communicate effectively with the children and local staff members. All applicants must of course display a genuine willingness to help, show drive, initiative and compassion, and bring a positive 'can-do' attitude. If this sounds like you, we want you on the team!
Additionally, volunteers applying to join this program will be required to supply to following documentation:
- Emergency contact
- Police check
This program is hosted in Cusco, high in the Peruvian Andes. Once the capital of the ancient Inca Empire, Cusco is now known as the gateway to the world heritage site of Machu Picchu, for its archaeological remains and its stunning Spanish colonial architecture. Located in the heart of the 'old city' the central square of Plaza de Armas is the areas tourist hub and is filled with cafes, restaurants and dozens of trinket shops to explore, all set among the arcades, carved wooden balconies and Incan wall ruins, including the baroque Santo Domingo Convent which was built on top of the Incan Temple of the Sun (Qoricancha). Cusco is a fascinating city to find yourself in and a wonderful place to experience the challenges and the joys of volunteering.
Start Dates & Duration
This project is available year-round and programs start every SUNDAY. Volunteers can choose to participate for periods ranging from 2 weeks to 12 weeks. Longer stays can be arranged directly with the local team, but will be subject to availability and individual visa conditions.
Spaces on this project are limited and therefore subject to availability. Early booking is recommended.
For current available start dates please check the calendar on the right.
Arrival & Orientation
Upon your arrival in Cusco, you will be collected at the airport and delivered to your accommodation, which also serves as the local project base. Here you will receive an orientation to help you settle in, find out about your volunteering placement, the local surroundings and meet your fellow volunteers. A representative from the local team will fill you in on local and regional customs, traveling, rules and recommendations, and of course, what to expect from your volunteering experience. A walking tour of he local area is also provided at around 15:00 hrs every Sunday. This is a great opportunity to get to know your hosts, meet your fellow volunteers, and ask any last questions you may have.
- Program Arrival Day: SUNDAY
- Program Departure Day: SATURDAY
- Arrival/Departure Airport: Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport, Cusco, Peru (Code: CUZ)
Accommodation & Meals
As with all of our wonderful programs in Cusco, volunteers on this project are accommodated with one of our friendly local host families, where breakfast and dinner of traditional Peruvian cuisine are provided daily. All home-stay families have been fully vetted by out local team and are located within a short walk from each other, making hanging out with other volunteers easy. Plus, it is only a 10 minute taxi ride to the tourist heart of Cusco – Plaza de Armas – where a multitude of restaurants, cafes and bars are available. All host families have standard amenities available, including comfortable beds, hot showers and modern bathrooms (Peruvian Starndard). Wi-Fi is also available (additional charges may apply in some cases). All families have experience hosting international volunteers. Depending on the time of year it may be necessary to share a room with other volunteers. Living with a local family truly is the best way to throw oneself into the local culture and to meet people who will become lifelong friends!
Host families will provide breakfast, lunch and dinner, however it is often easier to buy lunch at a nearby cafe during the week. Meals are also provided on the weekends if required. Peruvian food is delicious and, yes, different. It is based around rice, potatoes, fish and lots of locally-grown fruit, such as cherimoya, lucuma, citrus fruits and pineapple. Pollo a la Brasa, also known as Peruvian chicken, is one of the most consumed dishes in the country. Originally only seasoned with salt and cooked in charcoal today the chicken is marinated in a “secret” mixture mainly consisting of vinegar, spices, dark beer or soy sauce, and then grilled in specially fabricated Pollo a la brasa ovens. Salsas, sauces or dips are an essential part of the Peruvian cuisine and a must on every table.
For volunteers, staying in Peru means they gain something that mere travelers miss out on: a ‘live’ authentic glimpse into family life and the character of the people. By having the opportunity to stay with a host family and by working right alongside the local population volunteers can really experience all that Peru has to offer!
Arriving early? Additional nights accommodation with the host families, including 3 meals daily, is $26 per night.
*In addition to the program fees listed above a Registration Fee is payable to secure your place. The registration fee is USD 299 for those volunteering with Love Volunteers for the first time or USD 149 for any subsequent volunteer placements. The registration fee includes: lifetime LV Alumni Membership, fundraising support & advice, dedicated pre-departure support, certificate of completion (on request), and exclusive access to the LV Trip Planner.
Some things are not included in the program fees listed above, such as flights, visas, vaccinations, travel insurance, additional foods and snacks, spending money, local transport, in-country trips and excursions, return airport transfer (unless mentioned above).
Please note that prices are subject to change without notice. Please ensure you have read the Love Volunteers Terms and Conditions & Refund Policy.
Want to learn Spanish?
Why not use this opportunity to improve your knowledge of Spanish and really get immersed in the local culture during your volunteering placement? We can offer part time Spanish classes at very competitive rates for you, so simply let us know if you are interested!
Part-time Spanish Lessons (taken in conjunction with volunteer work):
- Group Classes (20 hours per week) = USD150
- One-on-one Classes (10 hours per week) = USD115
Fees for Spanish Classes must be paid directly to your volunteer coordinator on arrival in Peru.
Tours and Excursions for Volunteers
During your time in Cusco, why not use the opportunity to explore! If you're looking for an authentic insight into the local culture, or an adventure that takes you ‘off-the-beaten-track’, you can book an excursion directly with our local partner organization. As a Love Volunteer, not only will you get a discounted price, but every time you take a trip with them, a portion of the fee is donated to one of our local development projects!
Here is some of the options available to volunteers in Cusco:
- Cusco City Half-Day Tour - US$15
- Sacred Valley Full-Day Hike - US$30
- Rainbow Mountain Full-Day Tour - US$45
- Lake Titicaca (2-day) Experience - US$85
- Machu Picchu Inca Trail Trek (4-Days) - US$650
- Machu Picchu Inca Trail Trek (2 Days) - US$530
- Machu Picchu by Train (1 Day) - US$290
- Machu Picchu by Train (2 Day) - US$340
- Package Deal (3 Days) - Cusco Half-Day Tour + Sacred Valley Tour + Machu Picchu by Train (1 Day) - US$330
Volunteering With Children With Disabilities: How To Best Support Them
Between 93 million and 150 million children worldwide are diagnosed with a disability. In developing countries, children with disabilities rarely have access to the resources and facilities they need to help them reach their full potential. By volunteering to help children with disabilities, you can provide them with the best support possible and encourage them to blossom in their own time.
Communicate directly with the child
When you first meet a child with a disability, avoid making the all-too common mistake of not actually directly talking to them. Children with disabilities should be given encouragement and patience to answer questions and speak up in conversation. Adults often assume they don't understand or can't answer and soon switch to talking to their caregiver instead. So, when meeting for the first time, introduce yourself and explain who you are. Depending on the type of learning difficulty and its severity, you may need to place your hand on the child's shoulder or take their hand. You can then let them know what you'll be doing together, including explaining the activity step-by-step. It's important to use simple language, be patient, and make a lot of eye contact to build rapport and trust with the child.
Use nonverbal gestures
Using nonverbal communication and gestures like nodding, pointing, and eye contact will help children with disabilities understand you better. At first, you may need to exaggerate or draw out these gestures to aid the child's understanding. In fact, using these gestures is usually essential to ensure children with disabilities participate in the activities. However, if you still have a problem with a child not listening to you, you may also find it useful to clap, whistle, or sing. Additionally, tactile cues can help effectively engage children. For example, giving them a soft blanket or plasticine can capture their attention and help them focus.
When rules are implemented for the group, it's important all children abide by them. Consistency is key if you want children to feel safe, comfortable, and encouraged, as well as for teaching discipline. So, don't backtrack on rules already set or change them from one day to the next. For children with disabilities (especially those with autism or other cognitive or sensory impairments), consistency and discipline will help them thrive in learning environments. Remember, when working with children with disabilities, it's your job to give them dedicated attention they may not usually get. Focus on the individual and adjust your approach as needed. For example, if a child has poor motor skills making a certain activity difficult for them, you may need to work through the steps with them together. While it's good to encourage children to challenge themselves, you should also be aware of their limits.
Volunteering to help children with disabilities is a meaningful and rewarding experience. By being prepared to provide the best support possible, you can better help this vulnerable group succeed and thrive.
Source: Jennifer Orson