Volunteering in Peru: Latin American Foundation for the Future
Are you a Spanish student looking to volunteer on your year abroad? Interested in spending time in South America? How about spending your days working with a charity that helps children and vulnerable young people in Peru to build a sustainable future and your free time exploring Machu Picchu and trekking through the Amazon rainforest? Read on to find out more about the work of Latin American Foundation for the Future and how you can you can get involved!
1. Who started Latin American Foundation for the Future and why?
LAFF was set up in 2007 by founder Sarah Oakes and was initially established with the aim of raising funds in the UK to support local children’s organisations in Peru. Since 2010, LAFF have had a full time Manager based in Peru, working more closely with the partner organisations, providing capacity building and technical support and delivering, managing and supervising projects supported by LAFF. In June 2012 we started our volunteer programme in Peru and our volunteers have experience and/or specific skills that respond to our partner organisations’ needs.
2. Can you tell us a bit more about the Foundation?
LAFF works to give children and homes in Peru the tools and skills to build themselves an independent future. We provide education and vocational training support for children and vulnerable young people, and help children’s homes to become sustainable through income-generation and cost reduction initiatives as well as providing capacity building for staff at those homes.
LAFF currently work with partner organisations in Cusco (and one in Lima) in the Peruvian Andes, a region plagued by extreme poverty and social inequality.
Lack of employment and poor education opportunities drive many poor rural families towards the urban centres in search of work and a better life. This trend means overcrowding, high unemployment and homelessness in Peru's cities, with many children suffering family violence or forced into employment at a young age to secure food to eat. High numbers of children are taken into care as a result of extreme poverty, rape, violence and abuse, with many more vulnerable children and young people living and working on the streets.
3. What's your role there and how did you get involved?
I am just about to take over the International Partnerships Manager role, meaning that I will be overseeing all our projects here in Peru, managing the volunteer team, and linking our activities here to our fundraising and financial activities based in the UK. I started at LAFF as a volunteer in November 2013, in the role of Vocational Training and Career Guidance Programme Coordinator. I’d applied to LAFF when I was looking to move back to Peru to put my studies in languages and international development into practice, and am very pleased to be able to continue here, now as the Manager.
4. What characteristics do you look for in a volunteer?
LAFF has quite a special volunteer programme in that we look for skilled volunteers who in return gain proper work experience. Volunteers need to:
Be studying a degree (some of our positions ask for a completed degree, but we can make exceptions for students with particularly good experience) Have some volunteering or work experience Be proficient in written and spoken Spanish and English Be organised, flexible and culturally sensitive Be able to work independently and multitask.
Other characteristics depend on the specific position being applied.
We ask all volunteers to commit to a minimum of 3 months, but 6 months to a year is ideal.
5. How will it benefit Spanish speakers?
Volunteering at LAFF gives a great boost to your Spanish skills. All the partners that LAFF works with, including staff, beneficiaries and other collaborators, are Spanish speaking and so there will be no English with them at all! You will have plenty of opportunity to practice your spoken and written Spanish in a variety of contexts and registers.
Depending on what role you apply for, you could be:
Helping deliver training sessionsCoordinating with partners via phone and email Writing social media updates Contributing to organisational documents
…and all in Spanish!
This gives you ample opportunity to practise speaking, writing, reading, listening and translation, all in a variety of registers.
6. What will volunteers get out of it?
Volunteering with LAFF is also a great opportunity to bolster your CV, ready for when you graduate. You will gain real work experience, with the chance to utilise and develop many skills, including:
Project planning and implementation Social media tools Translation Report writing Researching topics in international development Interacting with beneficiaries and staff
There is also scope for you to use any particular skills you might have and be creative and innovative.
7. What can I do with my free time?
There are of course weekends and holidays in which time you are spoilt for choice with things to do. Volunteers are based in Cusco, which is within easy distance of Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca and the Amazon rainforest.
There are plenty of outdoors sports available nearby, such as white water rafting, stand up paddle boarding, zip lining, trekking and rock climbing. Cusco is also rich in Inca heritage and there are many museums and archaeological remains in and around the city.
The city itself has a great nightlife and if salsa dancing is your thing (or if you want to learn) then you will be in heaven!
8. Have students volunteered with you as part of their year abroad? What do they say?
“My months at LAFF were a great experience to get to know another culture, practise my Spanish and do something useful. I learnt a lot about the workings of an international NGO and being immersed in a Spanish-speaking environment did wonders for my Spanish… It was really interesting for me to pick up bits of the variety of Spanish spoken in Cusco, including lots of words that are different to what I’d learnt at school and university. At first the new vocabulary was a bit confusing but you soon get used to it and everyone back home loves my South American accent! My top tips to get the most out of your time abroad are to throw yourself into it, try to push yourself to speak Spanish whenever you can, even though it might be a bit scary. Make connections outside of your work or studies by doing extra-curricular activities as this will give you not only new friends but hopefully local people to practise the language with…. Cusco and LAFF were a great place for me to do this as there’s a lot going on in the city and so it was easy to meet people, and also LAFF is small and flexible which allowed me to try new things and really get the most out of my time there.”
Maria, LAFF Volunteer.
9. What will the Foundation get out of having volunteers?
For LAFF, the support of skilled volunteers is absolutely essential and it makes our work possible. We are a very small charity and a small team, which is primarily volunteer-led. This ensures that each volunteer’s work really does make a difference and they can see their impact on the ground. The volunteers mean that we can keep delivering a vocational training programme, help develop social enterprises, monitor our partner organisations’ and beneficiaries’ progress, communicate with our supporters and a whole variety of other projects that just wouldn’t be possible otherwise. It is a friendly environment and one in which each volunteer is supported to develop and make an impact.
10. What's included (flights and accommodation?) and how much will it cost?
LAFF does not charge anything for you to volunteer with us (you offer your skills and experience, not your money!). We can give advice on accommodation, flights and various other practicalities of coming to volunteer here but it is your responsibility to organise these. On the volunteering page of our website you can find estimates of how much these might cost you.
11. How can I get involved?
If you think you could help push LAFF’s work forward, you speak Spanish and you can commit to at least 3 months, head over to our website where you will find the volunteer role descriptions and application form, more about volunteering with LAFF and contact details for if you have any questions.
We look forward to hearing from you!