Tips for volunteering in Peru
by Sonya Apodaca VolunteerCharity Works
Four Missionaries of Charity houses are located in Peru, one each in Lima, Juli, Cuzco and Chimbote. The houses serve children and the elderly, many of whom are physically and mentally challenged as well as orphaned. Some locations regularly feed the hungry in their community. Others distribute provisions to the poor, teach catechism, and provide services as needed and possible.
It is recommended that you call or write to the mother superior of the location(s) where you want to volunteer, as these locations do not host regular orientation and registration meetings. They will appreciate knowing in advance that you are coming.
Visiting hours are generally from 8:00 to 11:30 a.m. and 3 to 5:30 p.m. every day except Thursday and, in some locations, Sunday. Volunteer work hours can differ slightly from visiting hours depending on need. International volunteers commonly work only in the morning. Ask the sisters about their needs.
The sisters speak English but most residents, employees and local volunteers do not. If you do not already know some Spanish, learning at least basic words and phrases will be extremely helpful not to mention culturally respectful.
It is wise to get vaccination shots prior to traveling. The Center for Disease Control web site is an excellent resource and should be consulted along with your doctor. Usual precautions apply regarding drinking water and eating food while in a foreign country.
Volunteers are responsible for arranging their own travel and accommodations. A few tips are provided below but it is recommended to always consult travel guides and sites for the most current information.
Physical address: 28 de Julio 2821
Phone: 011 51 474-2534 (While in Lima, local calls need dial only 1 474-2534. 1 is the city code.)
In Lima, Missionaries of Charity is located in the district (neighborhood) of La Victoria north of central Lima. Expect most locals to cringe when you mention La Victoria because it has a bad reputation, but do not be discouraged from going there to volunteer. Do take precautions, e.g. do not wear jewelry including watches and do not take any valuables such as mobile phone, camera, purse, or other items that might get attention especially in an extremely poor neighborhood.
Arrange for a taxi service to drop you off and pick you up in front of, or as close as possible to, the house door located on Avenida 28 de Julio. (Note: A door is visible from the adjacent block but it is not in use and will not be opened for anyone.) A block-long vegetable market on Avenida 28 de Julio operates every morning so the driver might need to leave you at the corner where you will then walk about 20 yards to the door. Ring the bell and the door man, who generally responds quickly to the buzzing, will unlock the door to let you inside.
If you arrange to be picked up after 11:30 a.m., the market normally clears out by then and the taxi can drive up curbside directly in front of the Missionaries of Charity door. Some taxi drivers might refuse to venture into La Victoria due to its reputation but might have a change of heart when they hear where you are going to volunteer. Arrange a day or at least several hours in advance for round-trip transportation, and always carry the taxi service phone number on your person. A safe and reliable taxi service in Lima is Taxi Seguro (275-2020).
Physical address: Jiron Juli #385
Phone: 011 51 5155-4102
Juli is located in the deep south of Peru, about an hour’s drive south of the better known city of Puno. Both are on the bank of Lake Titikaka and at high altitude. Be sure to bring altitude remedies with you and allow at least one day to rest until you adjust. Bring layers of clothes as it can be warm during daylight hours then get very cold when the sun goes down.
The fastest and most direct route to Juli from Lima is via airplane to Juliaca, then in a taxi van called a “collectivo” from the Juliaca airport to Juli. The collectivo is likely to squeeze more than 14 passengers into a 14-passenger van. Luggage is tied onto the top of the van. Local street vendors rely heavily on this mode of transportation so several stops along the way are common. Be sure to confirm cost directly with the driver prior to the ride and expect to pay a very economical 20 soles (approximately 15 soles to Puno plus 4 soles to Juli). In comparison, a private taxi will cost approximately 80 soles to Puno alone which is only about a third of the distance to Juli. A morning flight to Juliaca is recommended to allow plenty of time for travel by rode and arrival in Juli during daylight hours. Note: Puno and Juli are both in the region of Puno.
The sisters in Juli might be able to offer a guest room if it is available. Expect clean but very basic accommodations with limited plumbing. Juli is a small village and finding accommodations might be a challenge so be flexible on travel dates, allow ample planning time, and be open to alternatives such as home stays.
Internet cafes are plentiful and very affordable in Juli, usually one sole for 20 minutes. There are no money exchange houses or ATMs in Juli but there is at least one Peruvian bank located close to (not on) the Plaza de Armas. Expect local banks to be very busy with long lines, arbitrary hours, and less favorable than average exchange rates.
Physical address: Av. Victor Raul de la Torre #235 (Next to the regional emergency hospital.)
Phone: 011 51 8425-6932
“I have asked Our Lady to keep the Society hidden in the five wounds of Jesus.” (Mother Teresa of Calcutta)
In 1946, Mother Teresa received the inspiration to found the Missionaries of Charity in response to Christ’s plea that she makes Him known to the poorest of the poor by her humble service of love. She envisioned a congregation of women and received her first companion in March 1949. The “little Society” of twelve members was officially established on 7 October 1950. The religious branches include the Sisters, followed by the Brothers on 25 March 1963, then the Contemplative Sisters on 25 June 1976, the Contemplative Brothers on 19 March 1979, and the Fathers on 31 October 1984.
As a religious family the active and contemplative Sisters comprise one congregation, while the Brothers and Fathers are three separate congregations. All share in the charism of Mother Teresa to satiate God’s thirst for love by personal holiness and by working for the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor. For all of the Sisters, Brothers and Fathers, Mother Teresa is “Mother.”
For the laity, Mother Teresa established the co-workers on 29 March, 1969 and the Sick and Suffering co-workers on 13 January 1953.
The Lay Missionaries of Charity were founded on 13 April 1987.