Latin American Foundation for the Future
Both AFID and LAFF were very informative and supportive prior to my departure which helped me prepare for my volunteer assignment. This gave me an idea of what to expect of both becoming a volunteer & living in Cusco, including the cost of living. I paid US$50 per week to rent my own room in a shared house, including all utilities and wifi. I spent approximately US$40 a week on food which involved eating out at restaurants as well as purchasing food from the markets to make at home. I felt safe and comfortable in my accommodation and in Cusco in general.
My role with LAFF is to provide them with accounting & bookkeeping services and financial reporting & advice. I continue to do this on a remote basis since returning to my job after the 6 week assignment.
Whilst in Cusco I also had the opportunity to meet some of LAFF's beneficiaries and see for myself the huge difference that LAFF's support makes to these children's lives. This made me realise how the time spent volunteering for LAFF is extremely worthwhile and how much of a difference the volunteers work and skills make. The beneficiaries of LAFF are extremely inspiring. I was expecting some wild behaviour from these children as a result of lack of education & support. However, they were in fact very mature & sweet for their age. Many of them would come up & give you a massive hug to greet us & have big smiles on their faces when we visited. This showed their appreciation for LAFF's support and was very rewarding.
Cusco itself is an amazing & interesting city with a lot of culture to learn about. There is so much to experience there other than the obvious Machu Picchu. Even just the flight into Cusco airport over the Andes Mountains is a unique experience. The difference between experiencing Cusco as a volunteer rather than as a backpacker is that you learn more about the real Cusco rather than just the tourist side of it (which disguises the poverty) and you have the chance to make a difference to the less fortunate. Being part of a team with other volunteers also makes it easier to form friendships and you can also benefit from contacts which LAFF has with other organisations in Cusco.
As well as going to Machu Picchu and visiting many other Inca ruins, I did a trip to Puno and Lake Titicaca and climbed Rainbow Mountain (all with the other volunteers), which were all incredible experiences. The programme manager was very flexible with regards to amending our working days to accommodate for any 2-3 day trips we wanted to do.
I found Cusco very inexpensive for everything, especially accommodation costs and food. Accommodation is easy enough to find and most things are within walking distance if you stay within the central area. I took the opportunity to learn Spanish by taking classes twice a week. Being able to speak just basic Spanish made living in Cusco a whole lot easier for day to day things like communicating with taxi drivers and when purchasing food at markets. I also treated myself to regular massages since they were only $8 per hour! There are of course a some not so good things in Cusco including the altitude and the not very reliable hot water supply, however, you get used to the altitude & learn to deal with lukewarm showers.
Overall, I would highly encourage undertaking a volunteer role with LAFF in Cusco. It is a very worthy cause and was a very memorable experience for me!