Community volunteers can make a positive impact in really unexpected ways. And that’s just what they did in Cusco, one of the best places to visit in Peru.
How community volunteers contributed in Cusco
Cusco tourism contributes to the income of local communities in a big way. This makes sense, since Cusco is one of the most popular places to visit in Peru.
But Cusco tourism could stand to benefit from English communication skills.
It’s been shown that when local businesses can communicate in English, it has a positive effect on the growth of the tourism industry in any country.
And this is why the people of Cusco requested conversational English classes from GVI’s community volunteers.
Sustainable community development means that a community can meet their present needs without compromising resources for future generations to meet their own.
Partnering with different community development organisations, our staff and volunteers launched a teach English abroad program that spoke to the people of Cusco’s tourism goals.
Sustainable community development is part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. Working on improving Cusco tourism would make this community’s economic prospects more sustainable.
And with fluent English as a prerequisite for every volunteer signing up with GVI, the staff and volunteers confidently came up with lesson plans for this teach English abroad program.
How conversational English classes got people talking in Cusco
These classes were just what the members of Mamá Piuary were looking for.
The women of Mamá Piuary all had businesses centred on Cusco’s tourism, and they felt that learning to read and write in English were just what they needed to give their businesses a boost.
Once they began developing their English communication skills, they could start developing the documents they needed to take their businesses to the next level.
These documents meant that Cusco’s entrepreneurs could communicate their products to a whole new market of opportunity.
There are 7.5 billion people in the world who speak English, billions more than the 105 million local visitors who speak indigenous Peruvian languages.
Conversational English classes meant that these entrepreneurs could begin marketing their products to scores more tourists (particularly international tourists), build on Cusco’s tourism sector, and encourage economic growth.
So not only had they upped their potential income, they’d also opened a flood gate of opportunities for their futures. Traders who communicate in English could open up export opportunities, or even potentially secure external funding.
Further reading: Why TEFL internships abroad are best
Why Cusco community volunteer opportunities are tops
When you travel to Cusco as a community volunteer, your travel experience will have you immersed in Cusco’s culture. And you’ll also have the opportunity to learn about the history of this city, which was once the capital city of the Incan Empire.
Its history is so significant that it was declared a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site in 1983, to ensure the preservation of the city.
Further reading: Eight of the best festivals and celebrations in Peru
And this experience isn’t just an opportunity to increase your knowledge about Cusco’s culture. If you travel to Cusco, you’ll increase your elevation too.
Cusco lies more than 3,000 metres above sea-level. Being an established town, at this dizzying height, is one of the reasons why Cusco is one of the best places to visit in Peru. That’s because it’s also the perfect gateway city to Machu Picchu – a traditional sanctuary built during the time of the Incan Empire.
This city has much more to offer community volunteers looking for a meaningful experience when they travel to Cusco.
Where do community volunteers fit in?
In Cusco, community volunteer opportunities get you stuck into assisting the community in areas they’ve identified as being important.
And this community-led approach to development is what sets our programs up to make a positive impact from the very start.
Because the local community is best at pinpointing what’s wrong, and is most aware of the resources available to them, they’re experts at their own community development.
Community volunteers contribute by partnering with local people, and assisting them in sourcing and using resources in a way that gets them to where they want to be.
An example of this is when volunteers offer accounting services so that community members can get a better grasp on their financial management.
Another benefit of this approach is that it ensures that activities are developed in a way that is sensitive to local cultures.
So for volunteers participating in a sustainable community development program, the positive impact you’ve contributed to in Cusco can be maintained even when all the volunteers have left the community.
But the proof is in the pudding, so let’s take a look at a community volunteer success story that made a big contribution in Cusco.
How community volunteering made a sustainable impact
But how does this program make a sustainable impact, one that continues once volunteers are gone?
Well if you travel to Cusco you may notice that many women are responsible for caring for their families throughout the day.
And since conversational English classes made room for not only Mamá Piuary’s entrepreneurs, but anyone who tagged along with them – as long as they could read and write in their native language – it wasn’t only entrepreneurs who benefited from this conversational English program.
And in the close-knit community of Cusco, this meant that everyone enrolled in English classes would make sure that a little bit of the language would rub off on their nearest and dearest who didn’t attend. So even those who didn’t attend classes could pick up on some conversational English.
But to be sure that the benefits of conversational English continued to reach more people, GVI trained community members to take control of their own conversational English lessons.
We also keep in regular contact with our alumni, and have seen their English prowess growing steadily.
Find out more about our Cusco conversational English project on our Facebook page.
Volunteering and its surprising benefits
The success of our teach English abroad program in Cusco goes to show how community volunteers can make a meaningful contribution.
But what’s interesting about community volunteering is all the surprising benefits that come with it.
You could find yourself happier, healthier, and maybe even gain a clearer perspective of your purpose in life.
And, if you’re lucky, you may just bump into a business mogul who started out in what used to be the capital city of the Incan Empire.
Find out more about our community volunteer projects in Cusco and discover the surprising benefits of volunteering.
Tasneem Johnson-Dollie is an intern at the GVI Writing Academy. The Writing Academy is a skills-development program that pairs development editors with budding travel writers. Learn more about the program here.