Frequently Asked Questions
Why volunteer at PSF?
Volunteering is at once challenging, rewarding and fun. Volunteers live and work in a foreign environment with interesting people from around the world, allowing them make contacts and forge friendships that will last a lifetime. They have the opportunity to use their unique skills and energy to make a real difference in the community while teaching other volunteers and learning from others’ knowledge and experience in a variety of technical and pragmatic areas.
What sort of work will I be doing?
Volunteers may work in one of three areas: Construction, Community Development &/or Organizational Management.
Volunteers who indicate their desire to work in construction enjoy a wide variety of projects to choose from every week. This is the most flexible branch of PSF operations, as you may choose to work on different projects every week or, alternatively, work on various stages of one project through to completion (assuming you are able to stay throughout the duration of the project).
Although certain projects often present unique needs and challenges, there are several core areas (and corresponding activities) you will likely find yourself contributing to at some point during your service: Site Preparation (demolition, digging foundations, clearing rubble, etc.), Building (Mixing and pouring concrete, bricklaying, carpentry, plumbing, etc.), or Community Beautification (planting trees, landscaping, community cleanups, painting murals, etc.). Whatever your interest, rest assured you’ll get your hands dirty from the start!
Volunteers wishing to get involved in one of our Community Development Initiatives will work as part of a team dedicated to a particular project pertaining to one of our four program areas: Teaching English, Youth Development, Environmental Conservation and Computer Skills Instruction. These volunteers have the chance to interact directly with the community by preparing and coordinating workshops and activities with local counterpart organizations, community groups, government agencies, and NGOs whose goals are closely related to those of PSF. They will also be actively involved in the execution of educational training workshops and project monitoring and evaluation. Furthermore, PSF’s Community Development Initiatives provide volunteers the opportunity to improve project parameters and best practices. Our programs are constantly enriched by the participation and insight of volunteers with a wide range of experience and educational backgrounds.
Administration and Management
We rely on capable, responsible volunteers to take on leadership positions that are essential to the effective management and successful operation of the organization. Jobs on the PSF Management Team provide unparalleled opportunities to earn invaluable professional experience in an extraordinarily challenging environment. The need for consistency and continuity in our management practices obliges us to require PSF Management Team volunteers undertake a minimum service commitment of three months. The following areas are central to our ability to reach our full potential:
- Organizational Management
- Financial Management & Planning
- Organizational Accounting
- Fundraising & Grant Writing
- Volunteer Coordination & Recruitment
- Volunteer Wellness
- Marketing & Publicity
- Public Relations & Community Outreach
- Site Assessment
- Office Administration
- Logistical Support
- Tools & Inventory Management
- Project Coordination
When can I start?
PSF accepts volunteers on a rolling basis throughout the year. New volunteers may arrive on any day of the week from 8 AM to 8 PM EXCEPT on Sundays, when we will not be accepting any new volunteers. However, we kindly as that you confirm your arrival at least two weeks in advance so that we may coordinate new volunteer orientations and project numbers. Please note that we do not accept walk-in volunteers under any circumstances.
How long do Volunteers serve?
To help us meet the needs of upcoming projects and establish greater continuity among our volunteer base, PSF now requires incoming volunteers commit to a minimum of one month (four full weeks) of service. Volunteers may stay as long as they like and those with more experience at PSF are most likely to be offered a leadership position, provided they have demonstrated responsibility, strong work ethic and teamwork skills during their service. Longer terms of service also allow volunteers to learn more skills in a variety of areas, which facilitates the effective transfer of knowledge to newer volunteers. Construction projects vary in duration from approximately two weeks to several months, allowing volunteers to work on different projects every week or, alternatively, work on various stages of one project through to completion. Regardless of your length of stay, there is always a diverse array of opportunities for volunteers to contribute their time and effort to.
Please note: the longer a volunteer commits to, the more they will ultimately be able to contribute and the more likely their application is to be accepted, particularly for those interested in contributing to Community Development Initiatives or the PSF Administration & Management Team.
How can I make a donation?
Although it is not a requirement, we strongly encourage volunteers planning to work with PSF to fundraise independently before their arrival. The work we do has always been enabled by donations from volunteers and friends and family that make it possible to have an impact in the community. Visit the Donate page for more information and to be directed to our online donations associate, The Omprakash Foundation. In addition to essential financial donations, volunteers can bring books, tools, laptops, office supplies or other useful items that are not readily available here in Pisco or Peru. If you think you may be able to bring something with you that might facilitate our work, please contact us at [email protected].
I would like to volunteer for an extended period of time but I can’t afford it. What can I do?
There are many opportunities available to support your volunteer service through grants offered by numerous charitable and non-profit organizations. Check out our Volunteer Grants page or try searching online for additional options.
What sort of people are you looking for?
We are looking for people who are enthusiastic, hard-working and responsible. While those with construction experience and particular trade skills are always valuable, we look for motivated candidates who are eager learn new skills and make a real contribution to PSF and the community we serve. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and, if planning to work on construction projects, physically fit. Spanish language ability is highly valued, particularly for those working on Community Development Initiatives or taking on roles with the Management Team.
What is a typical day like?
Volunteers work Monday through Friday and a half-day on Saturday. Every weekday morning, breakfast is served from 7:30 AM to 8:15 AM, and at 8:30 AM on Saturday. At 8:15 we have a morning meeting to make announcements and allocate volunteers to the day’s projects. Work starts immediately after this meeting. Lunch will be eaten at a local restaurant near your work site or will be provided by a family in the community. If you are working at the base, you can head out to a close restaurant or rummage through the fridge for leftovers. The workday generally finishes around 5pm and dinner is served at our headquarters at 6pm.
Time Monday – Friday
7:30 – 8:15 Breakfast (HQ)
8:15 – 8:50 Morning Meeting
8:50 – 9:00 Travel to Project Sites
9:00 – 12:30 Work on Site
12:30 – 13:30* Lunch
13:30 – 17:00 Work on Site
17:00 – 18:00 Return to PSF HQ, shower & prep for dinner
18:00 – 19:00 Dinner
19:00 – 22:00 Evening activity &/or free time
23:00 Quiet time
*Lunch times will vary depending on project progress and the nature of the work being done on a particular day. This is an approximation based on a typical day.
Time Saturday Sunday
8:30 – 9:15 Breakfast FREE
9:15 – 9:50 Morning Meeting
9:50 – 10:00 Travel to Project Sites
10:00 – 14:00 Work on Site
> 14:00 FREE
Where will I stay?
What should I bring?
- Original Passport + 3 copies
- Hand Sanitizer
- Personal items / toiletries
- Credit / debit cards (There are ATMs near PSF HQ and in the center of town)
- Bath & beach towels
- Insect Repellent
- Work clothes (that you don’t mind getting dirty)
- Shirts & pants / trousers
- Work boots
- Work gloves
- Casual wear
- Bathing suit
- Shower sandals
- Spanish phrase book, textbook or dictionary
- Electrical power converter (Electric outlet power here is 220V. Appliances must be 110-220 capable or use a converter. Outlets have two parallel flat pin plugs like the ones common in the USA).
Do you have a secure area to lock valuables?
All volunteers are solely responsible for keeping track of their personal belongings. There are small lock boxes available to safeguard small valuables for which volunteers must provide their own padlock to secure. The PSF house is a largely open area and does not currently feature full-sized luggage lockers in the dormitories. However, only PSF volunteers are allowed in the PSF house and volunteers are only allowed access to the room there are staying in, which deters theft and loss of valuables. Still, we strongly recommend volunteers bring luggage locks to secure their valuables and keep their belongings well organized throughout their stay.
What is the food like?
Breakfast served at PSF is hearty and well balanced. It includes tea and coffee, bread, jam, fruit and a main dish, depending on the volunteers wish to prepare that day (Ex. eggs, bacon, pancakes, French toast, cereal, oatmeal/porridge, etc.).
Lunch is typically the main meal of the day in Peru and volunteers will often eat their meals on-site, prepared by local families or community members. If not, Project Leaders will bring volunteers to a local restaurant*, which will offer several traditional options. A typical Peruvian lunch features beef, chicken or seafood coupled with potatoes, rice or beans (usually rice). Peruvians are extremely proud of their gastronomy and for good reason!
Dinners at PSF offer a vegetarian and non-vegetarian option each night. One of the prominent features of life as a volunteer at PSF is the opportunity to contribute to the preparation of meals for 60 – 80 volunteers. Each day several volunteers are asked to help out in the kitchen, which allows volunteers to enjoy a variety of dishes from around the world.
*Always be wary of street vendors’ food, which is more susceptible to contamination, undercooked meat and raw fruits or vegetables. DO NOT drink water straight from the tap. Brushing your teeth with it is usually fine, but, for personal consumption, be sure to buy bottled water from a store or boil tap water before drinking (though the later is far less practical)
Do I need to be able to speak Spanish?
Although it is not a requirement to be able speak Spanish upon arrival, it is a considerable advantage to your application. Knowing the basics will make your stay much more rewarding, as it will help you to interact and effectively communicate with locals and other Spanish-speaking volunteers. It also enables you to undertake greater responsibility at PSF and make a more valuable contribution as a volunteer.
Although relevant experience is generally given priority, applicants indicating a desire to work on Community Development Initiatives or with the PSF Management Team are significantly bolstered by Spanish written and oral communication abilities, due to the higher level of community interaction and the positions’ need for local support and collaboration.
Regardless of your prior experience, we ask that all volunteers try to learn basic Spanish vocabulary and phrases before arriving. If you plan to work on construction projects, we ask you to and print our list of Work Site Vocab, as much of our work is coordinated with locals who only speak Spanish. We also recommend that you try Rosetta Stone or similar language-learning software package in order to pick up other basic phrases and linguistic structure. Spanish textbooks are another great way to brush up before you arrive – anything that will give you a foundation from which to practice and improve your Spanish while you are here. Even a little bit of Spanish goes a long way and the effort is greatly appreciated.
How do I get there?
It is the responsibility of each volunteer to organize his or her own transportation to and from Pisco. The Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM) is the primary gateway into Peru. From Lima it is approximately four hours by bus down to Pisco, which will cost between 28 – 60 Soles, depending on the bus line. Get off at “Cruce de Pisco” and take a cab (about 10 minutes) to the PSF HQ for 8 – 10 Soles. Tell the cab driver “Voy a la casa de Pisco Sin Fronteras en Avenida Las Americas”, and they should know exactly where to take you. Just in case, the address is Asociación San Pedro, Manzana B, Lote 19 (Avenida Las Americas). If they need a reference, it’s “frente el grifo Primax en Avenida Las Americas.” If you have any problems or need clarification, you can always call us at from Peru at (056) 534970 or internationally at (0051) 056 534970.
Do I need a travel visa?
Citizens of the EU, UK, USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Ireland and New Zealand do not need to apply for Visas before entering the country. If you plan to remain in Peru for an extended period of time, be sure to tell the immigration officer that you are volunteering and request an Andean Immigration Card for the maximum time allowed—183 days (the receipt of an AIC is circumstantial and not necessarily guaranteed if you are volunteering with PSF). Keep this card; you may have difficulty leaving the country if you lose it.
If you plan to spend an extended period of time in Peru, please look into applying for a visa at a Peruvian embassy prior to your departure. You can get 30-day visa extensions once you are in the country, but you will need to travel to Lima to obtain one and the visa fee will cost about $30 USD.
If you overstay your visa, the typical penalty is $1/day. If you are already in Peru and about to go over your original number of days, you may want to consider the cost and time of taking a trip to the border of Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador or Brazil.
Please see the following websites for further information regarding visas and other requirements for entering and staying in Peru.
Peruvian Tourism Handbook: http://pe.gotolatin.com/eng/Info/Hbook/visas.asp
Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Relations: http://www.rree.gob.pe/portal/aconsular.nsf/0/9F10D80FD06FFF0405256E38005537D3?OpenDocument
US Embassy: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_998.html
Peru Tourist Visa (Andean Immigration Card): http://howtoperu.com/2011/02/01/peru-tourist-visa-tarjeta-andina/
What will the weather be like?
Pisco is situated on the southern coast of Peru where it enjoys an arid desert climate throughout most of the year. During the summer (December through March), days are hot (and dry and the sun is extremely intense. In the evenings it is generally cooler with mild breezes.
During the winter (May through October), daytime conditions are often overcast and cool. However, this has been less consistent in recent years, with more sporadic hot and sunny days. In the evenings it gets cold (~ 10 – 12 degrees Celcius) so a hat and warm jacket or sweater are advisable. There is hardly any precipitation in Pisco, although there are occasionally heavy mists and light drizzle.
Are there any health issues I should be concerned about?
As with travel to any foreign country, there are certain precautions and preparations that should made well in advance of your travel to Peru. Be sure to carefully read up on the most common ailments that affect visitors. The following link provides some important information to consider before embarking on your trip: http://www.mdtravelhealth.com/destinations/samerica/peru.html
It is extremely important that you have had all the necessary travel vaccinations recommended for visiting Peru. Your doctor or a specialist travel doctor can advise you of these. However, we do require all volunteers receive a typhoid fever vaccination before arriving. Please bring proof of up-to-date vaccinations with you and deliver them to our Volunteer Coordinator when you arrive. We also strongly advise you to ensure your tetanus vaccination is up to date, especially if you plan to work on construction projects.
Although there is a risk of malaria if you plan to visit certain parts of the Peruvian jungle, there is virtually no risk of contracting malaria in Pisco. Mosquitoes are prevalent here, however, particularly during the summer, so it’s a good idea to pack insect repellent (with deet) and a mosquito net, if desired.
It is critical you drink lots of water to keep you hydrated throughout the day, especially when performing physical labor at construction sites. We recommend drinking at least one large water bottle per day (2.5 liters, available at any local bodega for S/. 2.50 – 3.00). Even if you are working in the office, the kitchen or at the beach on a weekend, Pisco’s geographic proximity to the equator makes you susceptible to dehydration and heat exhaustion at all times – even on relatively cool, cloudy days. REMEMBER: TAP WATER HERE IS NOT POTABLE.
The most common health problems affecting PSF volunteers are stomach-related illnesses. This is partly due to a marked change in dietary habits but can sometimes be a result of living with over 50 other volunteers in the same locale. As a PSF volunteer, although you will more than likely be getting your hands dirty on a regular basis, you are expected to maintain healthy hygiene, personal cleanliness, and organization of your personal belongings at all times. This is summarily important for us to be able accurately coordinate projects and the necessary resources that will be allocated to each on a daily basis. We strongly recommend checking with your doctor about your ability to take Ciprofloxacin, a common antibiotic that tends to be highly effective in combating severe stomach illnesses.
**Please note that PSF does not assume responsibility for any volunteer illness or injury during their service. We strongly encourage volunteers to purchase independent travel insurance from a reputable agency and be sure to see whether it will cover you for incidents regarding manual labor**
Is it safe?
While volunteers are generally safe around the city, there are certain precautions that should be carefully heeded whenever outside the PSF HQ as they are susceptible to the same security risks that are prevalent in cities throughout South America. We strongly advise traveling in small groups and taking taxis or mototaxis whenever possible. If you decide to walk, you should be keenly aware of places to be avoided and only bring what is absolutely necessary on your person. At night, the risks are obviously greater, and volunteers must be even more vigilant. Females in particular, should always avoid walking alone at night, wearing jewelry, walking with an MP3 player, or snapping pictures in inappropriate situations.
The vast majority of locals are aware that international volunteers are working in Pisco to improve their community and standards of living and are therefore genuinely friendly, helpful and, above all, grateful that you are here to help. Still, volunteers are urged to keep their guard up at all times in order to prevent incidents that could have a negative effect on one’s service.
How can I communicate with friends and family back home?
Public payphones are ubiquitous throughout the city and can be operated with phone cards (widely available) or coins. PSF offers wireless internet signal accessible to all volunteers who bring a personal laptop or mobile device. There are also 2 Internet locales that offer email access and headsets with Skype within 100 meters of the PSF house. They also have phone booths from which international (and local) phone calls can be made.
Are cell phones available?
Cell phones can be rented at one of the stalls found just outside the baggage claim area of the Jorge Chavez International Airport. An unlocked mobile phone (available in Pisco) can be fitted with a locally purchased Peruvian SIM card (about $15 USD) for pay-as-you-go service. Local and international calling and text messaging both work with this kind of prepaid service.
How should I bring my money?
There are ATM machines and currency exchange posts outside the baggage claim area of the airport. We recommend checking with your local bank before traveling to be sure they are aware of your travel plans and to see if they are affiliated with any bank branches in Peru. The most common banks (which all have branches in Pisco) are Scotiabank, Interbank/MiBanco, BBVA Continental, and BCP (Banco de Credito del Peru). Globalnet ATMs are also commonly found in Pisco and throughout Peru. There are almost always people who exchange money on/around the Plaza de Armas in the center of Pisco every day. Finally, we strongly recommend bringing at least one other mode of accessing funds in case your primary card is broken, lost, or stolen.
Anything else I need to know?
Expect the unexpected! Plans often go awry when traveling in South America and Peru is no exception. Be flexible and try to be conscious of cultural differences you may encounter here.
The experience you will have at PSF is truly one-of-a-kind and is extremely rewarding to those who come prepared and eager to make a difference. You will have the opportunity to make a real impact if you are determined and dedicated to do so. See our Volunteer Blogs to learn more about volunteers’ experiences at PSF.