Peru is a country on the move. Business, mining, and tourism are strong, but economic growth has been uneven, and many of its poorest citizens are being left behind. A key challenge is education: dropout rates are high, pass rates are low, and families who cannot afford private schools struggle to offer their children a ladder out of poverty. For this reason, SID’s volunteer programs in Peru focus on designing scalable educational programs and curriculum innovations that are tailored to the local context.
Peru has a population of over 31 million people. The country covers the coastal areas of the Pacific Ocean, the Andean Mountains and the Amazon Rainforest. As a result, it is extremely biodiverse, with a variety of different climates, flora, and fauna. Various indigenous Amerindian or mixed-race (Mestizo) groups make up the majority of the population of Peru, followed by white European-Peruvians, and a small but visible population of East Asians and other immigrants. Along with Spanish, the indigenous languages Quechua and Aymara are official languages in Peru. It should be noted that SID requires its Peru volunteers to be proficient in Spanish at a third-year university level.
Projects in Peru
Where We Work
SID does its work in Peru around Trujillo, which is the country’s third largest city with a population of just over 750,000. The city is located on the northwest coastal region of the country in a mild desert climate, with warm temperatures year-round. SID’s mission in this area is to strengthen public education and promote knowledge and services around health. For example, Peru has struggled to improve the quality of its education, including scoring lower than any other OECD country on international evaluations in mathematics knowledge.
Round trip airfare from Toronto to Lima, the capital of Peru, can range from CAD $400 to $1,000. There is also one airport in the Trujillo area, Captain FAP Carlos Martínez de Pinillos International Airport, however there are no direct flights from Toronto to Trujillo. Many people in Peru take the bus to get around the country. A bus ride from Lima to Trujillo is about 10 hours, and costs around $30-45.
Theft, muggings, tourist scams, and other petty crimes are prevalent in Peru. Travelers should exercise vigilance, be attentive of their surroundings, and take what locals say with a grain of salt. Tourist police are generally helpful in assisting foreigners with problems they may encounter. Occasional protests and labor actions may block roads or cause public unrest, but these have a generally local impact and can be avoided.
Trujillo has a climate with virtually no precipitation and a stable temperature between 15 – 25 degrees Celsius year round. However, those planning to trek the country should plan to bring adequate clothing and supplies for all kinds of climates, both hot and cold. Travelers wishing to climb in the Andean mountains must be prepared for altitude sickness, UV rays from the sun, and drastic changes in temperature throughout the day.
Quality of Life / Cost of Living
Trujillo has developed infrastructure for transportation and commerce, though things such as plumbing are not as developed. The city has 24-hour medical clinics, though rural areas may not always have ready access to health care. Living in Trujillo is cheaper than Lima for most things, including eating out at restaurants, buying staple groceries and taking public transit. An inexpensive meal at a restaurant can cost CAD$3-6, while a bus ride will cost just under half a dollar. Volunteers should expect to spend a bit of money for personal and leisure expenses.
Festivals and public gatherings with music and dance are integral to Peruvian culture. Everything from cultural events, to language, to food is as varied as the different groups in the country. Rice, meat, fish, potatoes and stews are common. That said, volunteers should expect to see, hear, and taste things they have never encountered before.
Peru has a Human Development Index (HDI) score of 0.734, where it is ranked 84th. According to 2015 World Bank estimates, Peru has a per capita income of about USD$6,200 ($11,960 when adjusted for purchasing power). While the amount of people living in abject poverty has declined sharply over the past decade, and life expectancy has been steadily rising over the past half century, many people in Peru continue to live in poor conditions.
Like many Latin American countries, social programs in Peru have depended largely on economic growth and international trade. While helping to reduce poverty, natural resource extraction – along with climate change – has heavily affected people in rural areas, especially indigenous communities. Thus, despite its recent economic success, inequality in Peru remains deep and multifaceted. Total income inequality has fallen very little over the past decade, while inequality between urban and rural areas, as well as between the coastal and the Amazon and Andean regions, has actually increased significantly.
Access to education, health indicators such as malnutrition and child mortality, as well as access to water remain staggeringly poor in many parts of the country, including among the urban poor. Overall, Peru has yet to surpass many obstacles toward development.