Like Jungle Book But Different: Volunteering in the Jungle of Peru

Like Jungle Book But Different: Volunteering in the Jungle of Peru

Like Jungle Book But Different: Volunteering in the Jungle of Peru

We, that is to say Marie-Claire Lutters and Annelies van der Meij, just concluded an unforgettable summer – more than 7 weeks, our entire summer vacation, in Peru. We had been selected through the AIESEC Ambassador Programme to travel to Peru to undertake a volunteering mission that covered 4 pillars: humanitarian, sustainable, cultural and professional. This meant doing volunteer work while representing AIESEC on a professional level, conducting an assignment on behalf of the Rabobank, as well as exploring the country in terms of culture.

As such, we traveled across the country and experienced the many contrasts and differences first hand. We visited the traditional and poor region of Cajamarca in the North, and made our way to the completely different, more prosperous and touristic Cusco down South.

At times, the amount of sheer contrasts made it hard to believe we spent all this time in just one country. In particular at our final destination, just when we thought we had seen it all, we endured a bit of a culture shock. We flew from cold – both literally and figuratively – Lima to the hot and steamy Iquitos, a city so deep in the jungle that it cannot be reached by road.

The province of Iquitos is called the ‘Forgotten Province’; poverty is everywhere and no aid from the government. Here, people’s stories were not exactly happy ones – social problems such as teenage pregnancies, alcoholism, and abuse are rife. In Iquitos we volunteered with El Manguaré, a non-government organization that aims to improve local education, helps the extremely poor in obtaining ID papers, as well as helping kids with learning disabilities in a project in Belén, which is an extremely poor district and almost a city in itself in terms of size.

About once a month, El Manguaré organizes special days where people can apply for ID papers, the so-called DNI, which are needed for issuing your vote, applying for insurance, attending school, and much more. Many people, especially those in the underprivileged districts, do not have a DNI and therefore do not have access to these crucial services. Others have simply lost their DNI or forgot to extend their papers. Nuria, an El Manguaré employee, advocates and helps organize that these people can obtain a DNI for free in the above mentioned district of Belén.

We were there for only one week, so there wasn’t much we could do in terms of hands-on work, but in the mornings we helped children learn how to read, and assisted Nuria with organizing the DNI application days. Since we wanted to leave something meaningful behind for the NGO, we decided to organize a fund raiser to help pay for DNI for those in need. You see, a DNI does cost money after all and the people who don’t have one usually are so poor that they cannot afford one.

The cost of a DNI is about 10 euros, and since we managed to raise several hundred euros, it really made a big difference. It is hard to imagine the amount of people that do not officially exist in Iquitos; the DNI application days organized by El Manguaré are therefore very busy, and we were happy to be able to give both El Manguaré and the people of Iquitos something with a lasting impact, despite the short time frame. On DNI application days and had a selection of beautiful black and white portraits taken and sent to our donors as a thank you.

Our trip to Peru turned out to be immensely powerful and life changing, and we feel very privileged to have experienced it first hand.

Marie-Claire & Annelies – AIESEC ambassadors Maastricht

Charles Giesberger