Volunteer Q & A

What does AYNI mean?

In Peru there are several native languages, one of which is Aymara. “Ayni” is an Aymaran word and means “today for you, tomorrow for me”.   It is based on the concept of “reciprocity.”

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What teaching experience, education and skills do I need to have?

The kind of volunteer that AYNI needs:

  • Someone who LOVES working with children (teaching, playing, & having fun).  If you do not, read no further, this job is NOT for you.
  • Someone who is highly positive and does not get discouraged easily – 2 steps forward, 1 step back (this is the nature of working against poverty).
  • Someone who thinks independently & outside the box, and can navigate themselves with little guidance.
  • Preferably someone who has some experience in teaching, or working with children or development, or is eager to take on new challenges.
  • If one has no teaching experience, or experience with children, they must be extremely patient, and positive during their trial and error stage.
  • Preferably someone who has a functional knowledge of Spanish so that your transition and immersion is smoother, and so you can accomplish more in the time you are there
  • Someone who is creative and innovative (ex. someone who can turn sand into an arts and craft activity…paper, glue, sand = picture)
  • Someone who is observant, can see a problem and takes action to implement a viable solution
  • Someone who can take the opportunity given and make something from almost nothing.
  • Someone who thrives on, and sees the value of building relationships with people (children & community members).
  • Someone who is brave and will not crumble under new and foreign circumstances (e.g., new language and culture, desert heat, occasional diarrhea, poverty, working with different personalities etc.)
  • Someone who is used to working hard, and is productive.

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Do I need to know Spanish?

Yes, you need what we call “functional Spanish.”  You must be comfortable conversing in basic Spanish as this will make your transition easier and your experience more fulfilling and productive.  You will be able to contribute more if you are able to communicate to community members and the children in Spanish.  However you do not have to be fluent, rather functional.

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How long should I stay?

The school semesters in Peru run from April to July and from August to December. We prefer volunteers to stay for at least a full semester to sustain continuity and build a strong relationship with the children and community. This is not always realistic though, so even if you cannot come exactly at these times but can volunteer for at least three months, we are still interested in your application.

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Do I need to fundraise before I come?

AYNI does not receive funds from any government, church, company or other organization. All money thus far has been raised by Margie Orsi, the founder, and the volunteers themselves. So, anything you can do to help raise funds is essential to our survival. However, it isn’t a requirement.

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What is the currency in Peru?

Peru’s currency is the Nuevo Sol. It is good practice to check the exchange rate before arriving. There are automatic telling machines (ATMs) in Piura that accept VISA and MasterCard and Interact bank cards on the Cirrus/Maestro network.  Generally it is a pain to cash travellers cheques.  Bank cards and cash are the most convenient way to access your funds.

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What will my living expenses be like?

We require a US $200 deposit, upon which you will get back $100 when you have completed your volunteer time with us. Unlike many other organizations, we do not charge anything from you as a volunteer, but you do pay for your own expenses. You will need to find your own accommodation, but we will help you do so. It could be renting a room in a family house, sharing an apartment with other volunteers or hostel or motel living.  Rent costs anything from 150-300 Soles (about $US 50-100) per month depending on quality, size and location of the residence. With rent, food and local travel expenses you will spend anywhere from $300 to $500 a month.  It isn’t difficult to live cheap in Piura with for example, two-course lunch specials for only 10 Soles (US$5), tickets to the cinema at 10 Soles ($5) and a nice cold beer at 4 Soles ($2).  There are lots of grocery stores fully equipped for all your needs.

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Do I need to get shots or take medicine?

See your family doctor or a travel doctor before you leave.  They will tell you what you need to live in Piura, Peru.  The recommendation usually is Hep A & B, and Tetanus.  However, some doctors also recommend Yellow Fever shot and Malaria medication.  Technically Piura is a malaria zone, however we have not known a single volunteer or villager that had malaria.  It is a personal decision that you will make based on your doctor’s recommendation.

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What do I need to bring?


When packing clothes, remember that Piura is in the desert, so it is hot all year round. Their summer is very hot (30-40 degrees C) (December to April), and then it cools off for the rest of year (April to November) (20-27 degrees C).  If you plan on travelling to other places in peru, pack accordingly as the climate varies throughout the country.  During the cooler months (April to November) the morning and nights can get a little chilly, so bring a jacket or sweater.  As for toiletries (food, electrics, bug spray, medicine, sun block…): you can buy all of that in Peru, so don’t waste suitcase space by packing such things to last for your whole stay.  We recommend packing your own first aid with medicine you can recognize from my own country i.e. anti-bacterial, Tylenol, polysporin etc.


If you can pack half of your suitcase or bring an extra suitcase full of donations, we encourage you to do that.  Used children’s clothing, fever medication for children, vitamins, stickers, games, tiny toys, deflated balls, used laptops, spanish children’s books etc, we can use them all.  Please don’t go out and buy school supplies because they can all be bought in Peru.  Essentially if you can get stuff for free or you can find cool stuff at the dollar store the kids would like, be my guest, but anything that can bought in Peru, should be bought in Peru to save luggage space.

If you already have material you want to bring, great! However, don’t go out and buy school supplies – rather, bring the money and we can purchase them here: we’ll get a lot more for the money and we’ll simultaneously support the local economy.

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How do I get to Piura from Lima?

If your flight arrives at night, you will need to spend the night in Lima.  We recommend a hostel called “Friends House” in Miraflores, (located at 368 Manco Capac, MIraflores, just off Larco. Tel:01-446-6248). It is safe and the owners are great. If you contact them in advance they can arrange to meet you at the airport for a small fee.  Other volunteers like to stay at Loki Lima http://www.lokihostel.com/lima There is no shortage of places to stay in Lima, but aim to stay in Miraflores; it is safe, clean, interesting and near the beach.  Personally, we would advise avoiding downtown Lima.

You can either fly or take a bus to Piura. The flight takes about an hour and costs US$ 150-350 return (but check the airline website – LAN Peru or Taca). The bus takes about 15 hours and costs 150 Soles ($US 70). There are many different bus companies to choose from but we recommend either, Oltursa, Cruz del Sur or Ittsa. They are all modern and comfortable with reclining bed-seats, video, food and drinks included and a toilet onboard. You will need to buy your bus ticket at least a day before you plan to travel to make sure there is room.

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Where will I live?

You will need to find your own accommodation in Piura but we will help you do so. There are always rooms available to rent in Piura. You can live with a family, find an apartment with other volunteers or rent an independent room.  If you want some time to think about it, you could directly check yourself in to Hotel San Jose, which is just a hop and a skip away from where our volunteers generally stay.  http://www.hotelsanjose.com.pe/ Many have stayed here temporarily and love it, it is family run, simple, clean and cheaper than other fancier hotels.

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What is Piura like?

Piura is a smaller city of about 300 000 citizens compared to the capital Lima.  It’s in the northwest coastal desert of Peru, and therefore is hot and dry all year around.  Some of Peru’s most beautiful beaches are only one hour or two from Piura and they are generally easy to get to.  In the city there are markets, shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, a cinema, a theatre, art exhibitions, gyms, museums, parks and lots of grocery stores.  Piura is however somewhat off the tourist track and most visitors pass through it on their way to/from Ecuador.  AYNI volunteers are often a part of a handful of  ‘gringos’ (as they say in Peru) and can attract a lot of attention.  Many people relate Peru purely to the Andean colours, music and native culture with kids running around in ponchos and women wearing straw hats. While Piura is bursting with culture, it is not that one.

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What is the village that we work in like?

Altos de los Mores, is a small typically poor community where most families live in straw houses with dirt floors, which they share with not only their many family members but also with their animals.  Although the majority of the people only eat one to two meals per day, people here are not starving, but often undernourished.   Most families own a piece of land or work a piece of land where they plant vegetables like corn and beans, and you can often estimate a family’s wealth by how many and what type of animals they have.  Many adults in Altos de los Mores, like in most other rural villages in Peru, are illiterate and have never attended school. The new generation however is mainly literate, and due to AYNI’s educational support we are seeing many more kids go on to high school and post secondary education.  Peru is generally a male dominated country and this is especially noticeable in small places like Altos de los Mores.

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Can I get a part-time job to support myself?

In most cases you can easily find part-time work.  There are always teaching jobs available and native English speakers are wanted everywhere.  Most private institutes prefer experienced teachers and at least a three-month commitment.  You can also teach private classes to individual students.  Usually teaching English privately pays 10 soles per hour. Please remember though that your volunteer work with us must always come before your paid job. It is also important not to rely on any part-time job to fully finance your stay: you should have a reserve of savings to cover your expenses.

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