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Perched amidst the awe-inspiring vistas of the Andes Mountains and the lush greenery of the Amazon Rainforest, Peru represents the remarkable fusion of cultures and natural marvels that characterize South America. As such, it has been gratifying to forge connections with locals to establish the groundwork necessary for our Peru Discovery program — an enriching odyssey of discovery, education, and genuine connection. 

Part of our 2024 Global Student Exchange series, the journey includes many diverse activities, such as an exciting market challenge, a visit to the mesmerizing Temple of the Moon, and a reforestation project. A trip to the awe-inspiring Machu Picchu offers an unforgettable glimpse into ancient civilizations. Additionally, students will explore Aguas Calientes Market and take a train journey through the Sacred Valley.

Departing from the beaten path, our itinerary also prioritizes meaningful encounters with indigenous communities and the safeguarding of Peru’s cultural legacy, providing participants with an authentic glimpse into the country’s multifaceted identity. Through hands-on engagement and thought-provoking experiences, students deepen their appreciation for Peru’s unique history and cultivate a sense of responsibility towards sustainability and their role in ensuring our planet’s diverse cultural landscape continues to thrive

Learning alongside Indigenous communities

At the core of the Peru Discovery program lies a profound appreciation for the indigenous communities that call this land home. From the bustling streets of Cusco to the remote villages of the Sacred Valley, students are welcomed with open arms as they work alongside locals to improve the circumstances of the communities they visit. 

A deep dive into Quechua traditions

One of the standout experiences of the Peru Discovery program is the cultural immersion in the Quechua community of Kuyo Chico. Over two enriching days, students are welcomed into the heart of this self-sustaining community, where they gain firsthand insights into age-old traditions and customs.

Led by local guides and community members, students learn about traditional house construction, cooking techniques, weaving practices, pottery making, and more. From trying their hand at the art of adobe brick-making to learning how to cook pachamanca underground using traditional methods, every experience is a window into Quechua culture.

Building friendships through communal reflection sessions 

There are generally tears at the end, as students bid farewell to their hosts and newfound friends in the Sacred Valley community.

As the sun sets over the Sacred Valley during our Quechua community immersion, students and locals gather for reflective sessions, sharing their thoughts and insights on the day’s activities. These intimate gatherings offer a space for dialogue, connection, and mutual understanding, bridging cultural divides and developing friendships.

In discussions with community members, students explore solutions for contemporary challenges such as climate change, drawing inspiration from traditional wisdom and practices. Likewise, as their daily activities have revolved around scaling back and embracing time-honored methods, they gain a deeper appreciation for the interconnectedness of culture, ecology, and sustainability. 

As our Americas Director, Simon Willis, reflects, “There are generally tears at the end, as students bid farewell to their hosts and newfound friends in the Sacred Valley community. Unlike typical travelers who merely pass through, our students truly integrate into the community, forging meaningful connections that will inform their perspectives long after they return home.”

Empowering communities through sustainable weaving

Another interactive leg of our journey sees students engaging in a deeply impactful cultural immersion experience with a women’s weaving cooperative. These remarkable artisans have forged a path of resilience and sustainability in the face of shifting tourism dynamics, setting themselves apart from communities solely reliant on tourist traffic.

Recognizing the adverse effects of mass tourism on their livelihoods, particularly as Machu Picchu surged in popularity, this cooperative boldly decided to pivot towards a new model. Instead of solely catering to tourists, they embraced traditional weaving techniques and natural dyeing methods, preserving their cultural heritage while adapting to changing economic realities.

As students participate in hands-on workshops, learning the skills of natural dyeing and weaving, they gain a firsthand understanding of the cooperative’s commitment to sustainable production practices. Through dialogue and interaction with cooperative members, students explore the concept of responsible consumption and production, aligning with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal agenda.

Promoting sustainable development

As the highlighted activities reflect, a central pillar of the Peru Discovery program is a commitment to sustainable development and environmental conservation. Through hands-on volunteer projects and community initiatives, students actively contribute to the well-being of local communities while promoting eco-friendly practices and responsible tourism. Whether participating in composting projects to reduce waste or engaging in market challenges to support local vendors, students learn firsthand the power of collective action in addressing pressing environmental and social issues.

Likewise, through immersive experiences such as brick-making and weaving workshops with local artisans, students see a circular economy in action and gain a deep appreciation for the intricate artistry and symbolism contained in these lovingly made items. By actively participating in time-honored practices, students learn valuable skills and contribute to preserving cultural identity and economic sustainability within indigenous communities.

A journey of transformation

Ultimately, the Peru Discovery program transcends the boundaries of a traditional student exchange program to become a transformative journey of discovery, growth, and empowerment. Through immersion in indigenous cultures, preservation of cultural heritage, promotion of sustainable development, and cultivation of global awareness, students emerge as ambassadors of change and plant the seeds of a special connection to Peru’s rich traditions, natural wonders, and vibrant communities. 

In the shadow of ancient ruins and sacred temples, students reflect on the enduring legacy of Peru’s pre-Columbian civilizations and the importance of safeguarding these treasures for future generations. Whether exploring the mesmerizing architecture of Machu Picchu or marveling at the intricate carvings of the Temple of the Moon, every encounter serves as a poignant reminder of the profound connection between past, present, and future.

In the words of a Quechua elder, “With the support of the visitors who come to Kuyo Chico, we are beginning to pull ourselves back up. I want my community to be successful.” Indeed, through meaningful engagement and collaboration, Peru’s true spirit is preserved and celebrated. 

Find all the details here and contact us today to reserve your spot.