Peru | Community Service

Immerse yourself in village life in Peru’s Sacred Valley on this South American summer community service program for teenagers. In just under one month, high school students complete meaningful volunteer projects, experience the colorful and rich culture of the descendants of the Incas, and visit some of the most important sites of the Inca empire, including Machu Picchu.

  • June 28, 2015 - July 21, 2015
  • July 12, 2015 - July 28, 2015
Students completing grades 9-12
Community Service
Typical Group:
15-17 students, 2 leaders
  • 3.5 week(s) (June 28, 2015 - July 21, 2015)
  • 2.5 week(s) (July 12, 2015 - July 28, 2015)


Fly to Lima and head to Ollantaytambo, a town in Peru’s Sacred Valley, nestled into the towering South American Andes. Spend two days adapting to the altitude (about 9,000 feet) and joining in a detailed orientation to Peru and to the high school community service program. Go whitewater rafting on the Urubamba River to get to know your group, leaders, and the Sacred Valley itself. Explore ruins in the imposing Ollantaytambo fortress to familiarize yourself with the Incas, a people whose influence is still woven into the fabric of modern Peru.

After orientations in Ollantaytambo, we travel to our host village in a more remote part of the Sacred Valley, where we complete meaningful community service while getting to know the people, history, and culture of Peru. In close partnership with local community organizations, we help to organize volunteer construction and education projects, and work on them each day alongside our local friends.  Specific volunteer projects are decided in the spring  based on community need; in the past they have included building a classroom, painting a mural, constructing a community center, and creating and teaching language lessons for young students.  In addition to group volunteer projects, you also complete an independent project based on your own interests: create a Quechua phrasebook, practice weaving, photograph local children and display their portraits at the school, volunteer at the village clinic, learn to cook a traditional meal, organize a sports game for local kids, or spend a day herding sheep with a local shepherd.  In the afternoons after the work day is finished, spend time playing soccer with local friends, hike remnants of ancient Inca footpaths into the surrounding mountains, or relax and play music with your Peruvian peers.  Students enrolled in Putney’s 3.5 week Peru program can expect to complete between 60 and 80 hours of community service work. Students enrolled in Putney’s 2.5 week program can expect to complete between 35 and 50 hours of community service work.

“This was Madison’s third trip with Putney and I think her favorite. Madison has grown and has become more independent with every trip. We can see that she really has matured, has made lifelong friends, has an increased sense of adventure and an appreciation for everything she has at home. After speaking with Madison (or I should say listening because she would not stop speaking about the trip), I can confidently say that the trip EXCEEDED our expectations!”

— Veronica Seifert, mother of Madison Giorgi, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Little Falls, NJ

Accommodations in our host village are simple but safe and comfortable.  We stay in a dormitory-like building in the village with separate quarters for boys and girls. Help local cocineras shop for ingredients and prepare traditional Peruvian fare, as well as more familiar favorites.

CSPERB_EvanRossMiller (258)

Work on a variety of projects identified by the community, like this school rehabilitation project.

On weekend excursions, trek past a dramatic high mountain lake to the Lares hot springs or an Inca quarry used as a burial ground. Mountain bike to Salineras—Inca salt mines—and visit the world-famous market at Pisac. Try your hand at the ancient practice of weaving during a workshop in Chinchero.

On a weekend excursion, travel to the provincial capital of Cusco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the historic capital of the Inca Empire.  Explore the ruins of the sacred temple, Coricancha, and the terraced fortress of Sacsayhuamán, the site of one of the most important battles of the Spanish conquest.

The community service program culminates when you travel by train deep into the Andes to explore the most famous archaeological site in the Americas—the mysterious mountaintop Inca stronghold of Machu Picchu. Spend a final day in Lima, reflecting on your experience and saying your goodbyes before returning home.


  • Volunteer with local workers to improve the local school.
  • Practice Spanish or Quechua as you play fútbol with Peruvian friends.
  • Hike ancient Inca trails through the mountains to remote Andean villages.
  • Sample regional specialties at one of Cusco’s many open-air markets.
  • Ascend to the mysterious mountaintop citadel of Machu Picchu.

What to Expect

For most of each weekday, we are actively involved in community service work.  Work can be strenuous, and you can expect to spend most of each day outside.  If you have experienced difficulty adapting to  locations at high altitude, you should consider choosing another destination. Everyone participates in all of the group’s projects on a rotating basis, and everyone lends a hand in meal preparation and cleanup.   Since we live in our village as the local people do, accommodations are very simple with separate space for boys and girls and basic bathroom facilities.  You should come to the program with an open-mind, eager to participate in new experiences, and interested in exploring another culture and way of life.

At Putney we take pride in our reputation for careful, thorough planning and attention to detail. The descriptions of our high school summer travel programs are based on our experiences in previous summers and our plans for this summer. It is inevitable that some things described here will not happen exactly as presented. To get the most out of the Putney experience, participants need to be flexible in responding to unforeseen situations, and creative in taking advantage of unexpected opportunities. We expect Putney participants to share responsibility for the success of their experience. Rules that provide a safe and structured environment, set curfews, and prohibit the use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco are in place and enforced. We expect you to behave in a mature and productive way at all times.



  • $4,990 (June 28, 2015 - July 21, 2015)
  • $3,990 (July 12, 2015 - July 28, 2015)

Putney organizes escorted international flights. Please consult us for fares.


Learn about last year’s program by reading the 2014 Community Service Peru Blog.

This program begins and ends at Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida.

Departure •  The group flight departs from Miami International Airport where you meet one of your leaders who travels with the group to Lima, Peru.

Lima to Cusco • Fly from Lima to Cusco, and travel by charter bus to Ollantaytambo. 

Ollantaytambo • We spend our first two days in Ollantaytambo, getting to know each other, acclimating to the high altitude of the Andes, exploring nearby Inca ruins, and joining in a detailed program orientation.

Explore Peru's fertile valleys and towering peaks.

Explore Peru’s fertile valleys and towering peaks.

Our Host Village • Take a short bus ride from Ollantaytambo to our host village in the Urubamba province tucked into the Andes. Immerse yourself in village life and complete meaningful volunteer projects through our partnership with the local community.

Weekend Excursions • Use weekends to further explore the Sacred Valley. Take a hike to the Lares hot springs or visit the Inca ruins at Moray or Pisac. Learn about traditional dyeing and weaving practices at a women’s textile collective in Chinchero. Travel to the provincial capital of Cusco to explore the city’s picturesque colonial center, edged with Inca stonework, or stroll through the ruins of an ancient temple.

High School Teens Biking in Peru's Sacred Valley

Rent mountain bikes or take a hike through the vast and beautiful Sacred Valley.

Machu Picchu • Board a train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu. Explore this well-preserved Inca stronghold, world-renowned for its remote, mountaintop location. Hike up a surrounding peak to see these famous ruins from a new perspective.

“For me, the highlights of my program were Machu Picchu, walking around and exploring and getting to know Ollantaytambo, and helping the villagers of Pallata — seeing what a difference we made in their community and how much they appreciated the work we did. Laughing and playing with the Peruvian children was so unforgettable. It is something I will never get to experience again.”

— Natalie Stevenson, Riverwood High School, Atlanta, GA

Lima and Return • Fly with the group and your leaders from Cusco to Lima, where you will spend the last day of the program. After a final dinner with your group, fly to Miami International Airport. Say goodbye to your group and continue on to your final destination.

This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule.  However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.


Background • Peru is known for its welcoming people, rich colonial and Incan history, awe-inspiring ancient ruins, and colorful music, arts, and crafts. Although rapid modernization in recent years has improved the economic situation of some Peruvian families, many still face chronic poverty, unemployment, and limited access to basic services. The highland villages of the Sacred Valley are home to many families who face serious challenges accessing education, health care, jobs, and diverse sources of nutrition.

Immerse yourself in the unique culture of the Sacred Valley.

Immerse yourself in the unique culture of the Sacred Valley.

Population  • Peru is a multi-ethnic nation with a population of roughly 30 million.  Indigenous groups make up 45 percent of the population, with most of the remainder being mestizos — people of mixed race.  Our host village is largely made up of indigenous people and has a population of less than 1,000.

Language  • Peru is a multilingual nation.  Though Spanish is an official language throughout the country, indigenous languages like Quechua and Aymará are widely spoken.  Most residents of our host villages are native Quechua speakers who begin learning Spanish when they enter school, so most adults are proficient in Spanish.

“I felt such a sense of accomplishment every day in Pallata. Whether it was carrying adobes for the Peruvian workers to lay or even just clearing a rock pile, I knew that I was making a difference in the lives of the people of Pallata. Personally, I gained an appreciation for what I have, seeing how people can live so simply without what I think are such staple necessities.”

— Zoe Spett, Mahwah High School, Mahwah, NJ

Climate • The climate throughout the Sacred Valley is temperate throughout the year with daytime lows in the 50s and highs in the 70s.  Our host villages as well as other places that we visit are at high elevation — 10,000 feet or more — so after dark temperatures can dip sharply, into the 30s and 40s.

Explore the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu with local experts as your guides.

Explore the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu with local experts as your guides.

Cuisine • Peruvian cooking blends Spanish influence and indigenous ingredients, the most common of which are corn, potatoes, and rice.  These ingredients are combined with chicken, fish, cheeses, grains, eggs, and fresh fruits and vegetables to produce the delicious local cuisine.

Currency • The currency of Peru is the Nuevo Sol (PEN).  An ATM card is the most convenient way to access cash during the program.

Voltage Voltage in Peru is 220 V, so U.S. electronic appliances may require a voltage converter and plug adapter.  Access to electricity in our host village is limited, so we share outlets for charging digital cameras and other electronic devices.

Visa  U.S. citizens are not currently required to have a visa to enter Peru.  Non U.S. citizens must check local visa requirements.


The Community Service Peru program is directed by Alexandra Bodel. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our high school summer programs abroad, please get in touch!

Alexandra Bodel

Alexandra Bodel: Dartmouth College, B.A., Romance Languages and Environmental Biology; University of Miami School of Law, J.D. Originally from Miami, Alex spent childhood summers in Argentina and Uruguay, her parents’ home countries. During college, she studied abroad in France and Mexico. After completing her law degree, Alex clerked for a federal judge and worked as a litigator in New York City. Alex has led programs in Spain, Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Nepal, and has taught at our Pre-College program at Amherst College.  Alex coordinates programs and oversees hiring for our National Geographic Student Expeditions.  During her free time — when not spending it with her 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son — Alex enjoys playing tennis, yoga and trying out new recipes.

How To Apply


If you are new to Putney Student Travel, visit our Online Application.  
If you are a Putney Student Travel alumni family, 
use your existing account information to Log In.


You can hold a space in a program by completing the Online Application Form, submitting a signed Agreement Form, and providing the $700 Application Deposit by Mastercard, Visa, or Discover Card through our secure online system or by sending a check to our office. Our admissions staff is also available to take credit card information over the phone.  We will hold a space in a program for a reasonable time, pending completion of the full application process. See Step 3.

After March 15, we will hold a space temporarily as above, but we must receive full payment by check or wire transfer within three days to continue to hold a space in the program.


Before we can make a final admissions decision, an application must be complete.  In addition to the Application Form and Application Deposit described above, a complete application includes:

  • Applicant Statement – Attach a statement explaining why you would like to join a Putney program and what you feel you can contribute to it. Your application cannot be processed without this statement. Approximately 150–300 words is sufficient. Global Action applicants’ statements must be 300-500 words addressing these questions, and detailing their interest and/or experience in the country and issues on which they wish to focus.
  • Two Teacher Reference Forms

These documents are available as part of our Online Application.  We review a completed application within a few days, and notify families of our admissions decision by e-mail.