Kids Volunteering In Cusco

Aside from getting drilled in Spanish five hours a day, doing their homeschooling/distance learning and swimming on the Cusco swim team, both our kids had regular volunteer jobs during our time in Cusco. After their Spanish class, both would walk through San Blas to their jobs at Colibri, a shelter for street kids and children of single-parents with no place to go in the afternoons. Many of the kids worked as shoe shine boys and some of the girls sold gum or woven finger puppets in the Plaza de Armas in order to supplement the family income.

Once our kids arrived each day, they were greeted by Senor Alcides, the director, and his assistant, along with a dozen young kids who come up to hug them and greet them. Our kids’ main role was to play Monopoly or card games with the kids, do art projects, help them with their homework (usually math or English) and play futbol with them. Many of the local Spanish language schools sent adult students over for one or two week stints, so during their three month tenure our 14- and 12-year old kids got to meet and work with people from Australia, Sweden, England, France, South Africa and other countries.

About a month after starting with Colibri, and hearing our kids complain about how tattered and beat up the board games and sporting equipment were, our family had the idea of trying to raise some money for the shelter. There were no basketballs, the monopoly game was missing a bunch of pieces and they were in desperate need of school supplies. The kids wrote up a proposal outlining what was needed and how much it would cost along with a description of the shelter and some photos and we thought about who to send it to. We decided they should send it to my group of neighborhood basketball-playing dads back home who hold a tournament each year and raise money for sports and youth-related causes. Within two days, the group responded and said they would be happy to donate $300 for sporting goods and school supplies.

Here is the body of the thank you letter they wrote:

We are writing to you guys to thank you for your generous donation of $300 dollars to the Colibri Organization, in Cusco, Peru.

Colibri is an after school program for kids when their parents are at work or they do not have parents. It is a police sponsored program designed to give kids a safe place to be off the street. We work at Colibri for two hours a day after Spanish class. When we go to Colibri, we help with homework and often take the kids up to a park five minutes away and play basketball, soccer and games with them. The kids are very smart and are very nice. Their ages range from 5 to 14.

Your donation of $300 to Colibri will be spent on new basketballs, soccer balls, notebooks, pencils, colored pencils, and food. The kids at Colibri don't have very much stuff and it’s really sad to see them playing basketball with a beat-up old soccer ball. We can assure you that your money will be spent on worth-while things. The kids at Colibri are very happy and very grateful.

Once we received the money, we went to El Molino, the discount shopper’s paradise in Cusco, and bought everything, taking care to record how much was spent on each item and giving a full accounting of the donated funds. The kids listed all the expenses in a spreadsheet and sent some photos back to the basketball dads’ group, showing them how their money was spent.

The kids’ time at Colibri was extremely rewarding and the biggest treat for us came whenever our family walked through the Plaza de Armas. Quite often while crossing the main square, we’d hear small children call out our kids’ names, come running over and give them hugs. Who says they weren’t getting compensated for their time?


  1. You are amazing parents! I admire your dedication to helping others and to sharing that with your kids!

  2. Excellent story. You guys are really doing a great thing. Thank you.

  3. Awesome you guys. What a gift you are giving your children!

  4. Marly, Jason, NVR Guys:
    Thanks for your comments. I know the kids got a lot out of the experience.

  5. What an excellent idea - and very inspirational! How did you find out about Colibri? Were you already there?

  6. Hi Sophie,
    I was introduced through a Spanish Language School (Amauta) in Cusco. They have a lot of volunteer options that compliment their curiculum. Colibri worked best because it was just around the corner from the school and not far from our apartment. A few months prior to all of us coming down, I did a 10 day trip to set up language school, interview NGO's, find swim team, etc. and I checked out Colibri at that time. Once we were all there we had to wait a bit to make sure the kids spoke Spanish well enough to be able to help.
    Thanks for checking in.