The more I process my volunteer experience with Karikuy, the less inclined I am to recommend it. I love what founder, Julio Tello is doing to promote responsible tourism within Peru and give back to its impoverished communities, but his volunteer program did not live up to expectations.
|My bed at Karikuy|
|Puppy poo on the bathroom floor|
Volunteers are charged $50 a week for Monday through Saturday meals. The food was simple, sometimes tasty; more often than not, monotonous. Breakfast was typically a roll with fresh cheese and avocado and tea. Lunch and dinner involved a broth based noodle soup with a smattering of vegetables and a mystery chicken part, followed by a mountain of rice, more chicken (sometimes beef), and usually a boiled potato. A gal can only handle so much chicken, rice and potatoes before crying Uncle. Given the option (and if the “B&B” kitchen were functioning and not just a catch-all for trash and recycling), I would’ve been happy to prepare some of my own meals or at least have the option to eat some meals from the abundance of nearby street food vendors. We ended up eating out a few times during the week instead of at the house, which I was more than happy to do, but should be noted, was on the volunteers’ dime and not part of the $50 per week budget. Knowing how well one can eat for cheap in Peru and far a sole stretches, $50 for food costs seems a bit steep. But, can you really complain when housing is free? Still, the soup, rice dish, repeat menu got old pretty quickly.
|Pisco, the cute, but very untrained puppy|
If you go with Julio on out-of-the-city excursions or take him up on deeply discounted Karikuy tours (like hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu), you do have the opportunity to explore and learn more about Peru. However, such excursions increase the bottom line cost of volunteering and cross into vacation territory. It seems as though these experiences are strongly encouraged, in an effort to create fodder for the Karikuy blog. Personally, if I’m going to explore Peru, I’d prefer to fly solo or in the company of friends, call it what it is (a vacation) and post about it on my own blog. It’s not like it’s all that difficult to explore Peru on the cheap. I did learn quite a bit what day-to-day life is like in a lower income neighborhood in Lima and was able to blog about that for both myself and Karikuy. I also completed a fair bit of research on Peru, its cultural, recent news and responsible tourism, but was it worth the time and price of admission? I’m not so sure.
|Work space at Karikuy|
A little bit of cleanliness and a whole lot of direction and the Karikuy volunteer program could be a success. As it is now, I don’t think Julio has a clear vision of what he wants to accomplish, and if he does, he doesn’t know how to articulate it and delegate volunteer tasks. I chalked the whole experience up to “You get what you pay for” and nervously awaited my next project, another low budget project.
|Campamento Tortuguero Platanitos|
|Me with an Olive Ridley turtle hatchling|
Turtle Camp was my fave project so far – and it’s not prohibitively expensive. It’s a bit of an adventure to get to Campamento Tortuguera Platanitos, but its remoteness is what adds to its beauty and the experience. I volunteered for 10 days – probably three days too long (the heat and bugs became intolerable), but felt like I was able to jump right in and help out with a limited amount of knowledge and absolutely no sea turtle conservation skills. Gerardo and Hermilo, my Turtle Masters were incredible resources for learning and took my safety seriously (much appreciated). The world of sea turtle conservation is lucky to have two such passionate, dedicated and savvy people on its team. And I am grateful that I got to work alongside these men (and a rotating line-up of volunteers) for 10 nights and days. Truly an awesome experience.