Category: Machu Picchu
Family volunteer vacation in Peru, summer 2011

Karen Baroody and family of Boston recently returned from a week-long volunteer vacation in Peru plus an other two weeks hiking in Peru’ Lares Valley, visiting Macchu Picchu and exploring the rainforest near Puerto Maldonado.

They compiled a great photo album and travelogue of their adventures.

Highlight photos
Daily journals

Looking for ways to contribute something more …

Over the past year I have been looking for ways to ‘contribute something more’ than my work designing residences and galleries in New York. Since I typically close my office for the Xmas-NY holiday, I took this opportunity to try something new, to look beyond my own small world and volunteer my time.

I found a program with an organization called Globe Aware, where I would be working in Cusco, one of the most visited cities in Peru. Given the vast scale of the country, many of the small villages are without schools so children come to the cities to live in homes, called albergues, during the school year while they attend local schools. This particular home provides for roughly 25 kids ages 9-15.

I thought with my architectural training and passable Spanish, I could help with the work to be done there. There were four other members of my volunteer team, from Los Angeles, southern Florida, DC and Atlanta, all with different backgrounds and experience, all fantastic people.


In just a few days the five of us became a team and I learned to work in a very different way, without extensive pre-planning, on-demand materials or specific tools for every task. We continued a project begun by previous groups, building and repairing the structures in the complex, putting in an irrigation system and roofing the greenhouse where they will grow vegetables for the kids’ meals. Just the process of sourcing and purchasing the polycarbonate material for the greenhouse walls became an adventure that included a walking tour to three lumber yards, a pick-up truck for hire to transport the 11meter long sheets and a stop by the Peruvian police as I bounced around in the bed of the truck.

Since returning to New York I continue to look for projects that go beyond what I know. The sustainable housing prototype we designed for the Greensburg/Greentown competition, helping to re-build the Kansas town wiped out by a tornado in 2007, breaks ground next month. I’m also looking at other opportunities to assist with disaster relief and consulting with a foundation interested in building housing in Haiti.

My trip to Peru was a ‘project’ that helped me to get out of my NY comfort zone and to launch me into the New Year with optimism, curiosity and purpose.

Steven Learner, AIA

My volunteer vacation: Almost live from Peru!

Sept. 13, 2010

  • Yesterday morning I headed off to the Port of Puno to boat over to see the floating islands, Uros.  Our tour guide, Anjel, was awesome, and gave us a wealth of knowledge about them, though I´m convinced it is mostly for tourists now and no one actually lives there.  I got to ride around for half an hour in one of their reed boats, which was nice.
  • After that, we headed to Amantani where we met our host families.  I met 2 Canadian girls and bunked up with them, though had a room to myself, which is INSANELY scary with no electricity in the middle of nowhere.  Seriously.  I think I can handle anything now after the way I psyched myself out.
  • Our host family cooked us some lunch, and Heather and Jeannette kept telling me how glad they were that I was there, or thre would be no communication between them and the family.  Apparently my minimal Spanish did us some good.  Our host was Rebecca and her husband (whose name I did not catch), and her kids, Brian, 4, and Brenda, 7 months.  Good grief adorableness.  Heather was throwing a pencil with Brian at one point (yes…the things we do to make it fun out here 🙂 and slung it right in his face.  It was unsharpened, and I´m sure he´s played with worse things before, but BOY OH BOY, the kid pouted like a king.  He would not even look at us during lunch.  Turned his back and faced the wall, in fact.
  • We headed up to the highest elevated mountain on Amantani after lunch (soup, again).I can´t remember the exact height, I´ll have to look it up when I´m home.  Let me just say… I¨ve never been more proud of myself than after this hike.  Quite honestly, I was not expecting  HALF of the hiking we did these past 2 weeks, but the fact that I hacked it in this altitude…well, I have never wanted to pat myself on the back so badly.  Unfortunately, that was tough given the huffing and puffing, so I took some unattractive pictures instead to prove my success.  You know, flared nostrils, red cheeks, frazzled hair.  At least the scene behind me looks good.  Sunset over Lago Titcaca from the top.  Ah-mazin´.
  • We trudged down after the too fast sunset and our host families cooks us dinner, and where I again translated to the Canadians.  I never knew I knew this much Espanol.  Go me.  Rebecca then surprised us and showed us to our clothing for the night.  Hello touristy part of the trip.  We all had to dress up in the native clothing.  Um.  I have never laughed so hard.  We looked like teletubbies!  I can´t wait to show you the native dance.  It basically involves swinging your arms.  Forever and ever.  We finished feista-ing at a reasonable hour and headed to bed, me in my lonely concrete room, and my candle.  I slept in shoes, two pairs of pants, 3 shirts, one fleece jacket, windbreaker, and hat.  It was cold.
  • Woke up this morning to find out that Rebecca tricked us and there was a REAL toilet around the corner and we didn´t have to be using the hole in the field like we had been.  Thanks, Rebecca.
  • Had breakfast and headed over by boat to Tequila.  MY OH BEAUTIFUL.  And hello more hiking.  Seriously, I would be the hottest mama ever if I had to hike this much at home.  Kind of thinking I shouldn´t get behind and go ahead and train for a marathon now that I´m so fit.  Anyway, Tequile is GORGEOUS and we had lunch there, which made my stomach hurt, but it´s cool because Coca tea cures everything.  What will I do without it when I´m home???
  • This tour actually had many more people than I expected and I have made a lot of new travel friends.  There seems to be a sort of pact between solo travelers that come across each other that involves making sure we´re always in contact for future trips.  I think it´s safe to say I´ll always have a friend now who´s up for going somewhere sometime.  3 new Australian buds and 2 Canadians, we´re all set to inform each other of upcoming and desired destinations.
  • Interesting to note: I have been told 3 times now that I don´t have an American accent (what is that??) and that I definitely don´t sound like a Texan.  Who am I, really?!
  • I´m off to dinner with my new friends now, and then Lima tomorrow, then home!

1 more day of Coca tea –

My volunteer vacation: Almost live from Peru!

Sept. 12, 2010

  • I´m finally online for more than 15 minutes.  I cannot tell you how nice it is to actually read my emails and think a little more clearly when sending these updates!
  • My last thought on Globe Aware and my volunteer experience:  amazing.  sign up.  do it.  there´s no better way to explore and learn and feel productive and like you´re making a dent in the world.  the other volunteers and i have promised each other to do this again together sometime in the future.
  • Yesterday morning we woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed after our celebration Friday night.  The bar Rocio took us to had a live band that was SO incredible.  Harmony and windpipes = good time.  Too good of a time for all of us, though the hangovers and dehydration did not stop us from hiking up to Tipon to check out the Incan hydrolics.  Maybe a bad decision considering how thirsty we were and how much water we could not drink.  While Meaghan and Dave chilled out on the lawn (lawn?  large patch of grass in the middle of Incan structures), I went up the hill which turned into a mountain.  By the time I realized how high up I was headed, I had my mind set on making it to the top.  This was an awesomely bad decision.  I didn´t think Meaghan and Dave would follow me, but they showed up about half an hour behind me, cursing me the whole way.  But, a big ÿou´re welcome¨to them because it turns out there was a whole little Incan town at the top of that moutnain that we would have never discovered.
  • Our goodbyes after that were too fast.  Dave and Rocio headed to the airport, so we hugged quickly and peaced out in our taxis.  Meaghan and I headed to our hostel for the night.  I didn´t get to say goodbye to Rocio which makes me want to cry, so later that eveing after lunch at Plaza de Armas, we ehaded back to the albergue to see her.  Estracie opened the door with a huge gasp and it was the sweetest thing on earth.  We got to give Christopher, my favorite little man ever, anotehr big hug goodbye. Rocio was out so I still missed her, but I was able to leave her a note.  Again…everyone should have a Rocio in their life.  sigh sigh.
  • This morning I had a quick breakfast with Meaghan and hopped on my 10hr bus ride to Puno.  We had 5 awesome stops along the way in different cities (many photos to come) and I met a great Italian family and a  super cool Australian couple.  The couple is on a 6 week adventure all over Peru.  6 weeks?  Color me jelly.  I´m trying to figure out a way to come live down here for a good amount of time.  Would.  Be. Perfect.Stopped here in Puno for the night at the most adorable hotel ever.  AND, I have a REAL BATHROOM to MYSELF!  WITH WATER PRESSURE!  I can get my WHOLE head wet tonight, 3 cheers, hip hip hooray, cheerio, pip pip!
  • So, I just got back from wandering around and eating dinner.  I got a few stares…I think my size and hair color throws people off when they see me wandering and eating alone.  But I SAY NO to hagglers.  I¨m a total pro at ¨No dinero, lo siento, gracias.¨
  • I¨m off to take a full on bath and hit the hay early.  No update tomorrow as I¨ll be staying the night with a family on Amantani, eating some delicious home cooked meals (dudes, I have really NEVER eaten so well than this past week).  They´re even having a party for me!  So excited.

hot showers and clean hair –


My volunteer vacation: Almost live from Peru!

Sept. 11, 2010

  • it finally happened. after 27 years and 45ish days, i got sick after drinks.
  • i´m blaming the altitude and a drink called the green devil. that little devil. in other news, yesterday was fairly hardcore. we mixed cement and concrete with shovels on the ground. and we shoveled dirt. and planted poles for the greenhouse. we are all awesomely sunburned with farmers tans.
  • Maeghan and i actually took a nap afterward, which is big news for me since i´m not a big sleeper. it was soooo good. i fell asleep with my sunglasses on. kate rocks. we had some free time yesterday to run to the store and get some goodies for Rocio and the kids. all i can say is that Jenga is the greatest gift of all. we´re all headed off today. Marie actually left yesterday, Dave leaves this afternoon, and Meaghan and i are spending the day together before we go off on our own. she´ll be heading to hike the Incan trail to Machupiccu, and i´m off to Puno to see Lake Titicaca for the next week.
  • I´m not sure how many updates i´ll be able to send after this once i´m traveling again, so here are my final thought, Jerry Springer style: there´s no better way to travel than to immerse yourself in the culture. even if it means puking on your friends jeans in the taxi. juuust kidding. i learned this in africa, my only other 3rd orld-ish experience and i don’t know if it´s possible for me to travel any other way. really, this has been amazing.
  • the hard work combined with the sight seeing combined with the culture and the one will understand even if i tried to fully describe it. Meaghan has this philosophy of ¨Live NOW.¨ i started adopting this a few years ago (hey dog business), but she takes to such an inspiring level. she makes every day count and has no excuses for living the way she wants.
  • i´m coming home next week with a new sense of life as an adventure. Dave has a way of absorbing experiences. camera? journal? who needs it when you´re in it? he has a quiet wit and cleverness and a way of showing us how to go with the flow and enjoy the experience for yourself and no one else. i´m not sure he realizes this message he´s sending, which makes him all the more special. the kid´s got a bright future. Marie has so mush enthusiasm and a way of looking at every experience like a child for the first time. her innocence is refreshing and exciting. she made this fun for all of us. And Rocio. it´s such a shame that the whole world doesn´t know her. she´s dedicated to making a difference and living her life for others. she´s a mom, a teacher, and tour guide, a boss, a hard labor worker….and not an ounce of anything she does is to benefit herself. she is making a difference, and if i can be a quarter of the amazing person that she is, i´d be a lucky girl.
  • i cant believe i have to say goodbye to this experience today. it went way too fast and i´ll ever forget. i still have a weeklong adventure on my own, and at this moment it´s hard to imagine experiencing it without these people. the kids have inspired me, the culture and traditions are heartwarming, and i´ll be back. i think Peru deserves a few more weeks and months to explore. off to Tipon for a few hours, adios. we are all lucky people, never forget that.