As you head up to the hillsides around Huaraz, you pass through several traditional Andean communities. Here life revolves around family, agricultural work, and the Sunday soccer game. Many houses still do not have electricity, educational resources are limited, and poverty discourages people from investing many resources in their daily lives. To experience how these local communities live and to help them through volunteer work or by participating in their daily lives, you can contact two locally based organizations.
Respons Sustainable Tourism Center (28 de Julio 821, tel. 043/42-7949, www.respons.org) is the newest and, so far, the most complete center offering a wide variety of experiences in nearby indigenous communities, such as homestays in Vicos, Umacchuco, or Huaripampa, as well as treks to lakes and the Inka Naani, a well preserved segment of the Inca road between Áncash and Huánuco. Dutch-born Guido van Es and Pablo Tadeo of Vicos, who are co-heads at the center, will offer you options in order to design your travel experience exactly as you wish.
Andean Alliance (Km 3.1 Marian Cachipampa Road, tel. 043/978-9330, www.thelazydoginn.com), a nonprofit run by the Lazy Dog Inn’s Canadian owners, tries to match your skills and availability with community projects. If you’re gardener, for example, you might end up working in a community greenhouse. Diana can arrange a homestay or camping in local towns, but you should consider staying at the inn.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition