Where can you go?
ProWorld sites are places of great beauty and great need. ProWorld selects locations based on a combination of community need and interest and participant safety and quality of experience.
Peru stands out in the Americas for its geographic and cultural diversity. Its coastal desert is punctuated by fertile valleys once inhabited by pre-Incan civilizations and leads eastward to the foothills of the Andes. The Andes, running from Peru’s northern border to Lake Titicaca in the south, are home to millions of highland Indians who preserve their traditional way of life.
Frequently referred to as the “Land of the Incas,” Peru is famous for its numerous architectural wonders. It is also home to over 20 unique Amazonian peoples, in addition to its coastal and highland cultures. The Peruvian Amazon represents over half of the country’s land area and supports a large variety of plant and animal life (close to 1,200 species). In fact, Peru boasts 84 of the world’s 104 known bio-zones.
At the same time, over half of Peru’s 25 million people live in poverty, making it one of the poorest countries in South America. Peru faces many troubling social and economic challenges, with the most serious being high unemployment and underemployment, a large national debt, and the disparity between the rich and poor. These conditions make it difficult for the country to provide its citizens with basic health care, education, sanitation, and other social services.
Urubamba sits at an altitude of 2800 meters (9186 feet) on a fertile valley floor fed by the Urubamba River and surrounded by steep mountains on each side. The Glacier of Chicon looms high above Urubamba to the north. With a population of approximately 18,000 people the town center bustles with market activity and foreigners pass through town regularly as Urubamba lies between the important archeological sites of Ollantaytambo and Pisaq.
Cusco, which means “navel of the universe,” was the capital of the Inca Empire and boasts cobblestone streets and walls of Incan stonework. Cusco, at an altitude of 3500 meters, (11,482 feet) is now a bustling and intriguing city with a population of approximately 300,000 people. Cusco is also an international city as every foreigner visiting Machu Picchu, the most visited site in South America, passes through Cusco.
The climate in Cusco and the Sacred Valley is generally mild. Days are warm and sunny with an average high temperature of 66°F (19°C). Nights are cooler with an average low of 37°F (3°C) with temperatures generally 5° warmer in the Sacred Valley. The rainy season runs from November to March. The dry season runs from April to October. During the rainy season afternoon showers are common. There is rarely rain during the dry season.
Belize is a peaceful and complex country rich with cultural diversity and stunning natural beauty. Nestled between Guatemala and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula along the Caribbean coast, this English speaking country offers an uncommonly broad variety of cultures from which to experience and learn. Its population of 287,000 is a blend of Maya, Mestizo, Creole, Mennonite, and Garifuna.
Belize achieved independence from England in 1981 and maintains many characteristics of a British colonial port. The economy is based on the export of sugar, fruit, lumber, and fish and a growing tourism sector.
In stark contrast to Belize’s lush landscape, close to one third of the country’s population lives below the poverty line. Belize struggles to develop its natural resources in a sustainable way, given the complicated dynamic of vast natural resources, widespread poverty, and intense international pressure to exploit their resources. Furthermore, limited education, inadequate health services, and a lack of productive job opportunities hinder Belizeans from escaping the challenges of a developing nation.
San Ignacio (Cayo)
San Ignacio, referred to locally as Cayo, is located 2 hours from Belize City along the Western Highway. San Ignacio and the surrounding communities contain a diverse population of Creole, Maya and Mestizo. San Ignacio is an attractive market town and tourist centre in the western part of the country. The town is set among pleasant tropical hills. The friendly people of San Ignacio enable rich cultural exchanges and productive development projects.
Belize’s climate is tropical with warm, sunny and humid days with temperatures ranging from 50°F to 95°F (10°C to 35°C) with an annual mean of 79°F (26°C). November to January are traditionally the coolest months with a 75°F (24°C) average and May to September are the warmest at about a 81°F (27°C) average. Cayo can be several degrees colder then along the coast and during November at night, temperatures can fall to 46°F (8°C) in Cayo. The rainy season is May to January.
Mexico is a mix of diverse cultures that stretch back almost 10,000 years. Home of Olmec, Maya, Toltec, Aztec and other ancient cultures, Mexico has a rich tradition and complex history. The Spanish ruled Mexico for three centuries after the conquest of the Aztec civilization in 1521 and their traditions still survive to this day.
Mexico’s cultures offer varied cuisines, activities, music, languages, handicrafts, art and history. Its landscape goes from rain forests to deserts and tropical beaches to snow-capped mountains. With a population of about 106 million spread over 1.9 million square kilometers Mexico has teeming cities, sleepy indigenous villages, and everything in between.
Even with Mexico’s growing economy, in 2002, half the population was living in poverty and one fifth was living in extreme poverty. Oaxaca is one of the poorest states in Mexico with more than a third of its population living on less than three dollars per day. The lack of productive jobs forces many families to depend on the income of their children. Access to medicine and health care is minimal with the state run health care attending to just 23% of the population. These factors and many others combine to lock the people of Oaxaca in a continual struggle against poverty.
Oaxaca is world-famous for its cobbled streets, shaded zócalo, colonial churches and busy markets. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the city is close to some of Mexico’s best preserved archaeological areas and is surrounded by communities renowned for their local crafts. The state of Oaxaca is one of the most ethnically diverse in Mexico with over 90 dialects and 14 languages. Many of the ethnic groups have been able to maintain their cultural identities while adapting to the various influences of their neighbors and the increasing pressures of westernization. Zapotec, Mixtec and Mestizo cultures, to name a few, still survive and family and close friends remain the heart of life. The state of Oaxaca also has the greatest biodiversity and variety of natural terrain of any state in Mexico. Within a few hours, volunteers can travel from the sandy beaches of the Pacific coastline to tropical jungles to thickly forested mountains of over 10,000 feet.
Oaxaca is 1,534 meters (5,034ft) above sea level with yearly average highs of 75°F (29.3°C) and lows of 54.5°F (12.5°C), though temperatures will vary throughout the year: Spring 77°F (25°C), Summer 72°F (22°C), Autumn 72°F (22°C), Winter 61°F (16°C).