The Bridge Year program in Peru provides students with the opportunity to engage in hands-on, small-scale community development work in one of the nation’s most beautiful settings, the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Participants live with homestay families in the small Andean town of Urubamba and work in rural areas on a variety of projects initiated and stewarded by a small non-governmental organization in partnership with local communities. The program introduces students to prevailing social and economic issues affecting rural Peru along with best practices for working with communities toward sustainable development. Along the way, students learn Spanish (and possibly Quechua), explore Incan ruins, trek through the Andes and, through a variety of excursions and enrichment activities, learn about Peru’s rich history and culture.
Program Location: Urubamba, about an hour north of the city of Cusco, serves as home base for Bridge Year students in Peru. With about 18,000 residents, this peaceful town in the heart of the Sacred Valley is a meeting point and major marketplace for the inhabitants of nearby rural mountain villages. While Urubamba enjoys comfortable amenities such as hot water, electricity, restaurants and cafes, the surrounding indigenous communities often lack access to basic health care, education, sanitation and other social services.
Local Languages: Peru is a multilingual nation. Its official languages are Spanish and, in the zones where they are predominant, Quechua, Aymara and other indigenous languages. As part of the Bridge Year, students take intensive Spanish classes in order to gain the necessary communicative competency to engage in community-based service work. Participants also have the option of taking classes in Quechua.
Program Partner: In Peru, Princeton University is partnering with ProWorld. Established in 1998, ProWorld offers a comprehensive and challenging service learning experience built around development work, language instruction and cultural immersion. Today, ProWorld manages a variety of development projects through field offices in seven countries around the globe.
Service Opportunities: ProWorld runs several different development projects at any one time based at the Urubamba site. Some of these projects are short-term and physical, like the construction of bathrooms at local schools. Others are more long-term and sustained initiatives, such as the fabrication and installation of ceramic water filters. Bridge Year participants are exposed to the full range of project types, in addition to being assigned to a primary project area. Primary projects involve working side by side with project staff on such efforts as a stove replacement program, a ceramic water filter project, a public health campaign, an after-school education program or a construction project. Participants also have the opportunity to work with ProWorld's partner organizations on other projects throughout the Sacred Valley. By January, participants are fully engaged in their primary project work and typically have greater expertise and responsibility in their defined project area. Around this same time, Bridge Year participants in Urubamba come together to implement a team field project to be completed prior to the program’s conclusion.