ISA Volunteers in Lima: Spotlight on Mundo Libre


International Studies Abroad (ISA) is an organization that pairs students from the United States and Canada with service-learning projects that best match their studies. These volunteer opportunities are offered all around the world, and there are many offered here in Peru. Several organizations in Lima offer these volunteer internships to students, and they are beneficial for both parties. While students learn a new language, a new culture, and new professional skills, the organization receives an eager volunteer who wants to help the local community.

One of these organizations is Mundo Libre, a development and rehabilitation center for at-risk youth in Peru. ISA student Sarah Smoak has volunteered her time here for the past months, and she has shared her experience with _Living in Peru_.

_Why does Mundo Libre exist in Lima?_

Mundo Libre’s official mission statement is Promover, a través de la aplicación de programas de prevención y rehabilitación, el desarrollo integral saludable de un sector de la niñez y adolescencia en alto riesgo del Perú.’ This roughly translates to Promote, through the application of prevention and rehabilitation, the healthy and integral development of a sector of the children and adolescents in high risk in Peru.’

_What exactly does ‘at-risk’ mean?_

There are three qualities each of the youth we work with has: they are under 18, they have had issues with drugs, and they have, in some way, lived on the street. These adolescents are more likely to be at-risk for future problems with drugs, alcohol, and unemployment.

_How is Mundo Libre’s approach to both individual and community therapy unique?_

We work with children and adolescents by focusing on the whole person, not just one part; our approach could be considered holistic therapy. In that way we work with education (there is an official and licensed school that operates within our institution), health (there is a nurse who is on-site every weekday and a psychiatrist who visits about every 15 days), psychology (we have both individual and group therapy as well as general support from psychologists/psychology interns), and skill-based training in the form of workshops.

_What kind of activities does Mundo Libre provide for the youth?_

In the boys’ house we have candles, ceramics, carpentry, computer, and handicrafts workshops. In the girls’ house we have sewing/knitting, chocolates/dessert-making, computer, and handicraft workshops. These workshops aid the youths’ rehabilitation by giving them things to do while in Mundo Libre’s community (boredom tends to increase desire to consume drugs) and skills that they can use once they have graduated from our programs as legitimate ways of making a living (many of the children were involved in child labor on the streets – such as selling candies or singing on buses – and many of the girls were involved in prostitution).

_What responsibilities are given to ISA interns at Mundo Libre?_

I work as a psychologist in the boys’ house four days a week. I am responsible for recording observations on five of the boys at least twice a week, leading group therapy sessions individually and with others, recording group therapy sessions in the boys’ official files, attending classroom sessions (known as accompaniment), and also completing general administrative tasks in the psychology office. I have also been responsible for assigning the Hermana de la Semana, or “brother of the week” award, in which the boy with the most positive behavior is rewarded.

_How does your experience at an internship in Peru compare to that of yours in the U.S.?_

I have been given a lot of responsibility for the time I’ve been here in Peru in comparison to some jobs and other experiences I have had in the U.S., which has been really nice. Also, the people here are really dedicated to the work they’re doing – as the director of Mundo Libre is fond of saying, it’s really a “labor of love.” Every staff member and intern who works at Mundo Libre loves what they’re doing and does it solely for the betterment of the youth. It’s been really incredible to actively participate as a volunteer. The opportunities afforded to me here include improving both my Spanish and my understanding of clinical psychology – actually, before this placement I was not considering clinical psychology as a career path, but now I am!

To donate to Mundo Libre, you can visit here
Learn more about ISA
Learn more about Mundo Libre
_Living in Peru_ interviews an intern who works at Mundo Libre, a rehabilitation center for at-risk youth.