I went on a CVIP trail-building trip to Torres del Paine in 2007. I had the opportunity to work in a stunning physical environment with a wonderful group of volunteers and park staff. It was a truly memorable experience.
Conservation Volunteers International Program (CVIP) operates entirely with hard working board members who donate their time and money to lead trips of volunteers to help preserve and protect Yosemite National Park in California, Machu Picchu in Peru, and Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile. The work that the volunteers have performed in these parks have made significant improvements to the environment, enhancing visitor safety, and reducing the impact that heavy visitation has produced. This organization has been recognized by the US State Department as contributing to, and fostering, excellent relationships between our host governments and the US. Our volunteers take pride that they are acting as Goodwill Ambassadors while helping preserve three of the most incredible parks in the world.
I travelled to Torres del Paine with Conservation VIP and had the trip of a lifetime. The beauty of mountains and clouds in southern Patagonia is breathtaking. We worked full days repairing and rerouting trails to protect the popular park from erosion. Conservation VIP was well prepared with tools in place and a plans to make good use of volunteers with varying abilities. All the volunteers were friendly with common interests in the wilderness environment. I certainly enjoyed everyone on the team, as well as our meals and sightseeing time together.
I volunteered on a 10 day trip to Machu Picchu with Conservation VIP in November 2011. It was a wonderful adventure for me personally, because I had always, since childhood, wanted to see Machu Picchu and learn about the Inca and walk the Inca trails. The adventure aspect was enhanced greatly for me, however, by being able to spend several days right up at Machu Picchu itself working to preserve the rock walls from damage due to lichens and weeds. We worked around the sanctuary also for several more days doing trail work, planting trees, working in the orchid and butterfly sanctuaries and repainting monuments that help denote the sanctuary lands surrounding Machu Picchu. We were able to make a personal connection with the park rangers and local people and work side by side with those who daily maintain and protect the monument. When I look back on the trip I realize that the most important thing for me was not just seeing the city but being able to give something back to this world heritage monument and to play a small role personally to help in preserving it for the next hundred years. In our work we also were able to learn the history of the Inca civilization and to get oriented for working at Machu Picchu by seeing other ruins remaining in the sacred valley of the Inca. It was an eye-opener to me to see how much work needs to be done to protect the monuments and how little the local people have in the way of tools and money to accomplish major ongoing maintenance of these ruins and restoration of these Inca sites.
CVIP’s mission is to bring small groups of volunteers to work alongside park personnelto conserve natural and cultural resources in places like Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, and in Machu Picchu Sanctuary in Peru. In addition to trail restoration, volunteers at Machu Picchu work to clean the extensive stone walls and terraces of lichens, mosses, and grout-crumbling weeds. The Sanctuary is woefully understaffed to handle this work on its own. We spent five days scraping lichens and moss off the building and terrace walls and pulling weeds from the mortar between stones to slow the deterioration of this magnificent edifice. The tools are nothing more than wooden sticks and brushes. The work is tedious but the psychological and emotional rewards are tremendous. On a personal level, as I scraped and brushed smooth the rock, I couldn’t help thinking about the Inca hands that formed these walls half a millennium ago, and the sophisticated civilization that conceived of this fantastic place. At the end of the day, after all the other visitors had been bused back down the mountain, we volunteers were led on a private tour of the Sacred City. This is a much richer archeological and cultural experience than a half day visit with a tour group.
I learned of CVIP through my former employers newsletter, the National park Service morning report. I called CVIP and after a short conversation where they described what the program was about, I told them I'd participate. Not only did I become involved in almost every aspect of their field work; surveys, archeological stabilization, trail clearing, BUT I was tasked to help another volunteer who was involved with technical rescue back in CA. As I had mountain rescue experience in my NPS career (34 yrs) I worked with him and we taught these skills to some eighteen workers from three diffrerent agencies all having responsibility for Machu Picchu and surrounding areas ranger operations. In doing this we gave them a greater ability to help others (injured, stranded tourists and workers) and gave them the ability to more safely do their very dangerous jobs. This also is applicable to safeguarding archeological workers who must be rope-protected, belayed, while they explore cliffside ruins. We brought these agencies together to obtain greater capabilities. Our training allowed the whole community to better appreciate the skills, and abilities of the rangers, fire departments and police of MP and Aquas Calientes. Rick and Rich facilitated the donation of over $18,000 worth of donations of ropes, hardware, personal protection gear, etc. from three different major climbing gear companies. This equipment was left divided between the rescue agencies at MP which facilitated their repeated monthly practice sessions. In this way, increasing the protection abilities helps protect those who protect the visitor and the environment that we all enjoy.
I did two volunteer trips with CVIP to Tores del Paine in Patagonia, and enjoyed both outdoor trips. Being able to contribute in a meaningful way gave a purpose to my trips. Of particular interest was the fact that several hikers passing us by while we were working on the trails joined in for several horus of work themselves. Many gave us thanks for our work.
We volunteered to go to Torres del Paine to work on trails. Our experience was outstanding. We worked in conjunction with another group that was building a bridge. Our contribution was to develop the entrance to the new bridge north side from the existing trail. I was very impressed with the CVIP leader who schooled us on trail building that will last. I was proud of our 20 foot approach to the bridge and felt good that it would be there for a long time. Another notable contribution was the construction of a water diversion. Before our work a small stream was cascading down the trail causing a very muddy and erosive environment at the trail low point. We constructed a protected diversion lined with rock and a rock bridge over the diversion. By the time we finished the project the trail had dried out and other members of our crew had made the trail more accessible correcting erosion and overgrowth. Besides the great feeling of contributing to the park, we enjoyed daily outstanding vistas of this wonderful mountainous terrain. The overnight accommodations in the refugio were relaxing and allowed us to meet a number of international hikers. Overall a great way to volunteer and a wonderful experience.
This organization is lead by "real" people---people who are down to earth, know how to lead volunteers, and most importantly, know how to do the work that needed to get done. In fact, several of our crew leaders had spent years working for public land agencies in the US. I went on two trips--Torres del Paine and Machu Picchu. Both were wonderful. The settings were both world class. Getting to work with local ranges was pretty cool. But there just aren't words to describe the feeling of working on the Inca Trail, or under the towers at Torres del Paine. Memories of a lifetime, for sure. I have recommended these trips to several friends
I have volunteered with Conservation VIP at Machu Piccu and Torres del Pines, in the south of Chile. My experiences far exceeded anything I would likely run into on a guided tour. The work was fun and the other participants interesting. Through relationships with locals, I was provided an insight that would otherwise be unavailable. I would heartily recommend, and would like to hear of further expeditions.
This opportunity opened my eyes on a local and global level. I befriended people nearby and around the world. We all were focused on the same goals, and thus, immediately formed family-like bonds. The people and the ideology behind CVIP are highly respectable. I greatly appreciate the opportunity I had to be a part a part of this team.
I participated in CVIP's March 2008 trail work trip in Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile. I assisted as one of the crew chief for one of teams. CVIP has forged a strong relationship with the Park, as well as the country's conservation/environmental authorities and has also done work in the parks of Santiago. The trip was well run and we as volunteers felt that our efforts were regarded as valuable and much appreciated. We had local Park personnel and Chile's director of environmental affairs working right alongside of us. I have not been able to go on a CVIP trip since 2008, but have been following their work and kept in touch with those I met. I also contributed toward a bridge in the Park that is a current project.
Through CVIP, I got to know the Torres del Paine national park in Chile far better than if I had just been a tourist. The group's logistics were smooth and culture was very welcoming to people of all abilities and fitness levels.
I always wanted to visit Machu Picchu in Peru, and Conservation Volunteers International made the trip even better by letting me "give back" to help protect this international treasure. We were welcomed as friends by the park rangers, instead of treated simply as tourists. We stood where the Inca craftsman stood 500 years ago, helping to protect Machu Picchu by removing plants from the stone buildings, planting trees, and repairing the Inca Trail. In addition, we visited many other archaeological sites during our ten day volunteer project. (And the food was great, too). Great trip. I hope to travel with this group again.
I originally became involved with this organization by participating as a volunteer on a trip to Machu Picchu in April of 2009. It was a life changing event for me and in October of 2010 was honored to become a member of the Board. There is such a feeling of pride and satisfaction when you can look at a photo of Machu Picchu and tell others that during your visit there you worked on trails, cleaned terraces and removed lichen and moss from the bricks. It will be a memory that you cherish forever! I have also participated as a volunteer in a second trip to Machu Picchu and two trips to Yosemite. Being a part of a group of volunteers who feel strongly about giving back and work so hard to make a difference is very special.
My wife and I went down to Torres del Paine with this group a few years ago because we had always wanted to hike in the Chilean Andes, and this seemed like a good way to check things out. All volunteers, it was a great group of people, well-organized into teams for trail building and repair, and all interested in the outdoors. A lot of good work accomplished, as well as some outstanding day hikes with new friends on our free days. Appreciated having a hot shower and a decent (dormitory style) bed in a comfortable refugio after a day's work. Only criticism is that, even though the cost seems moderate by many standards, I think the price keeps a lot of younger people who would be interested from signing up. I understand that the organization is trying to figure out ways to get over that hurdle while still being able to cover its expenses.
I've worked as an archaeologist in Peru for close to tweny years. I was honored when asked to join the board of Conservation Volunteers International Program because CVIP provides a wonderful vehicle for people who want to make a difference. By helping the Peruvians and Chileans protect and maintain their national patrimony, CVIP is helping to protect the cultural legacy of all of the people of this world.
My first impressions of Conservation Volunteers International Program were that the all-volunteer staff had a fantastic wealth of conservation, forest service and business experience. I began volunteering about a year ago, and have been completely impressed by what this small team gets done. From projects in Machu Picchu, to a bridge in Patagonia, the team provides the framework for volunteers to visit amazing places and actually make them better. I've cut down my time with a few other groups to focus on this one, and in the process I have joined the board. I believe in this group, and you won't find many small organizations that are this well organized with a sustainable business model for positive change.
I first volunteered with Conservation VIP in 2007, when I joined their volunteer trail maintenance group to Torres del Paine National Park in the Patagonia region of Chile. It was everything I had hoped for and more. I had a lot of fun with the other volunteers, and it was great to get to know the local park rangers. I felt I was able to really get to see the park, in a way that people just passing through never do. But the true reward was knowing that our work was helping to protect that incredible landscape. In fact, the experience was so rewarding that I volunteered again the next year, and the next, and . . . . Along the way, I joined the Board, and then last year I became the CEO. Since Conservation VIP is staffed entirely by volunteers, that just means that I am now a volunteer with a lot more responsibility. I continue to volunteer because I believe Conservation VIP makes a difference to some of the world's greatest landscapes and cultural sites.
Review from Guidestar