I was always fascinated with the idea of being able to volunteer in Latin America. It was a place that seemed to revel in superlatives – biggest jungle, highest waterfall, largest density of wildlife, tallest mountains and best parties. After looking at the price of flights, and the cost of living for countries like Chile, Brazil and Argentina, I considered writing it off my list; until I discovered a wealth of volunteer opportunities, that were either free or extremely cheap, all over Latin America. I ended up volunteering in Bolivia for three months with ICS, but I’ve compiled a few other examples here of the kind of stuff you could be doing should you take a leap and head to this incredible continent.
There are two resources that are quite simply the bible when it comes to becoming a volunteer in Latin America: Volunteer South America and Volunteer Latin America. For the latter, a small subscription fee of £10 is needed to view all their postings. The fee lasts two years, and is more than worth the money (I once spent £10 on jelly beans. Nothing else. Just jelly beans. Kind of puts things into perspective).
What Is It? Merazonia, an animal rehabilitation centre located in the Ecuadorian Amazon, is continually one of the mostly highly recommended volunteer projects on the continent. The work is completely focussed on the animals, which includes monkeys, tropical birds and big cats, as well as building and expanding the centre. Volunteers often seem to cite the hard work, hot showers, beautiful surroundings and fun, communal atmosphere as factors which help to make Merazonia a rewarding experience.
How Much Does It Cost? $140 for the first two weeks, $120 a week for weeks 2 – 6, and $90 a week thereafter (accommodation and food included).
The Hungry Vegan (http://veggietravels.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/merazonia.html)
Jennie of the Jungle (http://jennieofthejungle.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/animal-rescue-in-ecuadorian-amazon-at.html)
La Esperanza Granada (Nicaragua)
What Is It? La Esperanza Granada is a children’s education group, helping over 2,000 children in the local area gain access to education. As well as the opportunity to directly tutor and work with the children, volunteers can also get involved with building the school and helping with online materials. Though the programme specifies some skill in Spanish, some volunteers attest that this is not so much of an issue, and that the programme officers will help in any way necessary.
How Much Does It Cost? $20 admin fee, volunteers can either opt for low-cost housing owned by the programme or seek out their own accommodation which usually costs $35 – $100 per week. Food not provided.
Mariana on the Move (http://marianaonthemove.com/2015/03/28/my-advice-to-future-volunteers-of-la-esperanza-granada/) .
Work with Children
Traveller Not Tourist (Peru)
What Is It? Traveller Not Tourist encompasses both a kindergarten and a childrens home, providing care, support and education to over 120 kids living in extreme poverty. Traveller Not Tourist seems like the kind of organisation which would really help you make a tangible difference to these childrens lives; if you want a challenging, rewarding and eye opening placement with children, this could be the one for you. The on-hand support and volunteer community also seems top-notch.
How Much Does It Cost? A one off admin fee of $150, followed by $70 a week for accommodation (food not included).
Reggie’s Backpacking Chronicles (http://backpackerswanted.weebly.com/traveller-not-tourist—tnt.html)
Here 2 There International (http://here2thereinternational.org/traveller-not-tourist-arequipa-peru/)
Environment and Conservation
Hacienda Esperanza (Ecuador)
What Is It? Hacienda Esperanza is located on the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador. This is practical and manual work, with volunteers introducing sustainable environmental solutions to help preserve the area. This seems like an incredible opportunity to see one of the world’s most diverse and beautiful destinations up close. Past volunteers speak of a strong sense of achievement after a few weeks of buckling down and getting their hands dirty.
How Much Does it Cost? $200 a week, which covers food, accommodation and transport. The price is lower with a longer commitment.
Further Reading: Julia’s Ecuador and Peru Blog http://juliacpietras.weebly.com/
The Wandering Loon http://www.wanderingloon.com/2014/04/Entry073.html
Crooked Priorities https://crookedpriorities.wordpress.com/tag/hacienda-esperanza/,
Health and Social Care
What Is It? Supporting Kids in Peru – SKIP, is a children focused NGO with a difference. Aside from the usual teaching placements on offer, volunteers can also get involve in social work, psychology and creative arts. There are heaps of positive testimonials on the SKIP website, and the CEO has even done a TED talk about making a difference in your work. This is an organisation that knows what it’s doing.
How Much Does It Cost? $500 a month, which covers accommodation. Encourages long term commitment by offering lower prices month by month.
Girl About the Globe http://www.girlabouttheglobe.com/voluntourism/volunteering-abroad-ngo/#,
This article from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2014/apr/16/ngo-collaboration-not-competition.
What is it? Ocean Ranch Adventure Park in Costa Rica offers volunteer positions in social media marketing, photography, leading guided tours, construction, book keeping, and hospitality from November to August each year, in a beautiful coastal location. If you’re interested, you’ll need to sign up to the Volunteer Latin America website, where full details are available.
How Much Does It Cost? Free – and accommodation is provided.
Further Reading: A short testimonial is available on the Volunteer Latin America website http://www.volunteerlatinamerica.com/volunteer-latin-america-reviews, but the reviews on TripAdvisor speak for themselves. http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g309271-d3139179-Reviews-Ocean_Ranch_Park-Jaco_Province_of_Puntarenas.html
Sports and Adventure
What is it? Another one from the Volunteer Latin America site, not much information but sounds incredibly fun. A Watersports Resort in Baja California Sur is currently recruiting volunteers with restaurant, scuba and kiteboard experience to help give guests the time of their lives. As stated on the website,“volunteers may use snorkel gear, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, free laundry service and get discounts on kiteboard lessons and gear.”
How Much Does It Cost? Free – accommodation and three meals per day are also provided.
Further Reading: Not too much sadly as this seems quite new. However, information for similar placements can be found in the Blog section at the trusty Volunteer Latin America site.
Being a volunteer in Latin America is an amazing experience, and with all the free positions available you’d be losing money if you don’t go. I plan to head off again next year so if you know of any other opportunities I’d love to hear about them!