Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

If you want to learn or improve your Spanish and make a significant difference in the lives of others there are few better ways to do it than volunteering in a Spanish speaking country. And there are lots of programs out there for you to chose from.
Nearly all volunteering abroad programs that are not affiliated with a religious organization carry some sort of fee. This fee varies widely, particularly for health placements. Some health placements include rounding with doctors and lectures which can sometimes even be counted for academic credit. The program I volunteered with was not as well organized or as expensive.
I went with I-to-I. I-to-I is a for-profit company and as much as two thirds of your money goes towards advertising, which is evident by the number of times i-to-i projects will come up in google searches for volunteering. The program organizes generally acceptable home-stays, and the projects are reasonably organized by Honduran standards. The volunteer contacts in the capital are bilingual, whereas the contacts in La Esperanza speak only Spanish. Sometimes teaching volunteers do arrive at the beginning of several week long school holidays. The project helping to build houses in the hills of Honduras is pretty reliable. The health program in La Esperanza is a terrific project for health volunteers that are interested in public health and that have strong language skills. The health project is not well organized before volunteers arrive; therefore, volunteers with strong language skills have a great opportunity to set up the exact kind of project they would like to do.
However, Global Volunteer Network offers the exact same projects in La Esperanza with the same home-stays as i-to-i at about half the cost of the i-to-i program equivalents. The Global Volunteer Network programs in Honduras also include a 2 day intensive Spanish class that could be very cool and is not included with the i-to-i projects. GVN charges $902 dollars for four weeks at my project site, whereas i-to-i charges $1,835. I-to-I use to include health and travel insurance with their projects but since I started my project they have changed that policy, so you would have to buy insurance with either organization. I strongly encourage purchasing travelers insurance before volunteering abroad, that would cover whatever amount of money you would be willing to file a police report for and to file a claim. Generally people do not need policies that cover anything less than the most expensive item they bring, whether it be a camera or an Ipod. You should also purchase health insurance to cover you while you are abroad and this should include a policy to medivac your sick-butt home if necessary.
The only non-religious way of volunteering abroad for free, if you are an American citizen, is through the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps is an excellent program that provides terrific training and amazing insurance, but it does demand that volunteers dedicate 2 years and 3 months to their projects and volunteers do not get to choose where they volunteer. Additionally there is a long and intensive application process for the program.
The other way to volunteer abroad for free is through religious organizations many of which have very well-run projects in Latin America. If you are religious, or even if you are not particularly religious, but do not mind religious overtones, be sure to look into those opportunities.
Whatever program you choose, remember that any volunteering experience will be what you make it. You should go into the project with flexible ideas and goals and be willing to work to create the kind of experience you imagine. Volunteering abroad is a great way to work on mastering a foreign language, but remember that the more you know before you go, the more comfortable you will feel when you arrive. I would generally recommend having at least one semester of college language course-work or the equivalent experience, before traveling abroad. This framework will allow your language knowledge to advance as much as possible during your abroad experience.
I strongly recommend projects that involve living with home-stays. Family home-stays allow for a much greater cultural exchange than living in compounds with other volunteers. They also allow for much more language practice.
For information about these and other volunteer opportunities around the world, see the links at the left of the page.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »