Though Central America is regarded as a cheap area to travel around some countries are more expensive than others and volunteering can be a good way to save funds and stick around for longer. Other benefits of becoming a volunteer English teacher, helping out at orphanages or conservation work include improving your Spanish and seeing sides to Central America that perhaps would otherwise be missed.
Along with its beaches and biodiversity, Central America is particularly rich in grassroots volunteer organisations looking for volunteers to lend a helping hand. Skilled hands are particularly welcome but often the only requirement is enthusiasm and a willingness to get those helping hands dirty.
Belize Audubon Society
BAS cares for nine protected areas in Belize including a jaguar preserve, Mayan human sacrificial remains, coral reefs and the famous dive spot, the Blue Hole. Volunteers should preferably have experience and qualifications matching their requirements. This can include tourism or small business development and, for marine park volunteers, dive and marine research experience. Volunteers should be self funding and able to commit for at least one to three months.
Meaning “between worlds”, EntreMundos works to connect local community projects with skilled foreign and local volunteers. Based in Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela, EntreMundos publishes a free bi monthly magazine where local NGOs often advertise for volunteers. Over 100 Guatemalan organisations willing to accept volunteers are featured on their website.
Conservation Project Utila Iguana
Utila, one of the Bay Islands that is a continuation of the Belize Barrier Reef, is regarded as one of the cheapest places in the world to get a diving qualification. The island is also the habitat of an endangered Iguana that could use a helping hand to survive. Volunteers stay for a minimum of three weeks and pay US$55 per week to live at the Iguana Station. Meals are not included.
Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad
A politically orientated language school in San Salvador, CIS teaches Spanish to tourists and offers inexpensive English classes to local activists. During elections CIS seeks volunteer election observers but generally are looking for English teachers.
Volunteers, with a first aid certificate and intermediate Spanish, can make a difference to street children in Leon by working as a volunteer guide. Alongside leading trekkers to the smoking crater of a volcano, duties include recruiting customers, making promotional materials and cleaning the equipment. Volunteers pay a US$50 refundable deposit returned after a three month commitment.
The Ara Project
The Ara Project dedicates itself to the conservation of a red parrot and a green parrot. Volunteer work includes feeding and handling the two types of bird at a refuge, scrubbing perches, making toys and observing behaviour. Volunteers pay US$4 a day fee to get involved and homestays are available for around US$18 a day.
After staying as a paying guest for two nights in this David City hostel, volunteers can get a free dorm bed and meals of rice and beans for working eight hours a day. Jobs that need doing include washing sheets, sweeping floors, meeting guests or any of the other many things that have to done around a busy hostel. Volunteers must have seen a bit of Panama already, be able to commit to a minimum of two weeks and speak an intermediate level of Spanish.
Have you volunteered in Central America or anywhere around the world? How was your experience?