Volunteer Programs in South America

Browse 15 Programs
  • About

    There are numerous possibilities for anyone who wants to volunteer in South America. While there are similarities between all 12 South American countries, each is distinct in its own way.

    With a mix of ancient indigenous ruins and Spanish influences, South America is a great place to find a combination of old and new as well as Incan/European cultures. Indigenous cultures and people remain a strong presence in South America, making up about half of the population of some countries such as Brazil and Peru.

    Depending on your goals and skills, you could volunteer in South America while learning Spanish, or mentor urban youth. Run a soccer camp or work in environmental conservation. Still in school? Consider a service learning trip in South America to compliment your studies.

  • Project Types

    From fighting poverty and economic disparities, to supporting gender equality and community development, to educating about sustainable environmental practices, there is something for every type of volunteer. Popular fields to volunteer in include: health care and medicine, orphanage work, teaching and education, construction, and conservation.

    Community Development

    Many areas of social work contribute to fighting economic gaps in South America. Community development volunteers can focus on numerous concerns including economic inequalities and human rights issues.

    Working with indigenous communities is a great way to help foster respect and equality. Although indigenous peoples have been fighting to sustain their ways of life since the invasion of the Spanish in 1492, they are still one of "the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world" according to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNFPII). Most South American countries still have a strong indigenous culture. For example, in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, indigenous Quechua peoples make up a majority of the population.

    Education

    There are many opportunities for volunteers to improve and support education in South America for all. Although attendance and access to schools has increased among children and teens, millions of children are outside of the scope of the formal education system. It is especially hard for children in rural areas to receive a formal education. Volunteers can work with children of all ages to motivate and support them - from tutoring in after school centers to teaching English to mentoring.

    Small Business Development

    As a visitor to South America, you will notice many locals with small businesses trying to support large families. In addition to agriculture, selling handmade crafts and food on the street is a very common way to make money.

    Many overseas volunteer organizations have micro-finance and small business development programs. These organizations give loans and financial advice to those in need. For volunteers interested in business, finance, and supporting new business ventures there is plenty of work to do.

    Working with Children

    Unfortunately, numerous South American countries have high rates of homeless children. Street children face incredible hardships, from abuse and neglect to a lack of education and basic human needs. In Brazil, the Statute for Children and Adolescents (ECA) reported almost 24,000 young people living in the streets.

    Other ways to support the children of South America include orphanage work, teaching, assisting at day care, advocating for family and children's rights, and more.

    Conservation

    No matter what type of conservation you're interested in - wildlife, marine life, environmental - South America is a great place to volunteer. Conservation is popular in South America because of the large number of natural resources, biodiversity and wildlife - which make up 40% of the world's plant and animal species.

    The Galapagos Islands, Patagonia and the Amazon rain forest are especially great places for volunteers who are looking to get outdoors and work with wildlife and the environment.

  • Need to Know
    South American Lifestyle and Culture

    While it's hard to classify such a large and diverse country, one thing remains consistent: the emphasis on family life. Families are close-knit, emphasized over work life, and large in size. This is an especially great reason to consider a homestay option in South America.

    South America is largely influenced by Spanish and Portuguese culture, as well as immigrants from Africa, India, Asia and other parts of Europe. These influences can be seen in all areas of life: food, dance, language, music, literature, architecture, religion, and more.

    Languages in South America

    Spanish is spoken almost everywhere in South America. Although Spanish is the official language in most South American countries, Portuguese is a close second. In Brazil, Portuguese is the official language.

    A few other exceptions to the Spanish standard are Guyana (where English is the official language), and Suriname (where Dutch is the official language). A large number of South Americans also speak indigenous languages and dialects. In more rural areas, it's hard to find anyone who speaks English and sometimes Spanish too.

    Questions to Ask

    What country is right for me? Do I want to live in a rural area or a city, in the mountains or on a beach? What are my volunteering motivations? What field/sector do I want to volunteer in? What language do I want to speak? What kind of accommodations would I like - homestay, apartment, living with other volunteers? Answering these questions will be essential to planning the best trip imaginable.

  • Costs

    While the cost of living will vary throughout the continent, volunteers in South America live cheaply. South America is generally thought of as a continent of developing nations. There are large economic gaps, leaving many rich (and sometimes corrupt) people who can easily ignore the suffering of others. Generally, bigger cities and popular tourist destinations will be more expensive while small, rural, indigenous areas will be cheaper.

    According to FinFacts, the most expensive cities in South America are Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Havana, Cuba; Bogota, Colombia; followed by Brasilia, the capital of Brazil.

    Since a number of the more expensive cities are in Brazil, the Brazilian Real currency has strengthened. Overall, Buenos Aires, Argentina ranks somewhere in the middle. Managua, Nicaragua; La Paz, Bolivia; and Asuncion, Paraguay are the cheapest cities in South America.

    Contributed by Katie Boyer

Showing 15 Programs

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  • Peru Jungle conservation
    GVN
    Reviewer Verified
    GVN has opportunities to work on a range of projects in Peru such as childcare, teaching, construction, healthcare and...
    5 reviews
    Alumni Interviews
    Community Photos
    A review was left for this program in the last 30 days
  • Global Citizen Year - Ecuador
    Global Citizen Year
    Global Citizen Year is a unique, international immersion experience that gives driven high school graduates a new...
    19 reviews
    Alumni Interviews
    Community Photos
    A review was left for this program in the last 30 days
    This program has been rated exceedingly supportive by 5+ reviewers.
  • Volunteering in Cusco with IVHQ
    IVHQ
    Reviewer Verified
    IVHQ offers highly affordable volunteer programs in Cusco, Peru. A wide variety of projects are available here, including...
    10 reviews
    Community Photos
  • Cross-Cultural Solutions volunteer in Brazil
    Cross-Cultural Solutions
    Reviewer Verified
    Brazil has a distinct pulse, a rhythm of its own that you'll feel the moment you arrive. Whether you're playing soccer with...
    11 reviews
    Alumni Interviews
    Staff Interviews
    Community Photos
    This program has been rated exceedingly fun by 5+ reviewers.
    This program has been rated exceedingly supportive by 5+ reviewers.
  • Light and Leadership Initiative
    Our volunteer program is a tight-knit family, made up of volunteers from all over the world. Our common goal is the Light...
    4 reviews
    Staff Interviews
  • A Volunteering Solutions volunteer with children in Peru
    Volunteering Solutions
    Reviewer Verified
    Join a volunteer program in Cusco, Peru with Volunteering Solutions! Volunteering in Peru is a great opportunity to learn...
    7 reviews
    Alumni Interviews
    Community Photos
    A review was left for this program in the last 30 days
    This program has been rated exceedingly fun by 5+ reviewers.
    This program has been rated exceedingly supportive by 5+ reviewers.
  • Volunteer teachers in Venezuela
    Jakera
    Reviewer Verified
    Another award winning program! Based in either Merida or Playa Colorada this program combines tailored intensive Spanish...
    4 reviews
  • Volunteer with kids in Peru with Cross-Cultural Solutions
    Cross-Cultural Solutions
    Reviewer Verified
    As you explore its ancient ruins, canopied jungles, and epic coastline, you'll understand, Peru is quite literally the stuff...
    16 reviews
    Alumni Interviews
    Staff Interviews
    Community Photos
    This program has been rated exceedingly supportive by 5+ reviewers.
  • Amigos de las Americas' volunteers helping kids
    Amigos de las Americas
    AMIGOS participants live in the the departments of Paraguari and Misiones. Participants working with the Paraguayan Ministry...
    16 reviews
    Alumni Interviews
    A review was left for this program in the last 30 days
    This program has been rated exceedingly supportive by 5+ reviewers.
  • UBELONG
    Reviewer Verified
    UBELONG offers 1-week to 6-month volunteering opportunities in Cusco and the Sacred Valley. There are over 40 projects in...
    48 reviews
    Alumni Interviews
    Community Photos
    This program has been rated exceedingly fun by 5+ reviewers.
    This program has been rated exceedingly supportive by 5+ reviewers.
  • Teach in Argentina with Projects Abroad
    Projects Abroad
    Projects Abroad has been sending volunteers overseas since 1992. Our volunteer placements in Argentina involve Teaching,...
    14 reviews
    Alumni Interviews
    Community Photos
    This program has been rated exceedingly fun by 5+ reviewers.
    This program has been rated exceedingly supportive by 5+ reviewers.
  • IVHQ Medical Project in Lima
    IVHQ
    Reviewer Verified
    IVHQ offers highly affordable volunteer programs in Lima, Peru. A wide variety of projects are available, including teaching...
    7 reviews
    Alumni Interviews
    Community Photos
    A review was left for this program in the last 30 days
    This program has been rated exceedingly supportive by 5+ reviewers.
  • UBELONG Volunteer Abroad ECUADOR
    UBELONG
    Reviewer Verified
    UBELONG offers 1-week to 6-month volunteering opportunities in 5 Ecuador locations: Quito, Amazon and Galapagos. There are...
    43 reviews
    Alumni Interviews
    Community Photos
    This program has been rated exceedingly supportive by 5+ reviewers.
  • A Broader View
    Reviewer Verified
    Child Care Center This is a public facility that provides daily child care services, pre-school and kindergarten classes to...
    5 reviews
    A review was left for this program in the last 30 days
    This program has been rated exceedingly fun by 5+ reviewers.
    This program has been rated exceedingly supportive by 5+ reviewers.
  • Volunteer in the mountains of Bolivia
    Projects Abroad
    Projects Abroad has been providing volunteer placements in the developing world since 1992. Our volunteers directly impact...
    1 reviews
    A review was left for this program in the last 30 days