Amigos de las Americas

Amigos de las Americas

About

Founded in 1965, AMIGOS is the safest, most authentic volunteer and immersion program in Latin America for young people ages 13 to 22. Volunteers get the opportunity to explore a new country, learn Spanish, bond with their host family, and make a positive impact by working on a community service project side by side with local peers and community partners. Our relationships with local and international organizations — built over 50 years — enable authentic engagements in communities across the region.

Founded
1965
Headquarters

1800 West Loop South
Suite 1325
Houston, TX 77027
United States

Reviews

Default avatar
Lea
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My decision to participate in AMIGOS de las Américas was one of the best I've ever made. I spent six weeks living in a rural town in Cocle with one other partner from the United States. During our stay we helped the community build a playground out of recycled materials and taught camps to children after school each day. I made many lasting friendships with community members with whom I continue to text and talk with on the phone to this day. This experience also allowed me to solidly my Spanish fluency - although all levels of Spanish ability can thrive in AMIGOS. I developed many valuable skills during my time in Cocle such as problem solving, cooperation, confidence and independence. The experience was very challenging and pushed me out of my comfort zone but therefore was extremely rewarding. Through AMIGOS I also gained access to a network of alumni and peers and I have continued to return to the organization, first as a vet trainer and then as a member of the National Youth Alumni Council. I am confident that AMIGOS will stay with me for many years to come.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
I went swimming in a waterhole below a waterfall with some teenager friends I made in my community!
Default avatar
Carol
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My daughter participated in the Amigos de las Americas program as a senior in high school. She went to Paraguay for six weeks to be fully immersed in a new culture and gain knowledge about the world. The local training for months prior helped her to feel more confident about what she might experience once in Latin America. She ended up having a health issue and returned home early from the program. The level of health and safety in place through Amigos was stellar. As a parent I am now fully invested in the program because of how this situation was addressed. I feel 100% confident sending local youth through the Amigos program. I have stayed very involved with the organization for the past 8 years and see this as a top program in the US! Amigos is an experience than will impact youth for years after they participate.

What would you improve about this program?
Be able to spread the word throughout the US about the impact this program has on youth.
Default avatar
Lauren
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Some of the best weeks of my life include the six weeks I spent in a rural community in Nicaragua. In 2011, I challenged myself in ways I did not think were possible. By living with a host family and working with community members on a collaborative service project, I strengthened my Spanish speaking abilities, leadership capacities, and cultural competency. My community in rural Nicaragua is one of the most beautiful places I have ever traveled to. I spent many hours hiking through the lush green mountains with another volunteer from the U.S. (my partner in community) and local community members. Each week, we were visited by our Project Supervisor, an AMIGOS staff member, that checked up on our health and the progress of our community service project. 8 years later, I am still in communication with my partner in community and my Project Supervisor. The community of AMIGOS is truly spectacular and full of inspiring people that are dedicated to creating positive social change.

Throughout my application, training, and summer experience, I felt supported by Amigos staff. Amigos headquarters in Houston, TX supports chapters all across the U.S. Chapter members provide in person training and workshops to local chapter volunteers. I currently serve on the Urban Chicago Chapter board, and I am excited to share AMIGOS with you! Thank you for reading, and I hope you check out the amazing AMIGOS website and social media.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
I ate a fruit that is similar to a grape, but includes a pit. They are called mamones in Nicaragua.
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Kara
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I did Amigos as a high school student in 1986 & 1987. My teenage son went to Chimborazo in the summer of 2018. I can speak to being both a volunteer as well as a parent, and I can confidently say that Amigos is a life changing experience. I like to say that my son came home with his eyes wide open. He was fully immersed in a new culture. He lead town hall meetings (in Spanish!!). He formed relationships with his host family that he continues to maintain. He became more independent, more confident and more engaged. No cell phones for 7-weeks, he came home well read and well rested. His love of reading returned as he
swapped novels with other volunteers over the summer.

I am so excited to have this shared experience with my son. There is nothing else like it!

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Cuy - guinea pig
Default avatar
Avery
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

this trip was the best decision I've ever made! i had an awesome support network in Panama of supervisors and staff. we had check ins with our supervisor all the time where they would ask us about how everything had been going and they always made it easy to talk/go to them. the first week was filled with briefing, which i had not expected but was very grateful for because of how safe it made me feel. going into our homestay i was nervous because i pretty much had no language experience. i immediately knew that i was going to love my host mom! she was cute and little always filling me to the brim with food. i also loved my host dad who had the sweetest laugh and was always curious about life in america. i adored my host sister who played endless games of cards with me. i will never forget walking to the local tienda with her and getting dulces for the entire family every night. i also adored the local schoolchildren who always tried to give me little toys and who always wanted to play with the "Gringas". getting on that plane was the hardest thing in the world for me because i had felt that i had made a second family and really belonged in that town of two hundred people.

Programs

Displaying 10 - 12 of 12

Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Rosalinda Vergara

Rosalinda is from Tucson, AZ. She is a Criminology and Criminal Justice major with a minor in spanish and in social work at Arizona State University. She is currently the Training Director for the Phoenix chapter of Amigos de las Americas. She loves dancing to bachata, mexican, salsa and merengue. She also enjoys trying different types of foods as well as cooking.

Why did you pick this program?

My spanish teacher talked about, but not to in depth, of AMIGOS. I heard traveling and I was instantly hooked. I had never traveled outside of the U.S. except to Mexico to visit family.

Growing up I always heard stories about my mother's traveling experiences and I too wanted that so i figured this was my opportunity to do this and fulfill this dream of mine. I proceeded to attend the very last information meeting the chapter was having and after hearing what the program offered I wanted in!

After almost 6 months of training and hearing past volunteers stories of their trips I was all way too excited and nervous for my turn. I spent 2 months in the Dominican Republic and I can't explain what an amazing and fulfilling summer I had. I can easily say it has been the best thing that I have been through. I came back ten times more independent, confident, responsible and mature.

I was so impacted by my trip and so in love with the program that I decided to come back as a training director for the Phoenix chapter. I want to get these new volunteers excited for their summer like my training director got me! They have absolutely no clue of what an amazing experience they are about to get into and seeing them come back completely changed and in love with their summer will be the best reward.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

DO IT! Honestly, if you have the chance to travel abroad, DO IT! Forget about the money and not having enough time, I can't count how many times I was broke paying for my trip & all the extra hours stuck at work just to get a little extra cash to also finish paying the trip. But it was all worth it, every second of it.

So many people back home told me not to do it, I was going miss out on my last summer before college, I could have bought a car with that money, etc. I honestly feel like I missed out on nothing & gained so much more! And if I was given the chance to go back and choose a car or a summer with my friends at home I would choose my trip all over again. I gained a new perspective on life, a new family and friends and most importantly I learned more about my own self.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

There are many things I could say but I guess the main one would be, don't be scared. It's normal I get it, your traveling to a complete different country with maybe a complete different language and a whole different culture but this is what AMIGOS is about, getting out of your element.

It's totally and completely OK to be scared/nervous but never let it hold you back from doing what you are there to do. You might never get the chance to do this all over again and even if you do it will never be the same, so go for it, take a chance and let this moment change your life forever!

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

I have so many stories from my time in the DR but I think the one that truly made the biggest impact on my experience was when I got to learn about my host mother. Going into community I knew their culture was very distinct from mine. Teen pregnancy was something very common in the DR but I believe it was seen more in the campos.

My host mother was only 10 years older than I was and already led the life of someone in their mid 30's. She was a mother of four, a housewife and had only gone up to 8th grade, she could not even spell. She never got the opportunity to live her life as a "regular teen". She was married off at 16 to someone twice her age and from there her life changed drastically.

After hearing Mami Dinora's story I felt so lucky to have the opportunity to go to school, to not have to be forced into marriage and to be able to make my own decisions on how my life turns out.

I also felt like in a way I didn't deserve these rights. So many times we take advantage of all the privileges we are given that we're so selfish to think that there are people who would literally die for them. It definitely was a big eye opener to me and the most valuable life lesson of all time.

Describe your typical day in community?

My typical day consisted of waking up at 6 am to our pet chickens cooing and Papi Victor waking up my oldest brother Melvin to get ready for another day of working in the fields. (This was also my alone time).

By 9 am I was up and ready to go on with my day, Mami Dinora always had my super strong but super sweet cup of coffee ready at the table. By 10 am the kids from community, my partners and I were at campamentos until 12 pm. Lunch would follow right after, since we had a meal plan we were to walk to the families house we were to eat at and depending where it was it could take us 2-10 minutes walking.

The rest of the day was basically free and our go to, if it didn't rain, was to head out to the river with the youth. We usually spent at least 3-4 hours talking, eating mangoes and swimming before we head back home to shower and continue with our nights.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Lauren Hauser

Job Title
Managing Director of Regional Operations, Former Project Director: Yucatan, Mexico
Lauren has worked for AMIGOS since 2012 when she served as a program mentor for the exchange program in Paraguay. From there, she ran AMIGOS programs in Mexico and now works at the National Office where she gets to find the next cohort of amazing young leaders!

What is your favorite travel memory?

My favorite travel memory was being able to run AMIGOS Programs in the Yucatan, Mexico. I fell in love with the people, the culture, and working in the Mayan communities there. Opportunities like this remind me of how similar we are in our desires, hopes and dreams. Even though many of these families had very little, they actually had a lot in terms of love. Although it was a 'work' experience, it felt like much much more.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I love that AMIGOS is a leadership organization through and through and so you really get opportunities to take on new projects, learn new things and flex your leadership muscles. I really feel like through AMIGOS roles, I have had the opportunity to learn more about myself and in turn, become a better leader with others. More tangibly, project management! What a skill to take with you for the rest of your life.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

If I could go on an AMIGOS program I would have a hard time choosing! Personally, I would love to do the projects where there is a strong indigenous community presence. I get excited to learn new languages and experience cultures. Our Paraguay, Ecuador or Mexico projects really offer students the opportunities to not just learn and practice Spanish, but also other languages like Mayan, Guarani and Quechua. Our Ecuador program also has a specific focus on youth entrepreneurship and I think it would be really interesting to learn about micro-enterprises alongside Ecuadorian youth!

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I think what makes AMIGOS unique is our commitment to building young global leaders committed to service. What I appreciate is that we don't just do that with the students who pay to do our programs, but with youth locally who take part in our training program as well. Our Latin American youth are a key part of our work, as well as our host families. I am also very proud of our training program. We offer a 30 hour core curriculum that really prepares students to learn and grow in independent environments and I really believe that when we step outside our comfort zones, our opportunity to grow is nothing short of powerful!

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