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Vida Volunteer

About

Vida Volunteer is an international nonprofit organization that strives to promote human and animal health through empowering Service-Learning trips to Central America. We currently intervene through three main fields of work: Medical, Dental and Veterinary, which are designed to promote health, ensuring a long-lasting impact while participants develop both intercultural & leadership skills in a real-world context.

As a Vida Volunteer, you can expect an eye-opening, hands-on, ethical experience while working with local licensed providers to help unserved communities in Central America. We go above and beyond for our volunteers and for the people we serve!

Founded
2008
Headquarters

2612 South Arlington Mill Drive
Unit C
Arlington , VA 22206
United States

Reviews

Default avatar
Marina
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This trip was a lot of fun. I made some great new friends that I had some fun times with and went on adventures with. I met a lot of people that I enjoyed my time with everyone in the group. The support was nice and the rooms were nice. The home stay was an amazing experience for me because it taught me to be thankful for everything I have back at my home and to not take anything for granted. This was definetly a great experience. They had very nice beaches and amazing weather to enjoy. We went banana boating and tubing and many other sorts of activities that I. Can’t think of right now but they were all a amazing and I would do them all again one hundred percent! I am also so happy I learned so much about veterinary medicine and all the experience I got with the animals.

What would you improve about this program?
I would like to have more supportive leaders because sometimes I felt like they were not helpful
Default avatar
Samantha
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Definitely a trip to remember. Going into this trip I didn’t really know wht to expect in terms of how much we were really able to do (in terms of hands-on in surgery) and homestays. All the vets were very helpful in explaining and being patient with us. Homestays were an amazing experience as well as we got a chance to experience the culture first hand. This allowed us to actually appreciate what we have back home and be more grateful for all that we have. Being in such a large group allowed for us all to experience all types of people with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. Even if people did not have much experience in this field of work, everyone was patient and willing to help and teach. I am definitely very grateful to have had this experience and to be able to work along side such amazing vets and peers.

What would you improve about this program?
I would want this program to improve in its organization and scheduling.
Default avatar
Dominique
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

During this trip I have not only learned many new skills about veterinary medicine but I have also felt a great level of accomplishment and what it feels like to make a difference in local communities who need it. After clinic days, i went home feeling incredibly proud of what I had done that day. The staff members are incredibly nice and will go out of their way to help you always. I have also had the opportunity to learn spanish and make toms of new friends including my homestay family who were extremely welcoming. I loved the recreational days as they allowed us to see the beauty of the country (horseback riding, beaches, hot springs). I would definitely say that this trip has changed me for the better and i am going home feeling like i have made a small difference in the world.

What would you improve about this program?
I think that orientation day should have been more thorough as there are many things i did not know how to do on the first few days of clinic, however the vets were super helpful and answered questions politely when asked, so that is a bonus. However it would have made the first day of clinic much less hectic for both vets and students
Default avatar
Lexus
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Overall super amazing trip! If you’re social and like to make friends then this trip is good for you. It was very hands on and educational. Within the matter of 6 clinic days I learned more than I ever would in Canada. This trip allowed us to have so many new experiences and try new things that we would’ve never imagined before. Although we do get freedom on this trip to go to restaurants etc. There was never a time I felt concerned about my safety on this trip. All the staff members are super fun, helpful and, will never make you feel dumb for asking any questions. Not only that but the homestays were my favourite part of this whole trip. Although I speak no Spanish, my Spanish mom made me feel welcomed and had amazing food (and wifi). I can honestly say this has been such an amazing experience.

What would you improve about this program?
I would improve this trip by making the staff members give us more information before activities such as what we need so that way we do not have to go back into our suitcases
Default avatar
Lexus
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Overall super amazing trip! If you’re social and like to make friends then this trip is good for you. It was very hands on and educational. Within the matter of 6 clinic days I learned more than I ever would in Canada. This trip allowed us to have so many new experiences and try new things that we would’ve never imagined before. Although we do get freedom on this trip to go to restaurants etc. There was never a time I felt concerned about my safety on this trip. All the staff members are super fun, helpful and, will never make you feel dumb for asking any questions. Not only that but the homestays were my favourite part of this whole trip. Although I speak no Spanish, my Spanish mom made me feel welcomed and had amazing food (and wifi). I can honestly say this has been such an amazing experience.

What would you improve about this program?
To improve this trip I would like the staff members to give us more information prior to activities such as what we need and what should we bring so that way we do not have to go back in our luggage.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Alumni Interviews

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

Roni Christensen

Roni is from Racine, WI and goes to the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire. Roni is a 23 year old female and currently works at a department store part time. She enjoys reading, music, dancing, and running.
Getting dental/medical experience while volunteering

Morning: We woke up early everyday and we'd get ready. Wear scrubs, tennis shoes, packed our day bag and filled up our water bottles. Then we'd head down for breakfast. The first part of the week we ate at the orphanage and the other half was at a hotel.

At the orphanage we had fruit, toast, cereal, orange juice, and coffee. At the hotel we ate fruit, eggs, toast, beans, juice, and coffee. Then after breakfast we'd head out for the day to work with patients!

Afternoon: After lunch we'd still have a few hours left of working with patients, for me it was cleaning, scaling, and pulling teeth. After we finished for the day we would clean up our materials and sanitize our chairs and tools. We'd heave all the tools and totes onto the vans and head back to the orphanage/ hotel.

Evening: After getting back to the hotel I would shower and change clothes to get ready for dinner. When we stayed at the orphanage we would eat with all of the kids and answer all of their questions. They'd ask things like how old we were, what the U.S. is like, and funny things like how to say certain words.

They would also try to teach me how to speak Spanish since I didn't speak a word of it. When we stayed at the hotel we would go for a walk and find a fun place to eat in small groups so dinner wouldn't take too long. It was a great time filled with great music, wonderful weather, and laughter. Sometimes the doctors and translators would come with us and we would learn great things about the local culture.

Highlights: The best part of my trip was getting the chance to assist Dr. Vivian, the dentist and learning valuable assisting and scaling skills. I hadn't ever gotten that chance before so it was very exciting to say that I got to actually assist and clean teeth. The experience really showed me that I truly want to be a dentist and will love my job once I get there!

Staff Interviews

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

Marla with some VIDA volunteers

Tell us a little about VIDA and your role at the company.

Marla: VIDA is a 501c3 nonprofit from Minnesota, USA. We work with volunteers from around the world to bring medical, dental and veterinary care to low resource communities in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. At VIDA, I am the Community Manager, so I am in charge of managing our website, blog, newsletters, Facebook, Twitter and online profiles. This helps us get the word out about VIDA and find more volunteers so we can continue to spread to more communities throughout Central America and help those in need.

How did you get involved in the volunteer industry?

Marla: Volunteering has always been an important part of my life. I am originally from Wisconsin, but moved to Costa Rica 7 years ago. Here, I didn't have many opportunities to do volunteer work, as I was going to school full time. When I graduated from college and was offered a job with VIDA in 2010, I knew that I had found the perfect organization to work for. VIDA has given me the opportunity to help those in need, and also travel throughout Central America while meeting amazing volunteers from around the world.

What makes VIDA unique?

Marla: VIDA offers life changing experiences to those who are interested in studying medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine. We offer hands-on service learning opportunities in a controlled environment where students can learn from local doctors and help communities in need; but we also let the volunteers have fun outside the clinics! All VIDA Adventures include sight-seeing and cultural activities such as tours of historic cities, whitewater rafting, hospital visits, canopy tours, visits to historic buildings, etc., which let the volunteers learn and see more about the countries they visit.

Medical students from University of Toronto in Granada, Nicaragua with VIDA

In your experience, what characteristics make a good international volunteer?

Marla: A good international volunteer is someone who wants to take time out of their schedule to help those in need. A great international volunteer is someone who travels with an open mind, is prepared for anything to happen, and learns from every experience they face. International travel will open your heart and mind to many new experiences, and if you come prepared to accept and learn from these situations, you will get much more from your travels!

How do you ensure your programs are sustainable and mutually beneficial for you, the community, and the volunteers?

Marla: VIDA's main goal is to help the communities in Central America receive the medical, dental and veterinary attention they deserve. In order to obtain this goal, volunteers pay a fee to attend the trips. This fee goes towards paying for their accommodations while on the trip, but also pay for the staff, medications and equipment we need in order to run the clinics. In the future, we hope to apply for and receive grants within the US to be able to purchase more equipment in order to help more communities in need.