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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

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shaili
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had a lot of fun and learned hands on with a great team of doctors, staff, and fellow volunteers. I loved the opportunity it provided me and the confidence that it helped give me. In fact it helped me know that I had chosen the correct field for me and helped clear any doubts I had about a career in medicine. It has left me motivated to want a career in medicine and has left me wanting to go back on another medical trip with Vida. The memories I made during this trip will last a life time and vida is definitely worth recommending to a friend.

What would you improve about this program?
I would ask that the recreation days be more open to the individual to decide instead of as a group.
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Aoife
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I am incredibly happy that I joined Vida’s Volunteer trip to Costa Rica. I was able to practice and learn, and affirmed my belief that I would like to pursue a career in dentistry. The dental doctors went above and beyond to support the dental students, ensuring to answer all and any questions we had, and provided amazing demonstrations. I made many new friends on this trip and have been able to make so many memories. I would love to go on another Vida Volunteer trip, and hope I could further my experience in a new country!

What would you improve about this program?
I found it difficult that there were no Spanish translators available for the dental team. Having no Spanish knowledge myself, it was difficult to communicate with the patients when they would talk to me in Spanish and I had no idea what they were saying.
I would also recommend spreading the clinic days more - waking up in the early hours of 6am for three days straight, each working 8 hours and being on our feet all day, left the majority of the students visibly tired.
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Nathan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

It was a life changing experience. It may seem cliche but it truly is. Reading reviews before coming, I saw how many people loved it and I was still extremely skeptical about it but I am so glad I came. It was the trip of a lifetime. I learned so much more than i thought I would and made way more friends than I expected. I went in with pretty low expectation to be honest and I was blown out of the water. The kindness of the staff and the people of Costa Rica was truly enlightening and it made me more grateful and appreciative of everything I have.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Don’t be shy or afraid of going outside of your comfort zone. It’s a little nerve wracking at first, especially when you first get there but just trust the leaders and have fun. It’s truly amazing
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Emily
6/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This trip is a great experience for students looking for experience! The purpose and the work we do involved in this organization is absolutely incredible and once in a lifetime opportunity. The faces of patients brightens your day and makes you realize how much this program helps the people of these countries. Paulo and Cairo were absolutely amazing and really made us feel at home and made the trip enjoyable. They answered all our silly questions and taught us about the culture. Vida is great!!

What would you improve about this program?
the professionalism of the leaf doctors with volun
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Bekah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Paulo and Cairo were absolutely amazing at organizing everyone. They were very professional throughout the entire trip, and they were always willing to help with anything that we needed. Marcia was a fantastic teacher for the dental team!! Marcia, Vanessa, and Javier all did an amazing job teaching us and letting us assist with extractions, fillings, cleanings, and assisted brushing. Although it was pricey, we got to do a lot that we otherwise would not get to. The transportation was also reliable.

What would you improve about this program?
The medical doctors had unprofessional relationships with the students and the hotel did not have good WiFi!

Programs

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3
Vida Volunteer
Vida Medical, Dental & Veterinary Programs in Costa Rica
Costa Rica
9.45 •55 reviews

Despite having a relatively strong primary health care system, Costa...

Vida Volunteer
Vida Medical, Dental & Veterinary Programs in Nicaragua
Nicaragua
9.7 •53 reviews

Join Vida in Nicaragua with their veterinary volunteer programs. Vida...

Vida Volunteer
Vida Medical, Dental & Veterinary Programs in Guatemala
Guatemala
9.59 •34 reviews

Guatemala is the biggest country in Central America. Unfortunately, it...

Alumni Interviews

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

Jackson Stromberg

Jackson is a sophomore at the University of Georgia studying Environmental Health on the Pre-Med track.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose Vida because of the great reviews I heard from others about the program. All previous participants talked about how great and rewarding the program was, the great friends they made, and the memories they will cherish from this experience. I was a bit worried about the reliability of the program, but the program was more than reliable.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The program provider for the University was more than helpful. She was able to give me a very informative review of the entire program, what to expect, and how to approach the trip. She told me what to get, what I should bring, and what I will be doing on the trip during clinic days and recreation days.

All I had to do was sign up and get my flights.

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

To whoever is going to experience this amazing opportunity, I would recommend that they pack their suitcase and bags earlier than a few days ahead of the trip. I forgot some clothing that would have helped with my off days, and I forgot some materials that would have made homestays even easier. Stick to the list they provide.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

As a participant, the clinic days look like organized chaos. It mainly depends on the program you go into, but for medical I would say organized chaos.

You, your group, and your translator pick up a patient, then working as a team you figure out what is bothering the patient and take their vitals. Then the doctor comes and you work together to create a diagnosis.

The recreation days are groups going out to explore or eat local food.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was at the beginning of the trip was being picked up by the correct group when arriving at the airport. Or, in fact, there is not a group to pick me up at all.

One of my family’s fears was whether or not the program was reliable and there to pick you up. Which they were, so that was not a worry.

When I was first getting ready for it, I wanted to know, how are the other people on the trip?

By the end of the trip, it felt as if I had known the entire group for my entire life. They felt like very close friends at this point, and frankly, I was sad that the trip had to come to an end.

I have kept in touch with all of those who didn’t go to my university, but all those here I do keep in touch with them.

Staff Interviews

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

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

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?

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?

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.

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

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?

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.