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Volunteer Trip

About

Volunteer Trip offers affordable volunteer programs in Central and South America. We partner with in-country organizations to support on-going community projects. Our volunteers work in hospitals, clinics, schools, welfare agencies, orphanages, construction sites, farms, and animal rescue centers. Volunteers are immersed in the local culture as they live with a host family and learn Spanish.

Go. Volunteer your Trip!

Reviews

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Bonnie
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I loved feeling like I lived in a Costa Rican town, if only for two weeks. I walked to town every day, then took a taxi or the bus to my volunteer work. I worked with 6th graders at a small rural school in the mornings, then I spent my afternoons at the beautiful Spanish language school up in the mountains overlooking Turrialba below. It was an adventure living with my host family who didn't speak English. The first time I encountered a giant cockroach, I frantically slaughtered the Spanish language, telling them there was a "more big animal" in the bathroom! Even though I'm home now, my mind constantly returns to the mountains, the rivers, and the people of Turrialba.

What would you improve about this program?
I wish there had been more of an understanding of what my role was at the school. I really wanted to help the students with their English and with their other subjects, but the teachers pretty much ignored me (I'm sure it's because they were worried about the language barrier), and the principal seemed content to have me just watch the classes. At one point he asked me to teach a lesson on fractions, but I said I didn't know enough academic Spanish to do that, but I would be glad to help the students with their seatwork. But he didn't communicate my desire to the teacher. I enjoyed chatting with the children in Spanish, and I'm really glad I got the opportunity to experience the day-to-day life in a Costa Rican public school. But I could have done so much more---I wanted to be useful.
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Brandon
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Overall, I think my program was very successful. Three factors that stood out were (i) in-country support; (ii) program affordability; and (iii) the volunteering experience.

With respect to in-country support, Mallory continually offered herself as a resource for any questions and concerns I had. This support made me feel very secure and confident in my decision to volunteer abroad. She responded to each email promptly and gave very great information. In Guatemala, the program director was very resourceful as well. She was very kind and available whenever I needed help.

Most volunteer programs are very expensive, but not Volunteer Trip. I think this program was very affordable, considering the services and benefits received. I loved my homestay family and all other services included with the program. Having 3 meals a day and a safe place to stay is always an important issue; having those services covered within the program fee was very nice.

Volunteering in Guatemala is an experience I will never forget. VolunteerTrip made the process for simple. Through the organization's website/links, I knew what to expect and felt confident in what I was doing.

What would you improve about this program?
A follow-up email/call from the Volunteer Trip with the volunteer once he?she has arrived to the host country; to ensure everything is in order and there are no problems.
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Katelyn
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My experience in Honduras is one I will never forget! A typical day in Honduras started at the Atlantida Hospital. I spent the morning working with patients in the emergency room, recovery wing, and maternity wing. The doctors and staff mostly spoke Spanish but there were a select few that were bilingual. Working in the hospital helped work on my Spanish speaking skills. In the afternoon, I went to Spanish lessons. I spent four hours a day working on vocabulary and grammar. My teacher would sometimes take us to the market to learn about the Honduran culture and also work on my speaking skills. After school I would head home to spend the evening with my host family. We usually ate dinner together and then relaxed enjoying the warm weather.
My favorite part of the trip was my trip to Cayos Cochinos. I spent the day snorkeling and sight seeing. The islands were beautiful. We spent time with the native people to the islands and toured their homes. Everyone was so welcoming. It was definitely the highlight of my trip.

What would you improve about this program?
My trip was very eventful and a lot of transportation was needed because I did not live close enough to walk to the school and the hospital. I wish I could have lived closer to my school and hospital so that I could have walked more and saved some time and money. We had our own taxi driver that drove us to the places we needed to go but it would have be better if we could have walked.
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Katherine
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This was an absolute amazing opportunity that I would recommend to anyone! Our host family was so caring and fun while the school we were at was also well organized with such fun programs. I learned so much about the culture and people in just three weeks. I wish I could have stayed longer, I can't wait to go back :)

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

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

Bonnie Krupa

Bonnie Krupa is from Reno, Nevada. She is 62 years old and has been working in the field of education for 20 years. Currently she teaches 6th grade. In the summers she travels extensively and has visited over 40 countries. In July of 2014 she traveled for a week in Costa Rica, and then completed her first volunteer experience at a school in Turrialba.

Why did you decide to volunteer in Costa Rica with Volunteer Trip?

Bonnie: I was looking for an organization that would allow me to do a short volunteer service (2 weeks) so I could see what the experience was like. I was also looking for a placement in a Spanish-speaking country where I could practice my Spanish and have the opportunity to take intensive Spanish language lessons.

Students dancing at the school during the Annexation of Guanacaste Day festiviti

The location of Turrialba, Costa Rica, appealed to me because it was a medium-sized town in a beautiful rural area, far from major cities. They also had volunteer work at a school as one of their choices, which is where I felt I could be the most effective.

What was the best moment of the trip?

Bonnie: The best part of the trip was not so much a moment as it was the satisfaction of feeling like I was living in, and being a part of, a different country for a while.

It was crossing the bridge over the river on my way to work every day; it was figuring out how to explain everything I needed in a different language because no one spoke English; it was arriving at the rural public school each day and being greeted by the children as if I were a part of them; it was lounging in a hammock on the deck of the Spanish language school, soaking in the beauty of the volcano, the jungle, the toucans, and the sloth that often hung out in a nearby tree.

Do you feel like you made a significant impact on the local community? Why or why not?

Bonnie: No. I wish I felt like I made an impact, but I felt like the school didn’t make use of what I had to offer the children. I could have helped with their English so much.

Some of the 6th grade girls at La Escuela de Recreo

On the other hand, it was my choice to only be there for two weeks, so maybe they felt like I was just passing through. I received much more than I contributed.

What do you the miss the most about Costa Rica or your experience?

Bonnie: I miss the sense of accomplishment that I felt every day, things like finding my way back to town when I didn’t know where I was; carrying on conversations in Spanish with taxi drivers and storekeepers, figuring out how to use the local bus station to get to where I wanted to go, deciphering food labels in grocery stores, helping the children at the school with their schoolwork.

Turrialba, Costa Rica

It has been two months since I returned, yet my mind is still full of mountains, volcanoes, jungles, rivers, toucans, Spanish, and all the people I met and interacted with.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Bonnie: It has increased my self-reliance and my confidence that I can solve any problem. It has solidified my determination to continue learning Spanish, and it has also made me hungry to continue working in cross-cultural situations.

More Interviews

Staff Interviews

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

Mallory Miralda

What position do you hold at Volunteer Trip? What has been your career path so far?

Mallory Miralda and Gustavo Miralda, the co-founders of Volunteer Trip!

Mallory: I am a co-founder of Volunteer Trip, along with my husband, Tavo. Previous to living our current dream, we both were Spanish teachers!

Gustavo worked as a Spanish teacher to international travelers in his home country of Honduras, and I worked as an elementary Spanish teacher to little kiddos in northern Wisconsin!

Did you volunteer abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?

Mallory: I lived and studied Spanish in Argentina for 6 months. I then traveled throughout South America before returning to the reality of a job after college!

I eventually made my way back down to Central America, specifically landing on the beautiful country of Honduras. I volunteered in an orphanage for 3 months and lived with a local family.

During my stay, I met my future Honduran husband! I returned to Honduras various times to volunteer, translate in the public hospital, work with the local Spanish school, and spend time with my husband's family.

What is your favorite story of a volunteer's experience via Volunteer Trip?

Mallory: One of our undergraduate medical volunteers was so excited to work in the public hospital and see a variety of cases in the ER. However, her true passion was in gynecological care. We happily connected her to the baby delivery wing of the public hospital, which was very under-staffed and excited to receive extra help.

On her first day, she not only witnessed, but also assisted on the delivery of twins! I cannot explain how thrilled she was to have been in the room and assist on the delivery of twins, especially as an undergraduate student!

Where do you see Volunteer Trip in 10 years?

Miranda and local children

Mallory: In 10 years, we hope to have expanded to every country in Central and South America. Our overall goal is to create lasting change in the marginalized communities of our volunteer destinations.

And I hope to have achieved success in terms of positive, long-term change. Additionally, I would like to continue to be a super-affordable and high-quality volunteer organization.

We work directly with local organizations and all of the program fees go directly to our host families and partners. We are a small staff of dedicated individuals that just want to connect interested volunteers to opportunities in Latin America!

Additionally, I see us strengthening our relationships with our in-country partner organizations, hospitals, clinics, schools, orphanages, and community centers.

And finally, I obviously want to create the most impact by sending the highest number of volunteers for the longest commitments possible.

Which volunteer abroad destination is most popular? Which is not as well-known but definitely worth checking out?

We do not have one volunteer abroad destination that stands out as absolutely the most popular. It is surprising to learn the variety of motivations to travel and volunteer in certain destinations.

Some volunteers simply are interested in the location and many others choose a volunteer program solely on the type of volunteer work. For some, the destination is not as important as the actual work.

As far as an up-and-coming destination, I believe that San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua will only receive more and more positive attention. It is super-affordable, home to great secluded beaches, and a surfer's dream! We offer a special needs and an English teaching volunteer program in San Juan del Sur. Check it out here.