I loved volunteering for the Olancho Aid Foundation. I was in Juticalpa for two years, and it quickly became a second home. The people are fantastic, and the opportunity really is one of the best out there. I know they've made some changes with requirements and benefits, but when I volunteered, they paid a wage you could live on and save with. In addition, you did not have to have teaching experience. Though being in the classroom was "sink or swim" and could be overwhelming, I learned a lot and my experiences have greatly contributed to my current career.
Overall, I loved Juticalpa. It's a small, quaint town, and people like having teachers from the US (Notice I don't say "American"--Central Americans are also "Americans"). Before volunteering, I had never been to Honduras before (or Central America), and I was concerned about safety. I can say honestly that I always felt very, very safe. We were trained well and provided with cell phones. I knew that if I ever called or texted someone from the Foundation, they'd be right there with anything I needed. Regardless, Honduras always felt safe to me, whether we were walking around Juticalpa, backpacking to Lake Yajoa, or taking the chicken bus to Trujillo.
I’ll be honest that I made a lot of mistakes while volunteering, so I’ll offer the following advice: Keep in mind that this experience is ultimately what you make it, that it will be stressful and overwhelming at times, and that you need to be sure you are taking care of yourself. No matter how well the program looks out for its volunteers, diving into a new culture will always come with frustrations, anxieties, and home-sickness. Do your research and come prepared and plan to maintain your health (both mentally and physically). Do not come with pre-conceived notions of what your experience will be like or what Instagram photos you will be able to upload. Come with a desire to work hard at what you are asked to do and be flexible to how things work in other cultures. You likely won’t understand why you are doing certain things, but you are one piece of a larger, well-established puzzle that works for Honduras (even if it’s not “how we do things in the US”).
Best of luck to those considering volunteering. If you choose OAF, you won't regret it!