Impact: 9
Support: 10
Fun: 10
Value: 10
Safety: 10

I volunteered with IVHQ's parter Emerging Voices in Cartagena, Colombia, for 8 weeks in February and March of 2019. I had a phenomenal experience - making new friends with volunteers from all over the world, meeting locals who I continue to talk with today, learning and practicing Spanish, and getting to try delicious food!

The volunteer project I chose was teaching English. We had 2 placements - one for 2 hours in the morning, in a neighborhood close to our volunteer house, and another for 2 hours in the afternoon, in a more impoverished neighborhood about 20 minutes drive. The morning class I taught was advanced, so my lack of Spanish was not a big deal. We worked on grammar rules and pronunciation for the majority of my 8 weeks. The afternoon class was very beginner, so it was difficult to communicate some of the topics to them, considering my own poor Spanish. The afternoon class was definitely more of a challenge for me, because due to their more impoverished neighborhood, it was clear their own education even in Spanish was lacking. So trying to explain the difference between adjectives and adverbs and nouns and verbs was relatively difficult, as they couldn't even identify the Spanish equivalents. Despite this, they were for the most part eager to learn, and had fantastic attitudes, and I made strong connections with many of the students. One thing I would recommend for the Teaching placement is to know some Spanish beforehand, and the more you know the better it will go. Also, since you are essentially planning the lessons yourself, make sure you know the topics and do some research beforehand. Just because you know English, doesn't mean you necessarily know every weird rule it has when it comes to grammar and spelling rules.

The volunteer house itself was spacious, air conditioned at night (thank God!), clean, and comfortable. We had an incredibly talented and creative cook, Sophie, who made us 3 meals a day from Monday to Friday. The house was a 5 minute walk from the airport, and a 5 minute walk from the beach, which was very convenient. The neighborhood was safe, with a reasonable selection of food and entertainment.

Evenings and weekends would often be spent in the Centro Historico, which was about a 10 minute taxi ride, usually costing 7,000 COP. The Centro had many more options for stores, restaurants, entertainment, partying, and sight-seeing. It was absolutely beautiful, from the colourful and brightly decorated buildings, to the old stone wall overlooking the ocean. Definitely busy and touristy though too.

Weekends were also very popular for excursions and tourism. Over the 8 weeks I was there, I went to Parque Tayrona, Isla Grande (a part of the Islas del Rosario), Playa Blanca, Barranquilla for the Carnaval, and El Totumo - a mud volcano to bathe in that makes your skin feel fantastic.

All around, I had a great experience. The staff at the volunteer house were all amazing and easy to talk to, the students had wonderful attitudes and were just as excited to teach me Spanish as they were to learn English, the other volunteers were fun and friendly, and the food was to die for.

Would you recommend this program?
Yes, I would
Year Completed