Mexico City, the oldest metropolis in the Americas, is full of volunteer opportunities. As with many big cities, there are many people living in poverty that volunteers can work with.
It's also where many NGOs working in Mexico are based and you'll be able to find opportunities teaching, working in childcare, or with conservation and human rights. Volunteering in Mexico City will give you a chance to live and work in an important political, cultural, educational and financial center.
English and other language skills are always in demand in Mexico City. Several nonprofit and non-government organizations are based in the capital including Sin Fronteras, a human rights group that works with asylum seekers and international migrants and refugees. Groups like Sin Fronteras need support with writing and editing grant proposals as well as interpretation services. Other community organizations like the Casa de los Amigos , a Quaker house in the city that promotes peace and social justice, holds several community workshops, and is in need of volunteers to help with daily operations, organizing events, and researching and writing reports.
If you prefer the energy of a classroom, there are volunteer programs to teach English in Mexico, including the US-based Projects Abroad, which operates out of Mexico's second largest city Guadalajara. Many volunteer teaching positions in Mexico do not require certification, but some do. Be sure to check individual program requirements before applying.
Conservation and Farming
Like getting your hands dirty? Mexico City always needs volunteers to help keep the city clean and green as it struggles with smog and sprawl. Urban agriculture is gradually taking off and one group called Sembradores Urbanos ("Urban Culitvators") works with Mexico City officials and community organizations to teach gardening techniques and help maximize the city's public spaces while working to improve food security for Mexicans.
Working with Children
Mexico City is rife with poverty and unfortunately the harsh conditions leave thousands of children struggling for food and shelter. For those who want to help children and teens, Mexico City community organizations and orphanages could benefit from your time and support. Casa Alianza is a safe house for homeless and at-risk youth in Mexico City. There is also Hogar Dulce Hogar ("Home Sweet Home" Foundation), which works with displaced children and is in need of volunteers to provide education and to play with kids.
Planning Your Trip
Mexico City is a major international hub so if you are not fluent in Spanish, you will likely meet people at various organizations or even on the street who speak English. Volunteering in Mexico City also means quick access to U.S. embassies and consulates, as well as to hospitals, libraries, stores, museums and other resources. Despite Mexico City's cultural wealth, crime is an issue. Take precautions and exercise common sense; do not carry valuables when walking about, avoid isolated areas and travel with a companion, if possible.
Contributed by Katrina Woznicki