Volunteer English Teaching Program in Paraguay

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We are looking for volunteer teachers for our successful English course. The work is important, because the low level of English in Paraguay is one of the reasons impeding its economic growth. All classes, study materials, exams and transport to exams are free to the students, who would have no possibility of studying if it were not for free classes. Last year we gave English classes to 75 children and 80 adults, and our most advanced students are fluent and are working as English teachers in language institutes, or in a number of hotels around the country as managers, guides and receptionists.

This is a great volunteering opportunity for competent Spanish speakers with a desire to work with the poor. Unlike many organisations we charge no administration fee, but you must pay all your expenses. We prefer volunteers who can commit for 6 months (3 months minimum).

Please see our website for more details, including FAQs and the testimonies of previous volunteers.

  • No administration fee
  • Make a real difference to the life of the poor
  • Great opportunity to improve your Spanish
  • Immerse yourself in the culture, living with a local family
  • Opportunities to share other skills such as other foreign languages and music

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Questions & Answers


10 Rating
based on 8 reviews
  • Impact 9.8
  • Support 9.9
  • Fun 9.1
  • Value 9.9
  • Safety 9.5
Showing 1 - 8 of 8
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Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing experience!

I had a wonderful time volunteering with SMEF in Santa Maria. The friends I made, places that I was able to visit, and things I learned made it an unforgettable experience. Living in a small town in rural Paraguay allowed me to really get to know people and to feel part of the community. Everyone knows everyone, and people are happy to welcome you as a friend. It was the perfect opportunity to improve my Spanish because I was one few English speakers in the town, so was really immersed in the Spanish language and spoke it for hours everyday. Working alongside other volunteers and Sarah I felt very supported and part of a team. The teaching is hard work but incredibly rewarding; you teach each class everyday and so get to know your students well and have the opportunity to really make a difference. I felt like my hard work was really paying off when in the weeks leading up to the Cambridge exams I saw my students’ results rapidly improve, along with their confidence. Outside of class and at the weekends I formed some great friendships with the other volunteers, my students, and other young people from the town. There isn’t a huge amount to do in the way of cinemas, shopping or restaurants in Santa Maria, but because of this you spend your time appreciating the beauty of the local area and forming real connections with the people who live there. Some of my best memories are of chatting in Spanish and enjoying terere with friends on a hot day in the countryside. I highly recommend this experience for anyone keen to teach English, improve their Spanish and experience the culture of Paraguay.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Volunteering for Santa Maria Education Fund

I volunteered with SMEF for over 6 months in 2016 and I had a fantastic experience. I was 18 when I went, and before going it felt like a very intimidating prospect, but as soon as I arrived I felt incredibly welcomed by my host mother, Demetria, and by Sarah and Margaret who run the charity. My students were a joy to teach and many of them became my friends as well. Santa Maria is a small and tranquil town but there is lots of socialising to do if you make the effort to seek it out, as everyone is very friendly and happy to get to know you. I had A-level Spanish when I went out, and I was able to improve massively which has been incredibly valuable to me since then. I was also able to do music; I sang in the church choir and led some music classes. I would 100% recommend going to improve your Spanish and have a life-changing experience.

Yes, I recommend this program

Teach wonderful students, improve your Spanish and be part of a community

I taught English in Santa María for fourth months in 2016 and for a further two months in 2018 and had an incredible experience both times. The first time, I went with the aim of improving my Spanish and the second time I went simply to reconnect with my host family and friends. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend SMEF!
Santa María is a truly special place: the local community is so welcoming that you never feel alone and it's easy to make friends and build lasting relationships. When I arrived, people rushed to get to know me and make me feel at ease. My local hosts went above and beyond to make me feel like one more member of the family. Even when, during my second stay, I didn't live in their house, I was invited to lunch with them every day without fail and was included in every family gathering. It was a home away from home. The town itself is quiet, but your afternoons and weekends quickly fill up drinking tereré with friends, exploring the campo and nearby towns, attending local events and family gatherings.
The teaching experience with SMEF is unique, too, because of the level of responsibility you're given and range of ages and abilities you teach (for me, ages 8 to 30; complete beginners to near-fluent speakers). You work hard, teaching up to five or six classes, but it's genuinely stimulating work and you always have a nice long break in middle of the day. And the more you get to know your students, the more motivated you feel to help them progress; it's a great feeling seeing them develop over the course of your stay. After six months of teaching in Santa María, I know that teaching is something I could pursue as a career.

What would you improve about this program?
It's not to do with the programme but the weather in Santa María can be capricious and when it rains things get a bit quiet. So bring indoor activities like board games and books! Also it's worth knowing that it's normal for people to comment openly on your looks in Santa María – my very un-Paraguayan pixie cut was some people's favourite topic of conversation.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Santa Maria Experience

For anyone considering a semester abroad in the Americas, I would 100% recommend this teaching placement in the unique and beautiful town of Santa Maria de Fe, in rural Paraguay. Whilst the idea of moving to a small town in a country you may know nothing about, where almost nobody you meet will speak English, and whose way of life seems nothing but foreign to you, may seem daunting at first, I can assure you the Paraguayans will welcome you with open arms, and SMEF will guide you with your move, and with settling down in a Paraguayan host family, as well as showing you the ropes for teaching English classes to the local children and adults. It is hard to find another charity where your volunteering directly benefits the local population and that doesn't charge you for it. With SMEF you are really volunteering. You instantly see the rewards of your work and the gratitude of your students who would otherwise struggle to find another opportunity for learning such an important globalised language, without it costing them an arm and a limb. Of course, some days of teaching are more trying than others, but through this I personally learnt heaps about how to teach a language, about my own language, about what techniques to employ during different classes, and how to develop a teacher-pupil relationship, which in Santa Maria often turned into a friendship! Half a year on, I am still in contact with friends and my host family from Santa Maria, and I cannot wait to go back. Besides the volunteering experience of teaching English, the experience of living in the town remains invaluable to me. There really aren't words enough to describe the precious memories I have, and how worthwhile it is to spend at least a few months there. Santa Maria is anything but a tourist hub, which is exactly why you should go. You will have the immersion into Spanish (+ Guarani) experience you are looking for, and you will get to know a culture different to your own. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me via email on anna_rachel@hotmail.co.uk. I would gladly respond to any doubts or questions you may have. Anna

What would you improve about this program?
I have no comments for improvements!
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Yes, I recommend this program

Learn Spanish, make friends and do something really worthwhile

I taught English in Santa Maria for four months as part of my university Year Abroad, and I'd recommend the experience to anyone. You feel like you're making a real difference with your teaching, as Santa Maria is quite isolated so there isn't any other way that local people would learn what is becoming a very useful skill for job-hunting in Paraguay. Because the classes are every day you can really see the improvement in the students, and being able to plan and teach classes on your own from the get-go is a real confidence-builder for those who haven't taught before. It's also great fun to have the freedom to experiment with class structure and have fun with the students, as well as preparing them for exams. I'm still in touch with some of my students, and it's great to see that because of the continuing commitment of volunteers - as well as their own hard work - their English is still constantly improving. As regards to daily life I think Santa Maria is one of the best places you could do an overseas placement - it's such a small town that you don't have a choice but to be integrated into the community, and there are so few foreigners that your Spanish will improve enormously. I loved staying with a host family as well - it's the best way to settle in to a new place. This was by far the easiest of my Year Abroad placements in terms of logistics - SMEF will organise your accommodation and host family for you, and provide extensive guidance and support in the run up to and during the placement. It's also a really safe area, as it's so small and everyone knows each other. I was initially worried that I'd get bored in a small rural town, but my spare time quickly filled up with getting to know my students and host family, exploring the surrounding villages, learning the Paraguayan harp and a bit of Guaraní, learning to make local dishes and sewing with the women in the local Artisan workshop. SMEF was also kind enough to give me time off to visit some amazing tourist destinations nearby, like the Iguazú Falls and Buenos Aires.

Yes, I recommend this program

A rewarding teaching experience with real impact

I had a wonderful time in Paraguay on my Year Abroad, thanks to a combination of a worthwhile and effective teaching programme and a culturally rich and welcoming community.

What sets this apart from other volunteering programmes you may be looking at:
- You are provided with sensible teaching resources, but you have complete freedom as to how you teach the material. You are not tied to the textbook and can be as creative as you like.
- The students are intelligent and motivated, and classes are fairly small.
- Classes take place every day Monday-Friday, meaning real progress can be achieved.
- The students work towards (and regularly achieve) internationally recognised Cambridge English certificates.
- English is a relatively rare and therefore valuable and employable skill in Paraguay - so the classes genuinely open up opportunities for people in an area where unemployment is high.
- There are few fluent English-speakers in the community, which helps to improve your Spanish!
- Security is not an issue as Santa Maria is very safe (compared to eg. working in shanty town areas of Lima, where I wasn't allowed to live in the area or go out after dark for security reasons).

Santa Maria is a small town but there is plenty to do if you widen your interests to see what is there. The treasure is really the relationships you will build up with your host family, students and the local community - you can spend hours just sitting in people's gardens drinking terere, which is really an essential part of the cultural experience!

What would you improve about this program?
It's useful to get advice from past volunteers about how best to go about making friends at the start - the social structure functions a bit differently in Paraguay.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Loved it!

When I graduated college I knew I wanted to volunteer abroad in a Spanish speaking country and when I found SMEF I knew it would be a perfect fit for me! I stayed for 14 months and wish I could've stayed longer; I'm actually planning to go back and do fieldwork for my graduate thesis in Santa Maria because I miss it so much!!
Everything is lovely- the people, the town, the work. It's a small town so most everyone knows each other, which means my neighbors greet me as I walk to the Institute, the church, the grocery shop, or anywhere else, and I'd often stop to chat. Additionally, you live with a host family, which is a great way to practice your Spanish, learn some Guarani, and get to form meaningful relationships. You also get really close with your students; all of the volunteers teach a wide range of classes from beginners to advanced and will have one children's class too. I loved all of my classes for different reaaons- the kids are fun, energeti, and learn quickly and the adults are a joy to teach because they become your friends as well. They're also incredibly patient when you first begin and help you to feel comfortable in front of the class.
Since we teach in the morning and in the evening, there's lots of free time to go to the plaza and see the monkeys, spend time with friends, go for a swim in the river, or any number of other things. On the weekends I took harp lessons (and in the end bought a harp to bring home) and sang in the church choir (even though I'm not really a singer). You can also take weekend trips to amazing places like Iguazu falls,, or any number of natural wonders in Paraguay that aren't super touristy, which is nice; there are tons of rivers, little waterfalls, forests, etc. to explore if you're an outdoorsy person!
If you're religious, (or even if you're not) you can also take advantage of the different activities that the church has to offer. And if you're around in September for the fiesta patronal celebrating the virgin Mary or in the spring for Holy Week, there are all kinds of local festivities and events that draw in people from all around the region.
I could go on all day about the amazing time I had in Santa Maria- feel free to get in touch if you have questions.
You can also read an interview here that I did about my experience: https://www.lassosdsu.wordpress.com/2017/10/16/student-volunteer-spotlight-jen-beckner/amp/

If you do go, a couple quick tips: Pack layers!! In the winter it's warm but at night is super chilly, so you'll want a coat and some slippers. Also bring little things to share- my kids classes loved when I would put stickers on their assignments and my adults liked trying American snacks and baked goods.

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Yes, I recommend this program

A fantastic opportunity to make an impact on people's lives and get to know a new country

I worked at the Santa Maria Education Fund for six months last year as part of my year abroad. My main goals when I decided to volunteer in South America were that I wanted to do something worthwhile with my time, speak a lot of Spanish, and have a good time. I can safely say that I did all of these things during my time in Paraguay. I didn't have any formal teaching training before starting at SMEF, but this was fine as I worked from useful course material, received advice and training from the organisation, and all of the students were lovely and welcoming to me as a first time English teacher. During my time I grew close to all of my classes and saw their English really improve (students ranged from 8 years old to 25 years old), and think I grew and improved as a teacher myself. Living with a host family in Santa Maria was a fantastic experience as I spoke Spanish whenever I was at home, and felt like I was a part of the community. Santa Maria is a quiet town, but if you want to there are countless things you can do to keep yourself entertained in your free time; I learned to play the Paraguayan harp! Would highly recommend this volunteering opportunity.