From the candy-colored buildings to the vibrant exuberance of Carnaval, Colombia sings joy into the world. This South American nation is also a wealth of natural beauty, from lush forests and waterfalls to coastal regions populated with diverse marine life. If you’re looking for a meaningful cultural experience volunteering, Colombia is a wonderful place to go. From teaching English to children to helping the elderly receive dignified care, there are a lot of ways that you can make a difference in Colombia. Here are some things to know when choosing a program that will connect you with meaningful work in Colombia.
Know Before You Go
Between 2002 and 2014, more than 6 million Colombians moved out of poverty and into the middle class. As the country shifts from its years-long conflict and into a new era of prosperity, its economic situation is looking more optimistic than it has in a generation. That being said, there are still people in Colombia who are living in poverty and can benefit from volunteers with niche skills, such as teaching English and providing medical care. In fact, as the economy has improved for many residents, hundreds of new organizations have cropped up that seek to promote peace and provide essential services.
Colombia is a democracy run by a president, senate, and house of representatives. The country has a strong trade relationship with the United States and annually imports foods such as bananas and coffee to the US. Speaking of the latter, you can expect to find yourself in the middle of a strong coffee culture during your time in Colombia. The food staples in the country include rice, red beans, ground beef, and plantains.
The climate in Colombia is dictated by altitude. Along the coast and in the north, you will experience tropical conditions. If you venture into the Andes Mountains or other high altitudes, expect cooler conditions and snow.
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)
International Volunteer HQ offers volunteer opportunities all over the world, including two Colombian cities: Bogota and Cartagena. In Bogota, the country’s sprawling capital, you can choose between five unique projects. If you want to work with young people, sign up for the childcare or teaching programs. You can also provide companionship and care to elderly people who have been rescued off the streets in the Elderly Care program. Other programs in Bogota involve helping with the construction and renovation of local buildings and feeding the homeless.
In Cartagena, a port city along the Caribbean coast, you have four volunteer programs to choose from with IVHQ. Teach English in local schools, help children and teens with sports development, provide support in childcare centers, or sign up to work in a variety of community development projects. If you sign up for community projects, you may end up doing anything from working in a community garden to teaching people computer skills.
Globalteer has a variety of volunteer programs throughout South America. In Colombia, the volunteer experience is focused on helping children in the city of Medellin, where they work with two government-approved projects. As a volunteer, you will contribute by teaching English, participating in art projects, teaching music and sports, and helping organize field trips for students. The rewarding program accepts volunteers year-round. You will work Monday through Friday for up to 12 weeks, and have weekends to explore the dynamic city.
A Broader View Volunteers
This volunteer opportunity has seven unique options for people who are proficient in Spanish or are willing to participate in a Spanish-language immersion program. A Broader View’sdifferent volunteer opportunities in Colombia all take place in Cartagena. Your project options include women’s support, where volunteers with medical experience provide care to young pregnant women, and education and teaching in the El Campestre neighborhood. You can also sign up to work in elder care, cultural immersion, and other social welfare programs. On each project, you can expect to work eight hours per day, Monday through Friday, although you have weekends free for sightseeing.
Frontier sends volunteers around the world to provide aid ranging from education to medical care. Their opportunity for volunteering in Columbia is ideal for anyone interested in helping preserve natural habitats. Colombia is home to a myriad of ecosystems, including a diverse marine environment that is home to thousands of species. As a volunteer in the marine conservation program, you will be stationed in Cartagena, and most of your work will involve diving into the water, but you don’t have to be a pro scuba diver to qualify — the team will train you at the start of your volunteer service. Once in the water, you will collect crucial data for scientists including the extent of coral bleaching and a visual census of fish. Volunteers also have the chance to venture into the local mangrove forests and record data about its organisms. You will live in a beach camp with other volunteers during your stay.
Ready to Travel?
The people and landscape of Colombia are rich in culture and beauty, and there’s no better way to give back to the community than signing up for a volunteer travel experience. Reach out to these qualified and experienced organizations for more information on how to volunteer in Colombia, and find the program that’s right for you!
Lara V. · Guest Writer
Lara V. is a guest writer for Volunteer Forever.