Volunteer Latin America: Purchase A Guide To Low-Cost Volunteer Opportunities
By Kate | Permalink
3 comments | August 12th, 2007 | Trackback
Volunteer Latin America brings together contact information on organizations offering volunteer opportunities – mainly environmental projects but also a smaller number of others like community aid - in a guide for potential volunteers. You can peruse brief descriptions of some of the possibilities; if you’d like to find out more, you need to order a guide for just under £25. They report that there will be at least 20 organizations currently offering volunteer positions in the online guide, selected by criteria you define (country, type of project, etc.).
The largest number of projects are in Ecuador and Costa Rica, and most are low cost or free, with the volunteer paying his or her own day to day expenses. Some projects do have a language requirement and they report others – most typically those in the humanitarian category – include a possibility for the volunteer to improve or start learning Spanish language skills. They also include information on Spanish schools, all of which “either directly sponsor or can arrange volunteer work/internships.”
I have to admit I am naturally skeptical about paying money for information which is available, to some extent at least, online for free, and when you don’t really know exactly what you will be getting. Volunteer Latin America does, however, make the valid point that it is time-consuming to keep track of such opportunities – and the fact is, different websites and organizations use different methods for securing income and have different motives for that. It is also certainly not lost on me that people also pay in advance much larger sums of money to placement organizations for volunteer trips…so explore what Volunteer Latin America makes available on its site for free and use your discretion as to whether or not to order a guide.
I know some people are out off by the thought of paying a small fee to receive information about volunteer work. However, the information you receive could be invaluable as the alternative is perhaps choosing a project that hasn’t been verified. All the projects they offer are authentic so you don’t run the risk of turning up somewhere only to find it doesn’t exist or experience any other form of disappoinment. There are some projects advertised on ‘free’ websites that are not recommended and VLA ensures that you won’t visit them. Another important element to their ‘guides’ is that virtually all the projects provided are locally run. This means that if there is a participation fee, the money you pay goes directly to the host organisation rather than an intermediary in the UK, USA or elsewhere.
I don’t know that I believe that paying for information is necessarily any more secure than contacting an organization directly - and it certainly doesn’t ensure you won’t experience any other form of disappointment. Programs do exist that, while they may not be scams, are also not what they make themselves out to be. I’m not saying this is the case with VLA, but the possibility exists anywhere.
Paying for good information or services is not necessarily bad, and it’s fair enough that people who work to compile such information and respond to requests and so on are compensated for their time.
International placement organizations also coordinate with programs that are locally run, and that fact alone definitely does not mean that all the money necessarily goes to that program. It certainly can, but it is worth asking about and investigating, and not just assuming.
Thanks to the service of Volunteer Latin America I found the perfect volunteer/internship program in Peru. Since I studied Biology I was looking for a good opportunity to help and gain some experience in the field of Marine Biology, and I always wanted to go to South America, because I was also curious about the culture and the people living there. With the service of VLA it was very easy to find the perfect match. They create a personal guide for you with which you get a lot of information about many projects that fit your desires. So if you want to participate in more than one volunteer project, this is very helpful. In the end I applied for an internship with an organization based in Peru, South of Lima, called ORCA, which is dedicated to the conservation and rehabilitation of marine mammals, mainly South American sea lions, in Peruvian waters. The team was great and I had an amazing time there and also gained some new friends. It was one of the best things I did in my life so far, and I will continue to choose VLA for my upcoming experiences in Latin America. Whenever you have any questions about anything, they reply promptly within a few hours, which is a further important point of their great service.