Mexico

Main Features

  • Orientation on arrival in Mexico City
  • Optional language classes in Oaxaca City
  • Homestay with a local host family or in residential projects
  • Projects: teaching, welfare, animals and environment
  • From 4 to 12 weeks
  • "Volunteering abraod was a huge gift to me. It helped me realise my potential as someone who is able to do anything if given the chance. I learned and gained a lot from the experience, including a huge new family over in Mexico! I learned a lot about working together as a community and the importance of being able to rely on one another!" Ciara, Co. Cork.

Mexico is a land of contrasts comprised of almost two million square miles of coastline, white sandy beaches, desert, rain forest, mountains, fertile plains and one of the world largest cities. While some regions of the country are very wealthy there is ongoing concern about inequitable income distribution and the limited advancement opportunities for the largely indigenous population of the southern states.
Volunteering in Mexico focuses on those living in poverty. Volunteers can make a valuable contribution in communities that are in danger of being left behind as a result of poverty, abuse of the environment and the lack of economic opportunities.

Several projects are available throughout Mexico mainly working in the poorer rural communities often with native Indian peoples. The following is a sample of projects available. Our goal is to match the skills and expectations of the participants with the needs of the local projects. Our volunteer coordinator in the field will suggest a project for you once they have your application. They are well placed to match your skills and interests to the right placements.

NEW Healing with Horses project available near Queretaro city.

This project sponsors horse therapy for children whith special needs who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. The project is looking for volunteers to support the expanision of this service. Volunteers help with stable chores such as horse grooming, horse exercising, feeding animals, assisting with vet checks and supporting the riding classes. Depending on the demand of the therapy sessions, volunteers might help with them also. Volunteers do not need previous experience with horses or horse therapy, but they need to love working with animals and children. A good knowledge of Spanish is a plus, but basic Spanish will be accepted. 

Fun in Cottolengo
Fun in Cottolengo
Ola BademosiDublinMexico

Project working with children with special needs

Volunteers on this placement share their time between two projects that support children from disadvantaged backgrounds with Down Syndrome, Autism, impaired hearing among other conditions. The first project is a mixed school open during week days where teachers and therapists need help with physical activities, art and body expression, early stimulation classes and during lunch time. Help is also needed in maintenace of the garden, painting walls and cleaning the workshop areas. The second project is a permanent house for boys with special needs. Volunteers help by assisting teachers in classes, organising activities in drama, art and creative workshops and general assistance with the boys.

Barra de Potosi
Barra de Potosi
EILCorkMexico

Charmed Kids of Barra de Potosi in Guerrero

Barra de Potosí is a small fishing village located on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, in the State of Guerrero, 25 minutes away from the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo beach resort. Like any other small community on the edge of big tourist resorts, Barra de Potosi is in danger of losing its traditional identity as outside investors and developers seek to exploit its location and facilities. Now local residents are coming together to try and protect and preserve the values and traditions of their community.

Niños Encantados de la Barra de Potosi's main goal is to provide opportunities for the children of the village. However it also raises an awareness and pride in the traditions and folklore of the community. Children go there to do their homework and art and drama activities and various workshops also take place from time to time. 

Highly motivated volunteers with initiative are required to take over different tasks, from office work to homework guidance, coordination of art, language or music workshops, sport activities or reading circles. The project has few resources and facilities and volunteers who are resourceful, flexible and willing to improvise and introduce new activities are especially welcome.

This project  requires volunteers all year around. Volunteers are welcome for 8 weeks up to 6 months.

Nikki in Mexico with a new friend
Nikki in Mexico with a new friend
Nikki ChathamDublinMexico

Community Development: Fundacion Kinich

Based in San Jacínto Amilpas, 30 mins from Oaxaca City, this project offers a safe place for children of different backgrounds and their parents to develop different skills. Volunteers work mostly in the afternoon on activities such as:

  • supporting children to do their homework
  • supporting the learning of English and extra Maths classes
  • organising campaigns to raise awraeness of issues such as the importance of the environment, health and nutrition, neighbourhood safety
  • organising workshops on handcrafts.

A good knowledge of Spanish is a plus but basic Spanish is accepted. 

Found one!
Found one!
Tadhg MooreKerryMexico

Eco-tourism: La Ventanilla, in Oaxaca

This co-operative project in the beach village of La Ventanilla in Oaxaca State was set up to stop the killing and selling of turtles and their eggs and has grown in to a sustainable development project which generates alternative sources of income for the local people. It is located in a small beach village in a large mangrove zone just 60 minutes away from Huatulco and Puerto Escondido beach resorts. Twenty five families living in the village are actively involved in the co-operative which has among its goals to rescue the natural habitat of hundreds of species of birds and reptiles and the promotion of eco-tourism.

The co-operative started operating tours along the mangrove swamp and offering horseback riding tours to generate an extra income. They have also established a tree nursery housing 70,000 plants of mangle and other local varieties, a crocodile farm and nurseries for turtles and iguanas.

This project requires volunteers all year around for periods of 4 weeks up to 6 months.

Volunteer activities might include cleaning and preparation of the eco-friendly tourist cabins, to assist in the community owned restaurant "El maíz azul" ("The blue corn"), helping in the rehabilitation of confiscated animals and the release of newly-hatched turtles into the ocean. Between August and October, for example, volunteers could take part in night patrol canoe trips to find turtle's nests, to collect and record eggs, and to bring them to the nursery. Participants will also help in the organisation and development of workshops to recycle paper, aluminium, plastic and coconut fibre; as well as in the daily cleaning of the beach, the dock and the island; and in the planting and harvesting of ornamental and fruit trees.

Muriel Mexico City
Muriel Mexico City
EILCorkMexico

Human Rights: Mexico City

A number of organisations and not-for-profits require support from Spanish speaking volunteers in Mexico City. The tasks and responsibilities on this placement depend on the length of stay, the language skills of the candidate and the availability of work from the organisations. Volunteers will need to take public transport to these projects at a cost of €15 per week. (Cost for transport is not covered in the programme).

Examples of the type of work volunteers engage in are as follows:

Office based work - Refugee Centre: Volunteers are asked to help in the mornings doing research on immigration topics, translations of publications, filing and formatting. During the evenings, they might support activities at the "House of Refugees" where cooperatives of women gather to share experiences and exchange skills.

Supporting Young People: This organisation was born from the desire of a group of young people to empower other young people through developing projects and initiatives to increase knowledge of important social issues. Awareness campaigns on issues such as gender equality, HIV, bullying and drug awareness are held. Volunteers in this organisation help mainly by doing research on projects, taking part in some action workshops, help with design of campaign material and generate ideas for new campaigns.

Arrival & Orientation

Volunteers should arrive to Mexico City where they will be met at the airport and transferred to a hostel for a welcome orientation and overnight stay. The Programas Educativos Interculturales Volunteer Program Co-ordinator will also introduce him/her to the volunteer work, goals of theprogram and characteristics of the area where the project takes place. A bus transfer will be arranged to the project location the next day.

Accommodation and local support

You will spend the first night in a hotel in Mexico City. During the project your accommodation will be with a local Mexican host family. Living with a local family gives you the opportunity to get to know more about Mexican culture and to improve your language skills.

You will get the assistance of a local representative during your homestay and during your time with the volunteer project. These will help you to get familiar with bus transportation, local facilities and sites of interest around the area (eg. the archaeological monuments and other places of interest).

Start dates

Weekly arrival dates: every Thursday (flexible if necessary).

Visas

Irish citizens do not require a visa to enter Mexico. A tourist card of up to 180 days is granted at the airport on arrival. EIL/PEI staff will assist with applications for an extension of the tourist card for participants who wish to remain longer.

The EIL Development Education Network

Our volunteers work and live alongside local people in local communities in some of the most deprived areas in the world. It is in response to their experiences that the EIL development education programme was set up. On their return to Ireland we ask our volunteers to be the voice for the stories of the people they worked with and to highlight their experience of poverty and inequality. Then together we campaign to make a difference by promoting global justice, human rights, fair trade, debt relief and greater equality and respect among the peoples of the world. Our goal is to see global justice and equality reach the top of the Irish agenda.

The Application Process

Applying for the Volunteer Abroad programme is a straight forward process: after receiving your application and CV we will contact you to find out more about your interests and motivation for wanting to be a volunteer. We then send your information to our colleagues in the country of your choice and they make your placement. As soon as they confirm a suitable placement for you, we will send you all the information necessary to finalise your preparations. Although some countries can accept late applications, you should send your completed application 12 weeks in advance. The earlier you apply, the more time we have to find the most suitable project for you.

What you need to do:

  • Complete the application form and send it to us together with 2 recent passport photos, €350 deposit, and recent CV.
  • Do a telephone interview (or in person if you live in Cork and/or want to call in).
  • A confirmation letter of enrolment will then be sent within 10 working days.

If you prefer we can send you the application form by post.

For more information about applying to volunteer with EIL please see How do I apply? or contact Anton.

We guarantee no hidden costs.

We encourage you to compare our costs with other organisations and a careful comparison of what is included and what is not included is always advisable.

What Is Included

  • Pre-departure information and preparation workshop
  • Airport pick up and one/two nights in Mexico City (accommodation and meals)
  • Welcome orientation to the program on arrival in Mexico City
  • Half-day mini tour of Mexico City
  • Placement in volunteer project
  • Transfer by bus from Mexico City to host community
  • Accommodation and meals with a host family
  • Support by a local representative for the duration of the project
  • Debrief workshop on return to Ireland
  • Invitation to join the EIL Development Education Network

What Is Not Included

  • Cost of flights
  • Local transportation during the project
  • Medical, liability and travel insurance (available for €10 per week)
  • Personal expenses
  • Transfer from the host community to the airport at the end of the programme

Costs

  • 4 weeks: €1,749
  • 6 weeks: €1,999
  • 8 weeks: €2,249
  • 10 weeks: €2,399
  • 12 weeks: €2,649
  • 16 weeks: €3,099

Please note: projects in Yucatan and Chiapas have an extra charge of €90 due to the need of an airplane transfer.

Medical, liability and travel insurance available for €10-€15 per week.

Optional Spanish Courses in Oxaca available (incl. Spanish classes, cultural activities and host family accomodation).

Prices are subject to change.

Visit our WHY PAY? and FUNDRAISING pages.

Protect the environment: EIL Carbon offset system

Compensate for the CO2 that your flight will generate by helping to plant trees in Guatemala.

Lisa Mitchell won a Volunteer Arbaod scolarship from Cork Institute of Technology and went for an 4 weeks volunteering programme in Mexico The journey began in CIT, where I applied for a volunteer scholarship, I had already made my mind up that I wanted to go to Mexico. I wanted to experience Mexican culture and see some of this vast country if possible. Also the program they ran there was therapeutic riding for children with disabilities, I love horse and was also very interested in how animals seriously impact childrens lives with disabilities. I had watched many documentaries on this...
It’s been almost nine months to the day since I left Ireland for Mexico in June. There are some things I miss and then others I’m glad to not experience. I have some pictures attached with this blog of memories I miss. It’s hard to believe every passing week I recollect a sharp and distinct memory of events of my journey over the summer since I came back to Ireland. From little things like hearing tourist speak Spanish as I walk through campus in college, which reminds me of how bad my Spanish was and how easy it was to feel lost when there’s a communication barrier between you and your...
Ola with friends at Cottolengo
Ola is one of EIL's 2015 Travel Award winners. Here he reflects on the impact his project is having on his outlook on life. "So it's been two weeks since I've been volunteering in Cottolengo. Cottolengo is a worldwide Christian organisation set up to help children with wide range of disabilities, mainly run by Christian fathers, brothers and sisters. Here in Amecameca, Cottolengo Obra Don Orione is for boys only with disabilities. It's not very far from my house here it's a 2 mins bus ride away. A typical day for me in Cottolengo starts at 11 a.m when I assist the staff as they take the...
Travel Award winner, Ola Bademosi, is settling in well at his project in Mexico. Ola is a worthy receipient of one of the 2015 Travel Awards, and he chose to go to Mexico to volunteer for 8 weeks for his fully funded volunteer programme. Ola spent time in the beautiful city of Oaxaca first where he began his studies in Spanish and engaged in some cultural activities. He's since reported that he can hold a simple conversation in Spanish and is very keen to keep up his language skills when he comes back to Dublin. Ola's volunteer project is based in Amecameca. He lives with a friendly host...
Mexico City
June 4th the day I started my new journey! Early flight from Dublin to Frankfurt then to Mexico. Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I've had to do, leaving my family and friends for two months will be a challenge, but it gives them a break from my constant talking! Having Nell and Aaron with me on the plane and for the orientation put my mind at ease that I wasn't completely alone. For the entire plane journey I kept saying to myself "what are you doing?" It didn't feel real that I was on a plane to Mexico. After travelling 26 hours we arrived in Mexico City, Zuri was there to greet...
Eileen with a participant at the Equine Therapy Centre
Finding my feet in Mexico I arrived in Mexico City on June 29th accompanied by three other young Travel Award winners, we were met by EIL Intercultural Learning representative, Zuri. We stayed for two days seeing the sights of this beautiful city which also included afternoon tea at the Irish Embassy. Then it was on to Oaxaca, a city steeped in history for two weeks to attend the Institute for Spanish language tuition, cooking, salsa dancing or pottery. This was very relaxing and a great opportunity to adjust to Mexican culture, food and climate. I then travelled to the city of Queretaro,...
Hola from Mexico with my first blog! It has been nearly eight weeks since I started my journey in Mexico and my return to rainy Ireland is fastly approaching. The time has flown by! So, where do I start! My first two weeks were spent in the beautiful city of Oaxaca. In Oaxaca, I got to experience the traditions and culture of many Mexicans living in Oaxaca. The atmosphere of the city was amazing as they prepared for their yearly festival known as the Guelaguetza. This festival happens once a year and runs for two weeks in the city of Oaxaca and the surrounding villages. The festival focuses...
Winners of our Active Retirement Travel Award are remarkable people - retired and usually very much involved in their local community, they are always eager to 'give back'. The Active Retirement Travel Award is a relatively new award to the programme and is in conjunction with Active Retirement Ireland. In 2013, Mary Daly, from Westmeath won the Award and travelled to Mexico where she volunteered with a variety of community projects. Mary says, " Volunteering abroad brought me back to life in Ireland when we had little but our dignity and hope and liked to be respected for that. I met...
Just a quick update while I can. Arrived here last Friday and this place has been nothing less than amazing, like I’ve never lived this close to a beach and the Pacific is quite a nice ocean to be next to. The work here is really interesting so far, we’re working on an ecotourism project that does conservation work in the nearby mangroves. There is such an array of wildlife it is amazing. On our first day here we saw a snake, crocodiles and loads of brilliantly coloured birds. The heat and humidity here is something else, like 30+ most of the time so the first couple of days were pretty tough...
I’m fast approaching the two week mark and so far it is just flying by. But the reason behind it has been that everyday has been brilliant so far. Every day we are doing something different and I must say I am really enjoying it. When we arrived in Mexico we spent the first couple of days in Mexico City before heading out to Oaxaca City. We spent those couple of days learning about Mexican life and the culture from our coordinator Zuri. We travelled around the city and kind of began to get a feel for the place but Mexico City is the second biggest city in the world so as like most cities of...
Last summer I took a plane journey half way cross the globe to volunteer in another country. When I set off on my journey I was hoping to experience something different and unique. My expectations were definitely met as I was introduced to different people, learned about their different views and tasted their different food. Although I was experiencing all these new and different things, I also felt a strange familiarity. It was a strange feeling that I couldn’t quite explain. I was in a foreign country surrounded by people who were initially strangers but I couldn't help but feel that I had...
Check our what EIL volunteer, Damien Thomson, has to say about what to consider before deciding to volunteer abroad. http://goo.gl/ikGR3e

Pages

I wish I'd known!

"The language. It can be hard enough to adapt to a new culture without a language barrier on top of that. I would recommend any outgoing volunteer to try and learn any bit of the language of the country they are going to. How tired I would be when I got back. It's important to give yourself time to recover after you return. That's something I didn't do, and when I finally stopped I was completely drained. I wish I understood more about the way they worked. I could have been doing a job all morning thinking that was what I was supposed to be doing but with the language barrier I could have misunderstood. Instead of telling me that I was doing the wrong thing, they would just let me at it being too polite to tell me I was wrong! That could have saved a lot of time and meaningless work!" Ciara - Cork

" I wish I had known that I would end up wearing more long trousers than shorts, and to bring an umbrella and more light jackets with hoods. Also bring a proper pair of runners opposed to converse and vans!" Laura, Dublin

I'm glad I brought!

"Antihistamines, tablets and cream,  a torch and a book with pictures of Ireland that I could give to the people in the village" Ciara, Cork

"Dioralytes, a hoodie and my laptop". Lauran, Dublin

I didn't need...

"Things like books and ipods that took up space. I never really used them." Laura, Dublin

Tips for living with a host family.....

"They may have different values and beliefs to your own so be open minded and adaptable." Laura, Dublin

Things I worried about that didn't transpire....

"Safety. You hear all these stories from Mexico about safety especially for women. It is an issue, but I think once you are careful, and use your head you will be fine!" Ciara, Cork

"I worried about not speaking Spanish and not being able to communicate with people but it all worked out fine". Laura, Dubin.

What I learned...

"I suppose the biggest thing for me was that I learned that I am a capable strong person. The trip to Mexico made me really believe in my own judgement and believe in myself. When you tell people that you are going away on your own to live on a beach in Mexico saving crocodiles and turtles, they think you're mad. The secret is they are just a bit jealous and wish it was them! It takes courage to go, but you feel like you can do anything, go anywhere when you're back. Also, I realised that when I returned some things that used to stress me out in work or college didn't matter anymore.  I was bitten by more than mosquitos in Mexico, I was bitten by the Mexicans' infectious generosity and having store for the important things in life!" Ciara, Cork

"I can be adaptable and I enjoy cooking Mexican dishes. (I took cooking classes in Oaxaca)" Laura, Mexico.

Try it!

"I would encourage anyone who is even remotely thinking of volunteering abroad to do it! It was the best experience of my life, and I know it has effected those around me too. My top tip would be to try and go with the most open mind you can have, try and leave your cultural norms on the plane because where you are going will be different. Wake up every day knowing that you are going to learn something new and you will be shown some of the most amazing of human attributes, generosity, kindness, understanding, and knowing what's important. Put more simply, just do it!" Ciara, Cork

"Stop considering it and just do it and do it with enthusiasm!" Laura, Dublin.

 

 

History

Between 1000 BC and 1200 AD a series of related cultures with specific features emerged in Mesoamerica building up civilizations that still impact Mexican life nowadays. The Olmec World, the Teotihuacan era, the Toltec and the Mexica (wrongly called Aztec) Empire are only the most powerful and possibly best known cultures, and they deserved by themselves a complete study.

The 16th Century is known as the Century of Conquest because Mexico became a Spaniard Colony. The Colony lasted almost three hundred years, till September 1820 when after ten years of war independence was achieved.

While trying to set up a Parliamentary Republic in the 19th Century, Mexico had to fight back invasions from the USA, in 1848, and from France in 1864. Even these episodes slowed down the constitution of a new Republic; they also enriched the cultural, artistic and intellectual trends of the new nation fortifying the liberal thoughts of the growing middle class.

Between 1910 and 1920 the Revolution War took place. This war originally had the intention to get rid of Porfirio Diaz, a dictator that had remained in power more than thirty years, but ended up as a struggle among classes trying to deal with social issues such as poverty and inequality, and defined the politics and economy of the country for the rest of the 20th Century.

In 2000 the Presidential Election was won by the PAN candidate finishing with 75 years of PRI ruling. 2006 Presidential Elections have been highly controversial and despite the fact a Federal Elections Tribunal declared them clean and non-fraudulent, the third largest party in the country has not accepted the designation of the new President and started a civil resistance movement. The situation has highlighted unsolved social problems such as poverty, inequity and insecurity.

Mexico is a Federal, representative and democratic Republic governed by three powers: the Executive, with a President as headmaster; the Legislative, divided in two chambers: Deputies and Senators; and the Judiciary, headed by a Supreme Court.

Geography

Mexico is located in the North of the American Continent. It shares borders, to the North with the USA, and to the Southeast with Guatemala and Belice. The Rio Bravo, part of the natural border with the USA, ends in the Gulf of Mexico in the east, while the west shores of the country face the Pacific Ocean. Mexico is divided in six regions for economic and touristic purposes:

In the Northern part of Mexico, heat is extreme during summer months reaching 45ºC in some areas during the day. In winter time temperatures can drop below zero at night. The stunning landscape is characterized by vast desert and dry mountain ranges. Most of the colonial cities in the North shine with pink-stone buildings and lived their best times during the 19th century mining exploitation period. Nowadays important industrial areas and very modern cities attract workers from the south of the country. This area includes the States of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo Leon, Sonora, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas.

In what is so called "the heartland" of Mexico, or Central Mexico, valleys and mountains define the landscape and the climate of the region. Forests, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, springs and caves attracted the founding of important centers for trading, mining exploitation, cattle breeding and metal, wood and stone work. With temperatures between 30º and 20ºC during the summer, and sometimes below zero in winter nights, Central Mexico gathers most of the natural and cultural richness of the country, and attracts most of the labor age population of it. The oldest universities of Mexico are settled in this region, and UNESCO has declared a large numbers of cities of the following States, World Heritage Sites: Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Morelos, Estado de Mexico, Puebla, Querétaro, San Luis Potosi, Tlaxcala and Mexico City, or Federal District.

The Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean bathe the Southern region of Mexico, originating one of the most astonishing ecosystems of the World. Rich in natural resources, culture and traditions, and with a semi tropical and tropical climate (temperatures over 25ºººC) Veracruz, Tabasco and Chiapas hosted two of the most important native groups in Mesoamerica, the Olmecs and the Mayas. Its mangrove swamps, jungles and forests, important archeological sites and busy commercial harbors attract a large number of tourists, but had not been good magnets for long term agricultural or industrial investment.

The Yucatan Peninsula is formed by the States of Campeche, Yucatan and Quintana Roo, and it is world known because of its Mayan heritage, astonishing landscapes and submerged caverns (cenotes). The Peninsula is located in the southeastern part of the Country, between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Its coastal wetlands and inland forests provide habitat for species in danger of extinction such as: jaguars, manatees, howler monkeys, leatherback sea turtles and pumas. Tourism development and inappropriate waste management endanger also extensive natural reservoirs and off shore reefs. There are the reasons why a number of international and national ONG's work along with Government initiatives to prevent more damage in the region .

The Pacific Coast region is located in western Mexico; it includes the States of Sinaloa, Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan, Guerrero and Oaxaca. The hot and tropical climate of the beaches, cool down in the mountains and valley regions of the mountain range (Sierra Madre) in the south. The region is quite popular thanks to tourist resorts such as Manzanillo, Acapulco and Huatulco, archaelogical sites as Mitla and Monte Alban, or the production of tequila and dark chocolate. Its native indigenous richness is also recognized worldwide. Zapotecas, Mazatecas, Coras and Huicholes keep their traditions and artistic heritage fighting against poverty and social inequity.

In the northwest, the Baja California Peninsula comprises two States: Baja California and Baja California Sur, that share one of the most diverse geographical areas in the country. Magnificent desert landscapes, semi-tropical and pine forests, popular beaches and not very known mountain ranges shape a distant territory where vineyards tours and gray whale watching attract many visitors all year around. Nature reserves, cave murals and old missionary tracks attract also naturalists, sociologists and archaeologists interested in preserving an environment threatened by an increase of fancy resorts and the establishment of foreign owned-factories.

Religion

Mexicans, mainly in rural areas but also in big cities, can be very religious. Catholic symbols such as the Christian Crucifix and the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe can be found in surprising places such as: taxis sites, public offices, buses, altars in corners or stores.

Most families attend church services every weekend, some others just in special occasions so it is important to respect the way families or communities live their religious life. Festivities like the Celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe (December 12) would gather whole communities in processions and parties to celebrate the Virgin's birthday. Those festivities are more than a religious expression, are mirrors of the cultural and social heritage of communities.

In the other hand certain displays of devotion in pilgrimage sites can seem too extreme for visitors: people in their bare knees approaching an altar, people walking very long distances carrying heavy logs, etc.

Some celebrations are given a "didactic focus" to be able to include all kids from the village regardless of religion. Awareness to religious differences, if found, would be strongly suggested.

Climate

Average temperatures are 25º to 30 º C. May and September are very warm months, mainly in the coasts regions. From October to early May temperatures get colder. Rainy season vary in each region.

Questions:

Is it safe?
Who volunteers?
Can I go with a friend or family member and can we be placed in the same project?
Is the deposit refundable?
Can I combine more than one country?
How long can I go for?
When can I go?
How much does it cost?
What’s the difference between EIL’s volunteer abroad programme and others?
Why aren’t volunteers paid/given expenses?
Why do volunteers have to pay for their programme?
I would like to participate in the programme but I didn’t realise how much it would be or simply can’t afford it.
How do I apply?
When should I apply?
Can I come in to discuss options?
What visa do I need?
What vaccinations should I get?
What are the age limits?
Do I need any special skills/qualifications?
Can I work on a specific project?
I already have a good language skills – can I drop/reduce the language course?
What is the accommodation like?
Will there be other volunteers going at the same time as me?
What does the optional insurance cover?
Can I apply from northern Ireland/UK/outside Ireland?

Answers

  • Is it safe?

    We only place volunteers in locations where it is safe to do so. Traveling to a developing country can be challenging, but most people travel without encountering trouble. Volunteers are briefed on safety issues during the predeparture workshop and during the orientation in-country.

    EIL only places volunteers in countries where we have a sister office with coordinators embedded in local communities who can provide participants with grassroots support and monitor and react to safety issues on the ground. Staff members in the field have years of experience in supporting international volunteers and in assessing and mitigating risks. A 24-hour/7-day emergency support system is in place to handle any urgent situations or crises. EIL has also developed a thorough set of policies, procedures and guidelines related to Child Protection, Risk Assessment and Crisis Management, Equality and Inclusiveness. This ensures that every participant is having a safe volunteer experience.

    It is advised to check government travel advice for your destination. Check the websites of the Irish Dept. of Foreign Affairs and theUK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Also read the safety information that we send you and of course exercise caution in any country.

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  • Who volunteers?

    EIL volunteers come from a range of different backgrounds. Our volunteers are:

    • Students and young people willing to volunteer abroad during their holidays, between jobs or on a year out.
    • Office workers, teachers, farmers, nurses, engineers, factory workers, waiters and just about anybody wishing to help, take some time out or just looking for a different experience during their holidays.
    • Retired people who want to put their time and skills to good use.
    • Apprentices and students who need to complete an internship or work experience.
    • Youth clubs, family groups, clubs, school groups or groups of friends.

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  • Can I go with a friend or family member and can we be placed in the same project?

    It is possible to apply with one or several friends, family members or a partner and to be placed in the same accommodation and project.

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  • Is the deposit refundable?

    The vast majority of the applicants are accepted in the programme but if your application is not successful, we will refund your deposit. Otherwise, the deposit is not refundable.

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  • Can I combine more than one country?

    It depends on the combination of countries. As we are dealing with two different programmes you will have two different programme fees. We may be able to look at a reduction of our administration fees but this is a small part of the fee. In the case of Latin American countries you may be able to do the language course in one of the countries thus reducing the fees in the other country. This will depend on our office in country and we need to make arrangements with them to do this.

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  • How long can I go for?

    Programme lengths vary from minimum 2 weeks to 11 months, depending on which country you choose. 2/3 weeks programmes are available in Guatemala, Thailand and Vietnam. Though if you choose to go for such a short period it is important to have realistic expectation as regard as what you can achieve.

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  • When can I go?

    You can join most of our programmes any time of year but you must ensure you attend a pre-departure workshop with EIL first. Attendance is mandatory in order to volunteer with EIL. Many of our programmes overseas have flexible start dates. We have set start dates in South Africa, Nepal, Nigeria, India, Morocco, Vietnam and Thailand but they have at least one every month. If you are looking for a teaching placement we need to check the term times in that country.

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  • Will there be other volunteers going at the same time as me?

    If this is a priority for you to be placed with other volunteers we will indicate you the programmes where you are very likely to be with other volunteers. If there are volunteers going to the same destination at the same time we will put you in touch via e-mail so you can become acquainted. There may well be other international volunteers from other countries working with you. However, be prepared that you may be the only international volunteer there. This is a greater opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture and get to know local people if you are not relying on other volunteers. Be prepared that you may feel isolated or lonely sometimes. Accommodation in volunteer house and volunteer camps (with other international volunteers) are available in Thailand, Vietnam and India.

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  • How much does it cost?

    The programme fee varies depending on which country you choose and the length of programme. All the programme fees and what is included are on our website and in our country specific information sheets. To give an idea, programme fees start at €785. If the full length of language course isn’t needed, we maybe able reduce the programme fee. Our fees do not include flights, visas, vaccinations, medical and travel insurance, and personal expenses.

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  • What’s the difference between EIL’s volunteer abroad programme and others?

    • EIL is an established Irish not for profit intercultural learning organistion
    • We work with sister organisations who are members of the EIL worldwide network.
    • We will thoroughly analyse your profile, needs and expectation and match it with the most suitable volunteer programme
    • Our programme are flexible: placements are available in 15 couintries, from 2 weeks to 11 months with start dates year-round and a wide range of project is available
    • Volunteers are placed in local projects supporting local initiatives
    • We offer an authentic cultural experience including a full cultural orientation and most programmes include stay with host family.
    • Safety is the first priority: our volunteers have 24-hour support in country from our National office, the local co-coordinator as well as mentors on the project.
    • Our programmes fees are very competitive and cover accommodation, meals, transfers, support - with some exceptions.

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  • Why aren’t volunteers paid/given expenses?

    We place volunteers in local partner organisations in developing countries. These organisations need volunteers because they can't afford enough paid staff and are not in the position to offer expenses/pay volunteers. EIL and the partner organisations we work with are not for profit making organisations and depend on the support of volunteers. Please see Why pay? for more information.

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  • Why do volunteers have to pay for their programme?

    EIL and our in-country partner organisations are non-profit making organisations. The programme fee covers the cost of placing a volunteer in the project, to provide accommodation, meals, transfer and transport, pre-departure & in-country support and insurance. The projects volunteers are sent to in developing countries cannot afford to cover these costs themselves. Please see Why pay? for more information. Many volunteers cover some of the costs by raising funds. Fundraising support is available and we will send you a fundraising pack.

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  • I would like to participate in the programme but I didn’t realise how much it would be or simply can’t afford it.

    We recognise that some of our participants are students and affording the programme fee is an issue. Many volunteers cover some of the costs by raising funds. Fundraising information and advice is available. We also have a number of travel awards and scholarships available every year. Keep an eye on our website for these awards.

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  • How do I apply?

    Applying for the Volunteer Abroad programme is a straight forward process: after receiving your application and CV we will contact you to find out more about your interests and motivation for wanting to be a volunteer and to confirm the date of your pre-departure workshop. We then send your information to our colleagues in the country of your choice and they make your placement. As soon as they confirm a suitable placement for you, we will send you all the information necessary to finalise your preparations. We can accept volunteers up to 8 weeks before their programme start date as long as they can attend a pre-departure workshop. The earlier you apply, the more time we have to find the most suitable project for you.

    What you need to do:

    • Complete the application form ( Word / PDF ) and send it to us together with 1 recent passport photo, €350 deposit, a copy of your passport and recent CV.
    • Do a telephone interview (or in person if you live in Cork and/or want to call in).
    • A confirmation letter of enrolment will then be sent within 10 working days.

    If you prefer we can send you the application form by post.

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  • When should I apply?

    Ideally, you should apply about 12 weeks in advance of your proposed start date. Later applications can be accepted no less than 8 weeks prior to your intended date of departure but please bear in mind that attendance at a pre-departure workshop before you go is mandatory. The earlier you apply, the more time we have to find the most suitable project for you. You will also need time to sort out your flights, visas and vaccinations. If you plan on fundraising for your place, please note that the balance of your fees are typically due 6-8 weeks before you travel.

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  • Can I come in to discuss options?

    You can discuss options over the phone or if you live locally you are welcome to come in. Before you take the trouble to visit us at our offices, we recommend thinking about where you would like to go, what placement you are interested in, when you want to go, how long you want to go for and why you want to volunteer. Call to make appointment.

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  • What visa do I need?

    The type of visa will depend on where you are going and for how long. Visa information is available on our website and on the info sheets we can post you. However you are responsible for your visa and you should contact the Irish Embassy or Consulate for the destination country in good time prior to departure for the requirements and application procedures.

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  • What vaccinations should I get?

    For legal reasons we cannot give advice on this. Please contact your doctor or the Tropical Medical Bureau.

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  • What are the age limits?

    You have to be over 18 for most programmes. If you are on the younger than 18 and would like to volunteer abroad with a group of friends or students, please contact us to discuss the options. There is no upper limit.

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  • Do I need any special skills/qualifications?

    No. We are looking for people who are independent minded travelers. Living in a developing country demands flexibility, initiative, maturity and drive. Of course if you have particular skills and experience that you would like to use then we will take this into consideration when finding a suitable placement. Please see Is this for me?

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  • Can I work on a specific project?

    You can indicate the type of project that you would like to work on and if you have a particular example in mind from our website then you can indicate it. This is not guaranteed. Our partner organisations will suggest a placement for you. They are well placed to match your skills and interests to the right placements.

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  • I already have a good language skills – can I drop/reduce the language course?

    Sometimes this is possible – we would have to know what level you are at and check this with the national office in-country first.

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  • What is the accommodation like?

    It will depend on the country and project, either with a host family, in a volunteer house / camp or with an independent room at the project site. It may be basic compared to the standards you are used to here. We will provide details of the family or accommodation you will be staying in before you leave.

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  • What does the optional insurance cover?

    Basic travel, medical and liability and baggage insurance. Information on what it covers is available in the insurance booklet we will send to you. We can also check with our insurance company if you have specific queries.

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  • Can I apply from northern Ireland/UK/outside Ireland?

    • Northern Ireland: we can take applications.
    • UK: We will pass your details onto EIL UK and ask them to get in touch.
    • Other: Please visit Federation EIL to find the nearest EIL office to you.

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