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Traveling can be more than just seeing the sights and eating good food. If you’re heading to Mexico soon, check out these great volunteering opportunities that will allow you to learn more about the local people from the cities you visit and will be much more fulfilling than just laying on the beach or shopping all day.
If you have some medical expertise, why not put it to work by serving under-privileged communities in rural Northern Mexico? Los Médicos Voladores is a network of doctors, pilots, and volunteers that set up free medical clinics in California, Mexico, Haiti, and Guatemala to help local residents with dental, visual, or primary health care in areas where little medical attention in available.
To get your hands dirty and visit one of the country’s most beautiful places—the Yucatán Peninsula—contact the Flora, Fauna y Cultura organization based out of Playa del Carmen. The organization has various projects that can use your help, including working in a greenhouse, for turtle conservation, and at the La Ceiba Park. Though the organization is widespread, each facet focuses on preserving the natural beauty and diversity of this gorgeous Mexican region.
VFP has been around since 1982 and has a solid reputation for hosting volunteers throughout the world. Though volunteering with them does come at a cost, it’s a more reasonable fee than that of other organizations. VFP offers English-teaching and conservation opportunities, as well as construction and community development projects. During your time with the project, you’ll be supported and guided by a VFP staff member. Prices for joining range from $772 to $886 USD (£551 to £633 GBP), and include meals and accommodation. There is also a registration fee of $500 USD (£357 GBP) for all projects.
If you have a heart for helping the differently-abled, why not spend some time at Piña Palmera in Oaxaca? Piña Palmera is a project that houses handicapped persons and helps to develop and provide the resources they need. Volunteers are involved in the daily processes of running the Piña Palmera center and can get involved in many of the activities that go on there. You don’t have to have any training to work with this organization—just bring an open heart.
This Oaxaca-based non-profit provides financial loans to local women in order to help them set up their own businesses. As a volunteer, you can be an English-language teachers or volunteer as a tour guide by taking groups of foreigners out to visit the women to talk about their businesses and future plans. These visitors also have the chance to support these women by purchasing their wares.
This children’s refuge in San Miguel de Allende takes on volunteers to support its regularly paid staff in creating loving, safe spaces for children who are vulnerable and marginalized. While some children do live at the center, it’s mostly a place where the children of poor, single mothers can stay and be nurtured while their mothers are at work. If you love working with children, this is a great opportunity. The Centro has recently merged with another local organization and information about them can be found here.
Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s poorest states and many rural families come from the countryside into the capital to find a better life. This means that many children are sent out to beg and sell to tourists instead of attending school. The Oaxaca Streetchildren Grassroots organization offers street kids an opportunity to go to school. Volunteers are welcome to help with the running of the center and the daily tasks involved in serving this very precarious sector of society.
IFRE is a big volunteer organization that places people all over the world who want to serve others in a foreign country. The group is highly rated and reviewed, and although they do charge a fee, it’s not as high as that of some other programs. Their volunteer opportunities available in Mexico include working at orphanages, teaching English, teaching disabled children, and sea turtle conservation.
Pronatura offers several conservation-focused programs in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Among them are ecoturism programs, preservation of big cats and their habitats, sustainable management of gray whales in the Mexican Caribbean, and sustainable rural development. You can email them for information on the volunteer opportunities currently available.