I’m always on the lookout for interesting volunteering opportunities all around the world and know that they can be hard to come by. Not because there aren’t plenty out there, but because there are plenty of shitty ones to sift through that can make finding the legit opportunities difficult. Seeing ‘volunteering experiences’ being packaged and sold for thousands of dollars really annoys me.
I’ll stop my rant there and no doubt pick it up in another post. This post instead is about highlighting some of those legitimate organisations in need of volunteers all over Nicaragua. I’ve worked for one, heard great things about some of the others and have read up on the rest and think I’ve got a list that is devoid of mysterious admin fees and committed to helping Nicaraguans rather than padding the pockets of middlemen.
So if you’re in Nicaragua and want to do something interesting and useful, check these out:
I worked on this Ometepe farm for a total of six weeks and had a really great time. They are non-profit and their major goal is to demonstrate what sorts of foods can be grown in the area so that people aren’t reliant solely on their rice, beans and maize crops. They are heavily involved in the community and offer computer and english classes to locals at the farm-owned, Balgue community centre. They run a scholarship program and are currently training three locals daily in various aspects of permaculture. Volunteers need to pay $10 per day for stays of less than a month and $200 per month for longer stays. Fees go towards your food, the cook’s salary and various farm projects.
I found out about these guys from a lady I met at Project Bona Fide who wouldn’t stop gushing about her experience. I’m annoyed with myself because I really wanted to work with them but all-out forgot about them until just now. My crappy memory strikes again. Most of the work is with community members building houses on land and with supplies they buy using non-interest micro-credit loans. It seems like a very interesting organisation and they spend 100% of donations on their projects.
This organisation has been in Nicaragua and El Salvador since 1992 operating career training centres, alternative schools, literacy programmes and helping the communities sell organic coffee. Volunteers with an intermediate level of Spanish who can commit to at least a month can help as teaching assistants, tutors, or even as a guest chef.
Tortuga English School
I heard about this place from a group of students who worked at Finca Bona Fide with me for a couple of weeks. Tortuga was to be their next stop and they talked a little about what they knew about it. I recently saw poster for the school and read up a bit. It sounds like a really interesting, grassroots sort of experience teaching English to locals in a community not far from San Juan Del Sur. I couldn’t find a website for them but here are the contact details from the poster I saw: Angelica Cortez at amaryciel at hotmail.com.
This organisation’s focus is educating and tending to the medical needs of children in some of the poorest areas in Granada. There is no cost to volunteer but you must pay for your own living and transportation costs in Granada (although there is volunteer housing available for $20 per week). Volunteers need to have an intermediate level of Spanish and the minimum time requirement is usually 8 weeks.
This organisation operates out of Leon and also in Guatamala. Their aim is to raise money to help the area’s street children by running camping tours and hikes in the volcano-rich areas around Leon. Volunteers need to commit to 3 months and pay a $40 deposit that is returned after 3 months. You need to pay your own living expenses in Leon but food on the hikes is included. Basic Spanish, trekking and first aid experience are all required.
Volunteering opportunities in Miraflor had previously been arranged by an organisation called The Nest Trust but they don’t do this anymore. Volunteering opportunities are still available in the area though and they have a page on their website with some links that will help you make your own connections.
While I was at Finca Bona Fide a group of Jubilee House volunteers came to visit the farm along with their volunteer coordinator. They told us all about the project and it sounds very interesting. The things they’ve managed to accomplish and plans for the future are very impressive. There is a six month commitment for individual volunteers and you must pay $5 per day to cover room, board and work-related transportation costs.
This orphanage is part of a larger network of children’s homes throughout Central America and Haiti. The Nicaragua home opened in Granada in 1994 and welcomes volunteers who are over 21 and able to commit to working with them for a year. Volunteers are expected to pay their own travel expenses but once they get there, room and board are provided along with a small monthly stipend.
The Rancho is accommodation located in Jiquilillo and they’re always looking for people to help out with various community or property development projects. Long term, managerial-type placements are free and shorter term opportunities cost $95 per week with part of the cost going towards food and accommodation and the rest towards whatever project you will be working on. There are different projects going on at any one time that require different levels of Spanish and minimum stays.
In my experiences, there are plenty of volunteering opportunities all over the place, you just need to get to the country, talk to people, read a few guesthouse message boards and all of a sudden you’re volunteering and it doesn’t cost thousands of dollars to do it! If you’ve got any more suggestions for Nicaragua, add them to the comments, I would love to check them out.