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Volunteer in Colombia

Volunteering in Colombia is your chance to travel one of the most naturally and culturally diverse countries in the entire world...

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Volunteer work in Colombia

Volunteer work in Colombia

There are many different volunteer opportunities in Colombia so no matter where your interest lies, there will be a project that matches it. This can be either working with children in a teaching program, helping at an organic farm or supporting local sugarcane farmers. You want to learn more about the different programs and volunteer tasks? Then keep on reading.

Teaching in Colombia

Volunteering at a Colombian school is a great way to combine traveling abroad and gain some teaching experience. Poor infrastructure and flooding can often prevent young people from going to school for many months at a time. As a teaching volunteer in Colombia, you'll give children who don't have access to education a chance to learn.

Volunteers who support a program in this field provide maybe the greatest impact on those who need it most. Quality education is the key to the positive development of a community.

As a volunteer in education, you might teach local children a variety of school subjects such as

  • maths
  • English
  • spelling
  • reading and writing
  • games and sports

The younger children do not speak English, so it will be necessary for you to communicate with them in Spanish.

Another project you can participate in is a project supporting Youth Centers which offer after-school support and activities for children in their community to provide them with a safe place to stay and learn English.

Support local agriculture

While Colombia is a country rich in natural resources and picturesque beauty, it also has a variety of environmental issues to deal with. Volunteering in Colombia at an environmental conservation project will give you as a volunteer the opportunity to contribute to agriculture and ecotourism development abroad.

Especially volunteers who want to experience the life of an eco-village should consider joining a program as a volunteer in Colombia. You can engage in sustainable activities at an organic farm or help coffee and sugar cane farmers to harvest their products and keep farming alive in the community.

Colombia is the third biggest producer of coffee in the world, but for small farmers, the market is very hard. When they face problems like heavy rains, coffee tree diseases and changes in the world prices of coffee, it often ruins them. As a farming volunteer in Colombia, you'll help the small farms to keep the production alive and your ideas and research will also help to increase the production. You'll work with the community to educate people about farming and learn from them as well. There are also some farmers that have started eco-farming and practice a new approach to agriculture. They are more than happy about help from volunteers. While volunteers will do hard work in these programs, the experience is one of a kind.

While you work at an environmental program you can engage in many activities such as:

  • cleaning of the land
  • planting and crop growing
  • harvesting the sugarcane
  • transporting crops with mules
  • organic gardening
  • environmentally friendly construction/ design projects

Depending on the project you might also be able to assist in a vegetarian restaurant-kitchen, or working with art and educational programs for the children living in and around the community. No matter what your project offers, you will be able to make a lasting contribution to the local community as a volunteer in Colombia.

Cost of living

The suggested daily budget for living abroad as a volunteer in Colombia is between US$23 and US$31. This is an estimate made considering the average price of some of the services you might need and things you might want to buy. It gives you a general overview of how much things cost in this country, so you can be prepared and save the money you will need.

Additional costs you should consider will be:

An exemplary overview of living costs for a volunteer in Colombia (in US $, for one person) is:

Things to know before you volunteer in Colombia

When you travel to a different country for volunteer work it is important to familiarise yourself with its culture and social characteristics. This helps you to settle in quickly and avoid misunderstandings. These are some tips that you might find helpful when preparing for your volunteer work in Colombia.

Safety & precautions

Colombia is not as bad as it once was, but you need to use common sense and caution to stay safe. In February 2010, the French government declared parts of Colombia to be "safe": adding Santa Marta, Barranquilla, Bogotá, Tunja, Bucaramanga, as well as the Zona Cafetero departments of Quindio, Risaralda, Caldas to Cartagena and San Andres as destinations approved for travel. Nevertheless, you should keep the following safety guidelines in mind at all times during your volunteer work in Colombia:

  • Try to keep a low profile.
  • Limit the amount of cash you carry and leave valuables, such as passports, jewelry, and airline tickets in a hotel safe or another secure place.
  • Don't flash your money or valuables.
  • Don't use illegal taxis.
  • Lock the doors of the car, and keep at least half a tank of fuel at all times.
  • Watch out for drink spiking at bars and clubs.

Culture & religion

Colombia is a country situated in the northwest corner of the South American continent. It has a land border in the northwest with Panama, to the east with Venezuela and Brazil and in the south with Ecuador and Peru. The territory of what is now Colombia was originally inhabited by indigenous peoples. These indigenous cultures included the Muisca, Quimbaya, and Tairona.

Because of this diverse and multicultural background, Colombia is ethnically diverse but religiously homogenous.

95% of the Colombian population considers themselves members of the Roman Catholic Church. They attach great importance to Catholic sacraments and their religion is an important aspect of everyday life. More than 85% of Catholics in urban parishes attend mass regularly. In the countryside, you might find Catholic practices and beliefs combined with indigenous customs. People often pray to a patron saint and rural villages have a patron saint who is honored each year with a fiesta.

When traveling in Colombia you should be aware that the official language is Spanish. All Colombians speak it except some of the indigenous populations. In major cities, you will also be able to communicate in English but outside urban areas, Spanish is virtually the only medium of communication. In addition to Spanish, over 200 indigenous languages and dialects are spoken in Colombia.

Health advice

Going abroad always includes some issues and precautions that need to be taken into account, especially if you are traveling to a country with tropical temperatures and wilderness. The risks to health whilst traveling abroad will vary between individuals and many depend on your activities, length of stay and general health.

  • Eat and drink safely: Don't eat undercooked food, avoid eating street food and don't drink water from the tap!
  • Also, wash your hands often, especially before eating.
  • Plan for how you will get health care during your stay abroad. Get a travel insurance and bring medicine with you, especially if you need special medication.
  • Prevent bug bites: You might want to cover exposed skin, use an insect repellent, and use a bed net.
  • Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccinations before every trip. These include MMR, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, chickenpox, polio, yellow fever and your yearly flu shot. Moreover, the US-based Health protection agency CDC recommends hepatitis A and typhoid vaccinations because you can get these diseases through contaminated food or water in Colombia.

Who can volunteer in Colombia?

You might have noticed by now that there are many different projects that require different skills and abilities from their international volunteers. While you can find out the specific requirements for each project on their profiles on Volunteer World, here are some general requirements that apply to most volunteer opportunities in Colombia:

  • You need to be at least 18 years old for most of the volunteer projects. When in doubt, we advise you to get in contact with the local project manager, as in some projects you can also volunteer when you're 16 years old.
  • You should have an intermediate level of English knowledge; most projects also require basic to intermediate Spanish knowledge. If you want to join an English teaching program, you will need intermediate English skills.
  • Depending on the project you're interested in, you might need to provide a criminal background check and a health declaration before you volunteer in Colombia.

What visa do I need to volunteer in Colombia?

You have made it to the last section of this guide, which is another really important aspect while planning your trip: getting your volunteer visa for Colombia.

Please consider that the following information is based on a best practice approach, which has been made according to the best of our knowledge and in cooperation with several volunteer organizations. That's why you should please make sure to discuss your visa requirements with your contact person on Volunteer World. If in doubt, we also recommend getting in touch with the Embassy of Colombia or consulate in your country.

General immigration information

There are some general requirements you should comply upon your arrival:

  • Please check the current validity of your passport. Your passport should have at least 6-month validity from the date of arrival in Colombia.
  • Make sure your passport has at least two blank Visa pages. Colombia requires that you have adequate un-used pages in your passport, allowing for any necessary stamps upon arrival and departure.
  • Please check if a transit visa is required for any connections.
  • Make sure to be in possession of a valid return ticket.

Best practice for short-term volunteers

Colombia grants 90-day tourist visas to residents of 95 foreign countries without prior application. Among others residents of Canada, the US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand or the European Union, you are able to work as a volunteer on a tourist visa for up to 90 days. If you're from a country other than those listed above, check with the Colombian embassy or consulate website .

Best practice for long-term volunteers

If you are planning to volunteer in Colombia for more than 90 days, you have to apply for a volunteer visa (Special temporary visa of a cooperator or volunteer of a non-profit entity or non-governmental organization). Make sure to apply for this Visa before entering Colombia at your closest embassy or consulate of Columbia.

To start your application process, you need to prepare a few things in advance. Make sure to have these things ready:

  • Filled out Entry Permit form
  • 2 passport size photos
  • Copy of passport
  • Letter signed by the legal representative of the non-profit entity or non-government organization
  • Certificate of existence and legal representation of the non-profit entity or non-government organization

For more information please check the Colombian Embassy website.

How to volunteer in Colombia

So you’re ready to volunteer in Colombia but you’re not quite sure how to get started? Take a look at the following 3 steps that will prepare you for your volunteer work in Colombia and an unforgettable adventure abroad:

  • Check whether there’s a match between you and the programs by looking at their requirements.
  • Take a look at the location of the programs and decide which one would be a location you are excited about.
  • Get in touch with the organization and see whether your expectations and your schedule match up.

Once this is sorted, let’s take a look at the practical steps:

Insurance (Health & travel)

We recommend getting both health and travel insurance to all our volunteers. In fact, this is even a requirement for most projects abroad. Get in touch with your program contact person to find out if an insurance plan is already in place for volunteers.

And that’s it! You’re ready to volunteer in Colombia and meet other volunteers, travel the country and have a great experience volunteering abroad.