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Volunteer in Nicaragua

Volunteering in Nicaragua is the perfect way to discover untouched beaches, dense rainforests and volcanic landscapes while giving back to the local communities...

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Volunteer work in Nicaragua

Volunteer work in Nicaragua

As a volunteer in Nicaragua, you have the unique opportunity to take part in the educational and environmental development of the country, which is still in progress. As the second poorest country in the western hemisphere, there are still many problems that need to be faced. Local volunteer work in Nicaragua will contribute to a better environment and general development.

Teaching in Nicaragua

Although education is compulsory and basically free, there are still many children that have never seen a school building from the inside. One main problem is the additional costs for school uniforms and material that can't be afforded by a majority of the poor population. Many of the children for poor families also need to work to support their parents financially instead of going to school. Therefore, the statistics are quite alarming. In the past few years, 20% of the children didn't go to school at all and only 56% graduated.

As a volunteer in Nicaragua in the field of education, you can help to raise these numbers. Within many programs, you have the opportunity to provide education to children and the community:

  • support the learning progress by being a classroom assistant or an actual primary school teacher
  • teach English
  • provide children with an understanding of ethical principles and their various opportunities if they finish school
  • increase children’s chances for a better future
  • Planning educational games
  • Helping daycare staff prepare meals
  • Playing and interacting with the children
  • Teaching basic classes to the children, for example, teaching them colors, shapes, numbers

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

Work for a sea turtle conservation

Located on the northwest Pacific coast of Nicaragua, the Estero Padre Ramos Nature Reserve is one of the most ecologically important natural areas in Nicaragua. A large mangrove estuary surrounded by several small beach communities is a critically important hawksbill nesting area. Get involved in protecting these amazing sea turtles by joining a social project as a volunteer in Nicaragua and carry out some of the following tasks:

  • protecting nests
  • releasing hawksbill hatchlings
  • documenting nesting female hawksbills
  • equipping hawksbills with satellite tags for tracking
  • monitoring the whole stretch of the nesting beach
  • collaborating with local, national and international organizations
  • uncovering new information about hawksbill biology, life-history and conservation through scientific research

Your volunteer work in Nicaragua at a sea turtle conservation program will vary depending on the season you are planning on volunteering.

During the nesting and hatching seasons, you will be actively volunteering and working with baby sea turtles, collect eggs from nests and bring them to hatcheries where the baby sea turtles can hatch in safe surroundings and then be released into the ocean. Most projects also welcome volunteers outside of the nesting and hatching seasons to engage in other activities like beach cleanups, crocodile, mammal and bird research as well as teaching projects.

Women empowerment

For girls who have suffered abuse and neglect, a safe place to re-group and thrive is essential to their well-being and future happiness. Also, most women have subordinated lives and need support to gain knowledge in different fields and to become more independent. As a volunteer in Nicaragua in the field of women empowerment, you will work and help in different tasks and will be part of an amazing team that teaches women different skills and encourages them to become more independent and confident. Of course, your daily to-do’s vary and depend on the volunteer project you will be working for, but the following list gives you an overview of the different tasks that you might be doing as a volunteer in Nicaragua:

  • Support young women through companionship and learning
  • Interact with the children
  • Organize activities and provide skill-based training
  • Assist with the running of the program
  • Provide essential care and support to vulnerable girls and young women
  • Improve the future prospects of those who have been abused
  • Give impoverished children and young women quality care, compassion and a sense of hope
  • Enable inter-cultural exchange which benefits both locals and international volunteers alike

If you are thinking of becoming a volunteer in Nicaragua in the field of women empowerment, you do not need to be a native speaker of English or Spanish. Most often, women attending these projects are not able to speak English themselves and can understand little or none. Thus, as a volunteer in Nicaragua, it is sufficient if your English skills are basic but it is also recommended to have a basic knowledge of Spanish.

Cost of living

The suggested daily budget for living as a volunteer in Nicaragua is between US$10 and US$47. This is an estimate made considering the average price of some of the services you might need and things you might want to buy when volunteering. 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 for your volunteer work in Nicaragua:

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

Things to know before you volunteer in Nicaragua

When you travel to a different country for voluntary 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 Nicaragua:

Safety & Precautions

When visiting Nicaragua you will notice one thing for sure: there is much poverty. According to statistics, Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in America. However, as far as the crime statistics show, Nicaragua is also one of the safest countries in Central America. Of course, it is still important to exercise common sense at all times. Follow these tips for staying safe Nicaragua:

  • Avoid political demonstrations, they can become violent.
  • Don't leave valuables in your backpack when you're traveling on a bus. You're usually asked to leave your backpack under or on top of the bus on long journeys, so make sure you have your valuables with you on the bus.
  • Use cash instead of credit cards. Cloning cards is very common in some regions of the country.
  • Don't carry bigger amounts of money in just one bag.
  • As poverty is widely spread in Nicaragua, try to avoid wearing expensive jewelry.

Culture & religion

The culture of Nicaragua is somewhat varied in different regions due to the different influences that were exerted on the parts of the country. For the most part, you will encounter a strong Spanish influence. With the Spanish conquerors during the 16th century, the propagation of Catholicism started. Nowadays, over 90 % of the population belong to the Christian Church. An important fact to know: the Roman Catholic Church exerts a great influence on politics in Nicaragua. Therefore, many educational institutions are under the responsibility of Catholic bodies. Due to the wide distribution of Catholicism, locals hold numerous festivals to honor patron saints and the church. The mixture of Catholicism and native customs has resulted in a strong culture of fiestas based on the honoring of certain saints.

The eastern half of Nicaragua, however, was once a British protectorate. It is thus strongly influenced by British culture. Most people from the eastern region of Nicaragua still speak English as a first language. You will also notice that the Protestant religion is favored over Catholicism here.

Some general tips for your stay and volunteer work in Nicaragua:

  • If you don't speak Spanish at an advanced level, stick your nose in some books before you go. Unless you are in eastern Nicaragua you will need Spanish to communicate with the locals.
  • Don't rush to a meeting in Nicaragua. Punctuality isn't very common.
  • Depending on where you go, locals may stare at you. Don't take this as an insult. There're still not really used to tourists.

Health advice

Going abroad always includes some health issues and precautions that need to be taken into account, especially if you are traveling to a country with tropical temperatures and wilderness. The health risks whilst traveling will vary between individuals and 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. Get a travel insurance and bring medicine with you, especially if you need special medication for your health.
  • 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 Nicaragua.

Who can volunteer in Nicaragua?

You might have noticed by now that there are a lot of 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 projects in Nicaragua:

  • You need to be at least 18 years old for most of the volunteer work in Nicaragua. 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.
  • Depending on the project you're interested in, you might need to provide a criminal background check and a health declaration before volunteering.

Visa regulations to volunteer in Nicaragua

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

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 Nicaragua or consulate in your country .

General entry information

There are some general requirements you should comply with 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 Nicaragua.
  • Make sure your passport has at least two blank Visa pages. Nicaragua requires that you have adequate unused 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

Citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the European Union require a passport and payment of a $10 USD entry fee upon arrival to enter Nicaragua and may stay for up to 90 days.

If you are not a citizen of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the European Union you may be required to obtain a visa either upon entry or prior to arrival in the country. Contact the Nicaraguan consulate or embassy closest to you in order to determine your personal visa requirements.

Best practice for medium-term volunteers

If you are planning to volunteer in Nicaragua for more than 90 days and you are a citizen of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or the European Union, you can extend your visa for 30 days at the migrations office in the Metrocentro mall in Managua.

Best practice for long-term volunteers

Volunteer workers are usually eligible for temporary resident visas, which are typically granted in one-year increments. The requirements for such a visa change frequently and vary greatly depending on which immigration official reviews your file. As a general rule, however, you will need a medical certificate, a police background check, proof of financial self-sufficiency and a letter from the organization you'll be working with.

Please remember that the application process can take longer than a month, so we would like to advise you to plan enough time for it.