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Volunteer in South America

Volunteer in South America and prepare to discover an incredibly diverse culture and terrain...

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Volunteer Work in South America

Volunteer work in South America

To help you decide which of the many volunteer projects in South America is the right one for you, we will show you in more detail what areas of work there are and what kind of tasks you would have as a volunteer in South America. Teaching children, helping to protect the wildlife or getting involved in conservation efforts and community support, are all great volunteer opportunities in South America that require and demand different skills and will challenge you in different ways. Depending on where your interest lies and what skills you have, we can definitely help find the perfect program for you!

Support a wildlife conservation

Whether you help to take care of wildlife rescued animals from illegal traffickers, to assist with general maintenance tasks to prepare food for animals at a jungle sanctuary or whether you volunteer in South America's rainforests by climbing trees with capuchin monkeys and walking with feral cats, your helping hand is appreciated wherever you go.

Volunteering with wildlife includes but is not limited to:

  • feeding, cleaning, caring for animals
  • monitoring and documenting feeding behavioral habits
  • construction: maintaining the facilities and building additional ones
  • working on enrichment projects for animals
  • working at an animal refugee center
  • helping nurture sick animals back to health

Some wild animals you might get to work with when volunteering in South America, either in the wild or at a sanctuary, will be:

  • primates
  • birds such as parrots
  • street animals such as cats and dogs
  • wildcats such as jaguars, ocelots, and cougars
  • small animals such as badgers, wild turkeys, tayras, honey bears

Marine life volunteer work in South America

Of course, not only the animals on land need protection and help from volunteers, but also those who live in the water. South America has a great variety of marine life, including many different species. However, the most common marine animal that needs your helping hand is the sea turtle.

As a volunteer in South America, your work with marine life might include but is not limited to:

  • working at a native plants nursery
  • feeding animals
  • tracking and monitoring animals
  • organizing campaigns with communities and children
  • monitoring whales
  • sighting and observing sea turtles
  • monitoring of amateur and artisanal fishing
  • field sampling
  • statistical analysis
  • coordinating small research projects
  • undertaking environmental education activities
  • counting eggs and tagging nest

By being a marine life volunteer in South America, you can get the best of both worlds - living in a country such as Brazil or Ecuador and volunteering out on the sea, getting hands-on to assist in research and conservation efforts.

Volunteer for biodiversity and its conservation

In addition to the great number of animals discovered each year, there is also a new species of plants discovered almost every other day! South America offers a great diversity of natural phenomena and is perfect for volunteers to discover, document and eventually take care of them.

The 5 most important environmental challenges South America is facing at the moment are:

  1. deforestation
  2. air pollution
  3. water pollution
  4. industrial pollution

Due to deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, planting new trees and preparing the land for plantation are increasingly important tasks. As a volunteer in South America, you could be helping to reforest the lands, prepare seedlings and register reforestation data to keep track of the improvements made. Volunteer opportunities in South America are endless in regard to environmental projects. Whether you want to support agriculture, conservation work, or energy and water projects, there will definitely be a project that suits your interests.

If you want to help preserve South America’s natural wonders and enjoy the outdoors, one of the environmental volunteer opportunities in South America will be a great experience for you. Volunteer work in South America on environmental projects can help local people address these issues and protect some of South America’s most precious natural spaces.

Medical and healthcare projects

Joining any medical volunteer project in South America is a great way to do something meaningful while learning a lot for your own career at the same time. You will gain a lot of experience in healthcare in a very different work environment. Depending on your knowledge and qualification, your medical volunteer work in South America can range from working closely with the patients and giving them important information to assisting the staff within the clinic or shadowing doctors.

While you might think medical volunteer opportunities in South America are only suitable for trained doctors and nurses, there are ways for untrained and unskilled volunteers to help as well!

If you are a trained doctor, nurse, medical student or pre-med, you will be able to get hands-on and support the doctors in hospitals, small clinics, and health centers. Some of the areas where specialized help is needed are:

  • dentistry
  • general surgery
  • gynecology
  • pediatrics
  • obstetrics
  • child health
  • adolescent health

If you are not a trained professional, there are still many ways and projects for you to help. Support the administrative staff in hospitals and clinics, educate locals about hygiene, illness prevention, nutrition and many other topics. From Peru, Argentina and Ecuador to Bolivia, help is needed in many different locations.

Support community services

If you want to immerse yourself in the culture and get in touch with the locals during your volunteer work in South America, a community program is a perfect opportunity. Community work calls for open, outgoing and empathetic volunteers that aren’t afraid of getting involved and can face difficult realities.

Depending on what your skills and qualifications are, there is a great number of possibilities to help in community development programs as a volunteer in South America. Some of these volunteering projects include:

  • assisting in advocacy for human rights
  • organizing cultural events
  • leading workshops
  • supporting women’s empowerment
  • raising awareness of human rights
  • helping people that are suffering from issues with domestic violence
  • renovating community building, houses, and schools
  • supporting construction activities
  • providing assistance for elderly people
  • caring for children
  • helping out at an orphanage

Before you decide to volunteer at an orphanage or a women shelter, make sure you are prepared for your task and understand what to expect. While working with orphans might sound noble at first, it is important to realize that more than 80% of children living in orphanages are not orphans. They are separated from their families because they are poor, disabled, from an ethnic minority or because they are suffering from other exclusion factors.

Many of the children and women you will be working with have experienced violence or abuse and are traumatized. For this reason, it is essential that volunteers MUST have appropriate skills. If not, you could be putting yourself and the people you work with at risk. Therefore, if you wish to volunteer in South America at one of the orphanage programs or women shelters you should meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • experience in working with traumatized clients
  • training as a child caretaker
  • training as a psychologist
  • training as a social worker

Education in South America

Poor education, failing the required academic standards, and lack of self-confidence lead to unemployment, hostility, and poverty. Providing quality education for children and empowering young people is the first step to end these problems and pave the way towards a better future for the next generations.

As a volunteer in South America in the field of education, your tasks would include but are not limited to:

  • teaching English, French or German to children
  • supporting sports projects
  • working as a literacy ambassador in libraries in rural communities
  • supporting elementary schools
  • creating challenging and dynamic literacy lessons
  • helping children with homework
  • organizing fun activities and games to maintain a balance between learning and relaxing

If you are especially interested in educational programs and want to support children and young adults with your volunteering efforts, there are many projects available in countries such as Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, and Chile.

Things to know before volunteering in South America

Safety & precautions

Before you leave on your volunteer trip to South America, make sure to read up on the safety advice your government gives for tourists in the specific country you are planning on visiting. Most South American countries are perfectly safe, however, it is important to use common sense at all times and be aware of the current political situation.

Here are some universal tips you might want to follow during your volunteer work in South America:

  • Keep your personal belongings and important travel documents with you at all times! It also makes sense to bring attested photocopies of these documents, in case you lose them!
  • If you are going out, do not take a lot of money, jewelry or other fancy possessions with you. Take only the money you will need and leave everything else back home!
  • Do not use unregistered taxis! Doing so increases the risk of becoming a victim of a crime.

Health advice

It is annoying to get sick when traveling and volunteering abroad. Here are some basic precautions you can take to avoid it:

  • Get all proper vaccinations a few weeks before any volunteer trips to South America. Find out which vaccinations you need in which South American country on the website of the US-based health protection agency CDC.
  • Plan for how you will get healthcare during your stay. Get a travel insurance and bring medicine with you, especially if you need special medication.
  • Protect yourself from mosquitoes, as they can carry diseases such as dengue fever. If you suspect you have dengue fever, seek out medical advice. There is no vaccine. The cornerstone of prevention is protection against insect bites.

Who can volunteer in South America?

How to volunteer in South America

Insurance (Health & travel)

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

Visa, passport, and documentation

  • Look into the visa requirements for the country you will volunteer in.
  • Make sure you have a valid passport considering the requirement of the host country.
  • Prepare the correct documents to fulfill the visa application.

And that’s it! You’re ready to volunteer in South America and fall in love with the nature, the people and the incomparable mix of tradition and modernity.