Volunteers work in local schools or community centers teaching English to people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
While Mexico spends a larger part of its budget on education than other
Latin American countries, student performance in places like Merida lags
and does not reflect the investment. Particularly in schools in poor
neighborhoods, overcrowding and poor teacher training remain significant
hurdles. The Mexican system’s focus on rote learning instead of
engagement also keeps many students from having the critical thinking
and team skills necessary in today’s world. Volunteers bring energy and
new perspectives. They allow for more individualized student attention,
and help students who are falling behind keep up.
What do volunteers do?
Volunteers work four to six hours a day in a local school or a community center serving children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The children range from 6 to18 years old. In the school, volunteers work alongside local teachers to create and deliver English lessons. They may be in front of the class presenting or they may work individually with children who are falling behind. As needed and depending on a volunteer’s Spanish speaking ability, opportunities may come up to help on other subjects, for example history, math and writing. Volunteers in the community center teach alone or with other volunteers, and they help children on reading, writing and listening. Volunteers are encouraged to bring new ideas, including different types of lesson plans and topics for group conversations.
There is no typical day :-)
Volunteering abroad is all about finding your role in local communities. Unlike a tourist, volunteers travel to serve instead of to be served.
Also, remember that you’re working in the developing world in very poor contexts—conditions are constantly changing. There is no script to follow and being adaptable is crucial. This is what makes international volunteering challenging and rewarding.
In general though, you’ll be working Monday through Friday. Weekends are off. Every project is different, so you want to read the detailed project descriptions.
Connecting with the locals and other volunteers is also a big part of the experience. You’ll have plenty of time after your work and on the weekends. Volunteers often check out tourist sites together, hang out in the evening, travel on the weekends, etc. It’s up to you, don’t worry you’ll have a lot of fun too :-)
Merida is becoming recognized as one of Mexico’s most welcoming destinations. It is a great and safe place to explore and experience Yucatan culture. The Plaza Grande, which is lined by pretty colonial buildings, is bustling with activity and makes for a great place to stroll or just sit back and relax. Beautiful beaches off the Gulf of Mexico are easily reachable in 40 minutes by bus from downtown Merida, and there are watering holes and caves that are well worth a visit. The Celestun Mangroves, where pink flamingoes can be seen, is nearby, as well as Cancun, which is four hours away by bus. There are cultural activities across the area. Some of Mexico’s most impressive Mayan archaeological sites are close, including the famous Uxmal and Chichen Itza, which is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Finally, if you would would like to improve your Spanish while volunteering in Mexico with UBELONG, we can connect you with affordable and excellent Spanish classes once you arrive in Merida.
When you arrive at the Merida airport, a driver meets you and brings you to your accommodations.
You live in a comfortable, fun and welcoming Volunteer House, which is part of a hostel in the center of Merida. It is only five blocks from the Plaza Grande, the bustling center of Merida. You share a room with other volunteers. Most bathrooms are communal. All rooms and bathrooms are cleaned regularly. Wireless internet is available free of charge. There is a great common area where you can cook, socialize or just relax in. There is also a pool that volunteers can enjoy.
Mexico, and the Yucatan in particular, is famous for its diverse and flavorful dishes that bring together Mexican, Mayan, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and European cuisines. Every day, you receive breakfast and lunch.