For those looking for a more immersive cultural and language experience in Mexico, volunteer tourism, also known as “voluntourism,” is an excellent alternative and one that is being considered more and more.
You don’t have to be an adventure traveler to appreciate this alternative method of traveling, but you do ned to have a passion for getting to know the real insides of a country and to give of yourself while receiving a transformational experience of a lifetime.
Volunteer Tourism, as defined by Voluntourism.org is:
The conscious, seamlessly integrated combination of voluntary service to a destination and the best, traditional elements of travel — arts, culture, geography, history and recreation — in that destination.
Mexico is an ideal destination for voluntourists and there are many options for the explorer to consider. However, before selecting a destination and a tour, it’s recommended that you first decide what type of travel experience you want to have. Do you want a more relaxing vacation with a couple of days when you volunteer? Or are you ready to spend two weeks to a month working on one project and what level of intensity are you capable of committing to?
Another factor to consider is how ethical the organization you are traveling with is. Although most are reputable, there’s always the sour apple in the bunch and you don’t want to be caught there. Websites such as EthicalVolunteering.org and VolunTourism101 provide tools and resources for you to find the right organizations and tours in Mexico and elsewhere.
I’ve scoured the web and found some sites that offer excellent resources for finding the ideal voluntour for your next Mexican escapade. This is also an excellent option to immerse older kids in a real travel experience while instilling in them the value of giving back and working for others.
Voluntours in Mexico
Yucatan Today has an excellent article explaining volunteerism and a list of organizations that offer these experiences in Merida and the Yucatan Peninsula. You’ll find options range from AIDS Help to working with Mayan families in their villages close to the pyramids of Chichen Itza to rescuing sea turtles.
Fundación Maya In Laakeech provides sustainable travel and teaching volunteer opportunities through the Hacienda Chichen Itza to enrich and make a difference in the lives of local rural Mayan children.
Projects Abroad offers volunteer work and internships in Guadalajara and the smaller and picturesque town of Ciudad Guzmán. They offer placements in these categories: Teaching, Care, Culture & Community, Conservation & Environment, Medicine, Journalism, Animal care, Arts & Crafts and the Spanish language.
Transitions Abroad magazine has a list of volunteer programs in Mexico ranging from saving coral reefs and sea turtles to teaching English and computer skills to Huichol women artists to building houses in Chiapas.
CHOICE offers humanitarian expeditions to Mexico to “give hope and brighter futures to villagers in their many project areas of southern central Mexico.”
Adelante offers volunteer programs ranging from one to twelve months in duration in the colonial city of Oaxaca.
For a complete guide to the ins and outs of volunteer tourism, check out this guide on Matador.
Share: Have you ever gone on a volunteer tourism project? If so, how was the experience?
This is really cool Ana. And I love the word VOLUNTOURISM, very smart. I agree its a fantastic option for older kids, making them conscious human beings while they have fun and get to know the world. I wish my parents had known about this kind of stuff when i was younger! But I can still be a voluntourist some day
I wonder how old the kids would need to be. I’d love to take my boys in a couple of years. The idea of seeing the world while helping other people is one I would love to expose them to.
I’ve read about voluntourism before but hadn’t heard about it in Mexico. I think it’s great that these two events can be combined. I look forward to doing it at least once in my lifetime – preferably when the kids are in their teenage years.
Great post Ana! There are so many wonderful programs for voluntourism in Mexico, a way to see the country and do something good from the heart. Thanks! —Kelly
Wonderful post and such great information! Didn’t even realize Mexico had so many voluntourism opportunities. Thanks for sharing.
What a fantastic idea! I’m keeping this in my back pocket for a few years from now to do some voluntouring when my girls are a bit older. Sounds like amazing experience!
great info. I just told my dad how I want to go to Oaxaca next!
I have never done voluntourism but have always wanted to. It combines two of the things I care about/love: travel and volunteering, and in a country I love. Thanks for organizing all this terrific information into “one stop shopping.”
All the trips that I book are short term projects that allow you to enjoy your limited vacation time and still be able to give back. Whether it’s a few hours or a couple of days, it will be a memorable part of your vacation. You can visit our website at http://www.vacationsthatmatter.com for ideas.
This is so awesome Ana. I love the idea. I’m thinking of going to Mexico in December, and this seems like something really up my ally. The thing that has always been frustrating to me is that I am only limited to one or two weeks and in the past when I’ve looked into this I have not been able to commit to the minimum of a month. I’m going to cross my fingers that some of these organizations have short term projects!!
These are such great ideas!!!!! We are thinking of doing something like this next summer, now that my kids are getting old enough. Thanks for all of the great resources- checking them out now:).
As a mom of an 8 and 13 year old, I was looking for a way to inspire gratitude and give back to the wonderful distinations that our family has had the opportunity to visit. As I was already a Travel consultant, Voluntourism was the perfect niche for me. I launched Vacations That Matter in January of 2011 and have had some unbelieveable experiences traveling and giving back during our family vacations. You don’t need to commit to several weeks or months. You won’t be giving up any of the fun and adventure, but you will be giving your family an opportunity to learn, grow, aspire, inspire, and be grateful. We feel we have gained more than we have given. Thank you Ana for sharing more resources for opportunities in Mexico.
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