This program is based in libraries in the poor areas of Cartagena with the aim to help children between 7-18 years of age to read and write in Spanish. Many of these children do not have the vital literacy skills necessary to be successful at school and future jobs. Furthermore, these children lack structured extracurricular activities. Volunteers collaborate with local teaching staff, social workers, literacy coaches as well as other volunteers. The program also focuses on developing core values such as tolerance, respect, cooperation and friendship by centering activities around a specific value each month.
Teach or assist a teacher with literacy classes. Children are divided into 3 levels, the lowest focusing on basic literacy and fine motor skills, and the highest fostering critical thinking, communication and creativity.
Plan and organize classroom activities and games related to the curriculum.
Evaluate children’s reading and writing level as they enter and progress through the program.
Help social workers design activities for value-based learning experiences.
Keep records for the book-lending program.
General maintenance of libraries including cleaning, painting, labelling books and displaying students’ work.
Organizing and/or participating in sports, music, art etc. activities for children outside the literacy program depending on your and the foundation's interests.
Help manage and develop the foundation's website (Nationbuilder), blogs, eNewsletter, Vimeo and social media channels.
In case you are interested in IT support, you can volunteer in the head office of the foundation which is located in the historical center and in the libraries as this is where the computers are. The work includes maintenance of the new computers, identifying free and/or cost-effective online literacy games as well as introducing online tools to the literacy program teaching staff.
Volunteers work on average 4 hours per day from Monday to Friday (The program has Mondays off, it is the day to plan. Volunteers do not go to the libraries on Mondays but can spend their time planning and helping other ways). Mornings are free. After having lunch with your host family, you will meet up with the teachers at a meeting point in the center (meeting point is either at the teachers house or outside the library) at 13:00 to go to the project together. The work day finishes around 17.00. In case you would like to help out more, there is always work to do such as preparing teaching materials, office work, marketing and IT related work that takes place during the mornings in the office of Centro Caribe in the historic city center. Weekends are free.
If you wish to learn Spanish and thus add to your volunteering experience, you can choose either the Group Spanish Lessons and Volunteering package or the Private Spanish Lessons and Volunteering Package.
Group Spanish Lessons:
This program is combined with a standard level Spanish course for you to brush up your language skills. Join the group Spanish lessons in the morning from 09:00 to 12:00, and after lunch continue to the project for the afternoon. The lessons finish normally at 12:40, but as this is too late for you to get to your volunteer project, you can have 2 additional private lessons per week from 8 til 8:50 to catch up. If you're starting your Spanish studies at beginner level, we recommend a minimum of 3 weeks of language classes in Cartagena before joining the project while continuing your Spanish studies alongside.
The teachers are highly qualified and experienced, and motivated to offer our students quality language tuition. All the learning materials are included containing different aspects of the language with a focus on Colombian culture. The groups are very small (maximum 6 students) in order to ensure that the students can actively participate, interact with each other and the teacher, and receive individual attention.
On arrival students take the entry test and after being accurately analyzed, the students join the corresponding level. This course is specially designed for students to learn to communicate efficiently in everyday life situations. There is focus on grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, reading, writing, oral and written comprehension.
On the first Monday, we ask our students to be present at 8:15 (45 minutes earlier than normal start time). You will be given a brief presentation of the school followed by a personal interview with the teacher who will take the level test to make sure you're placed in the right study group. This also allows some time for the teacher to answer any questions you may have.
Private Spanish Lessons:
This program is combined with a standard level Spanish course for you to brush up your language skills. Join the private Spanish lessons in the morning or in the evening. The lessons take two hours from Monday to Friday and the schedule is coordinated considering your volunteering work. If you're starting your Spanish studies at beginner level, we recommend a minimum of 2 weeks of language classes in Cartagena before joining the project while continuing your Spanish studies alongside.
The teachers are highly qualified and experienced, and motivated to offer our students quality language tuition. All the learning materials are included containing different aspects of the language with a focus on Colombian culture.
On arrival students discuss their needs with the teacher, the level of Spanish they have and also how long they will be staying, so they can make a plan together for the classes. This course is specially designed for students to learn to communicate efficiently in everyday life situations. There is focus on grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, reading, writing, oral and written comprehension.
In this tropical climate it is sunny and hot all year around with an average temperature of 28-32°C which translates to laidback Caribbean lifestyle and friendly, smiling people.
Being the most visited city in Colombia, Cartagena provides a very secure atmosphere for all its travelers. The libraries are not in touristic areas, and therefore volunteers must follow safety rules such as volunteers are never allowed to go to libraries by themselves and must always arrive with local teachers.
Cartagena is the cradle of the fusion between three mayor ethnic groups, which makes the city extremely rich in history and culture. The city walls, the San Felipe Castle, the Inquisition Palace, the cathedrals, the Gold Museum and the Adolfo Mejía’s theater are, among others, the most visited places in this beautiful city.
The Colombian cuisine is a mix of Caribbean, African and Spanish cooking styles. A typical meal includes fresh fruit juice, meat, rice and a salad. Try fresh mangos, ceviche, coconuts, avocados, empanadas and fried plantains. The eateries range from high-end restaurants to an abundance of street food.
Spanish is the official language. Many people speak English, although it is less common in areas outside the touristic areas. We encourage our volunteers to take one of our Spanish language courses to improve their language skills and competency and get more out of their volunteer stay.
Music & Dance
There are a lot of music and dance events and festivals organized around the city. The different music styles are played all year around in the parks (music is not just played in parks but literally everywhere), which offers travelers a great opportunity to get familiar with the Caribbean rhythms.
The beaches in Cartagena are the best places to practice nautical sports, such as kitesurfing, windsurfing, diving, snorkeling, beach volleyball etc. In terms of dancing - just to mention a few of the popular Caribbean rhythms - salsa, merengue, champeta and cumbia are the travelers' favorite choices that can be practiced in nearly every corner of the city. Soccer is the national favorite sport.
Besides being well-known as a cultural center, nature lovers will find a great choice of ecotourism locations around Cartagena. For example the Rosario Islands Coral National Park with stunning coralline landscapes and diving in the beautiful waters of the Caribbean ocean is located only an hour away by boat. There is also the well-known Ciudad Perdida cradle of the Tayronas ethnic group as well as Tayrona National Park situated in Santa Marta’s Sierra Nevada, the snow mountain near the sea which makes it a unique site in the world. The nearby town of Palanque is also a UNESCO world heritage site, and remians today with its own language, religion, social structure, and culture from centuries ago when it was the first free slave colony in the New World.
Airport pick-up and drop-off
2 meals (breakfast and lunch) daily
24-hour in-country support
Personalized project placement
Cell phone, SIM card and credit for emergency phone calls
Local knowledge and connections for cultural and recreational activities
Airfare and travel costs
Transportation between your accommodation and the project
Minimum age 20 years
Volunteer application form
Screening meeting via Skype with the volunteer organization *
Police clearence certificate/Criminal backround check
Travel/Medical insurance - PLEASE send a copy before arrival
Fluency in English
Spanish: Being able to communicate in Spanish is vital in order to be able to volunteer at this project. The program will still accept volunteers with less Spanish, but in such cases the work the volunteers can do with the children is minimal. Volunteers with more limited Spanish can assist with more office work for example, where a conversation with the children isn’t needed or constant.
* The Skype Meeting
You will be contacted by Agostina Rinaldi who is the volunteer coordinator in Latin America. You will define the time for the meeting together with her. The idea of the meeting is to get to know you and your expectations and it will give you a chance to ask any questions about the project. Use this time to ask her as many questions as you may have about the project you have chosen or anything else related to volunteering on this project.
Volunteers need to be flexible and keep an open mind concerning their placements as situations can arise beyond our control which could require you to be placed at a different project than the one you have initially chosen. We will of course always do our utmost to fulfill your initial wishes but do remember that where you are going is quite different from where you are coming and as such one should be prepared for things not always going according to plan.
Volunteering and intercultural travel share a common trait: the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. This program is designed for proactive individuals and groups that are prepared to adapt to the local environment and its current needs. Naturally, the scheduling and activities of our program are subject to change. Alterations in activities are mainly due to changes in local conditions, which we believe is part of what makes overseas programs the interesting adventure and incredible learning experience that they are.
Our projects range from 1 week up to approx. 30 weeks. Projects have a specified minimum stay, then it’s up to you how long you can commit. In our experience the longer you stay the more you will gain, as your understanding of the project broadens and you take on more responsibilities.