Free (or Cheap) Volunteer Work in Colombia
One issue for volunteers in Colombia to consider is visas. According to Cartagenitos (see More Volunteering in Colombia Resources below): “One government department says that to be an unpaid volunteer in Colombia you need to have what is called a ‘temporal visa’ which lasts from 6 months to two years. This should be organised with the Foreign Affairs Department in your country before arriving in Colombia. Another says that as long as you aren’t being paid you do not need any special visa. It is easy to slip under the radar of the DAS (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad – The Colombian Security Service) by not drawing too much attention to yourself, only having a normal tourist visa and then claim ignorance should you have any problems.” Medellin Guru has a page of information on Colombian visas.
Grassroots Volunteering in Colombia
The organisations listed below have either got in touch with us to add their details to this or another of our websites, or we otherwise have reason to believe they are actively looking for international volunteers and charge reasonable or no fees to join in, live and work with them:
Fundacion Mariposas Amarillas
A small grassroots organisation committed to supporting disadvantaged children by providing services, supplies and information on nutrition, education, and childcare to families in Santa Marta’s under served neighbourhoods. They welcome both international and local volunteers to teach after school classes or work on social programmes. They also always need volunteers to help with marketing, publicity, social media and fundraising. Basic Spanish is required and volunteers should be able to commit to between one and three months.
Where: Santa Marta.
Accommodation & Costs: Volunteers make a one time, non refundable $80 donation, and are responsible for their own accommodation.
Varsana Eco Aldea Yoga Village
Varsana’s website is in Spanish but applications are taken through Volunteer World where English language information is available. Volunteers here work four hours a day. Activities include organic gardening, environmentally friendly construction/design projects, working in the vegetarian restaurant/kitchen, and working with art and educational programmes for the children living in and around the community.
Accommodation & Costs: £53 per week covers volunteer house accommodation, three vegetarian or vegan meals per day, and access to many of the farm’s other activities including yoga, cooking classes, and various spiritual workshops.
Hostel Work Exchanges
We’re not certain what the present deal is but Lake View Hostel, on the waterfront of Lake Guatape, two hours from Medellin, has taken on volunteer staff for years. Information we had in an old blog post – much of it confirmed by more recent TripAdvisor reviews – reads as follows: “The Lake View Hostel welcomes chilled but responsible backpackers, including couples, to work and stay for free. Along with free dorm accommodation, benefits include free mountain bikes and kayaks and discounts on Spanish classes. Duties include a maximum of three hours cleaning, then just hanging out – perhaps fishing or reading – to be on hand in case someone shows up or guests have questions.”
The hostel also supports the rural community of La Meseta, located in the mountains above Guatape, where volunteers can help out teaching English, with environmental work and helping handicapped children. A reasonable daily fee pays for homestay accommodation and meals. We have also heard mention the Aussie owned Cranky Croc takes in volunteers, in Bogotá.
Other Opportunities to Volunteer in Colombia
Changes have been made to the last information we had on volunteering with Connections English Institute, in Ibague, including the mention of a fee, which wasn’t the case previously. Otherwise the following details seem still to be largely true: “Fluent English speakers able to stay at least one month can get free accommodation and a meal each day in exchange for teaching conversational classes in English. A free Spanish class is also offered. No teaching experience is required. Volunteers only have to worry about enjoying Colombia and having fun.”
Help Exchange Networks in Colombia
Volunteer Latin America – https://www.volunteerlatinamerica.com/volunteer-abroad/colombia
Workaway – https://www.workaway.info/hostlist-CO.html
Hovos – https://www.hovos.com/host/South-America/Colombia/
More Volunteering in Colombia Resources
Cartagenitos – Provides free information for anybody who wants to help under privileged children in Cartagena without paying a cent. The site doesn’t look the most up to date but the some of the links work.
A Guide to Volunteering in Medellín or Bogota – Some resources given in a blog post in The Altruistic Traveller.
Other Ways to Travel or Stay for Free in Colombia
Stay for free in return for caring for local residents’ homes or pets. Join Trusted Housesitters to live rent free as a house sitter (Americans may prefer this link). You can also get a free $25 Airbnb credit from us here.
My Volunteer Work in Medellin, Colombia – Trisha Velarmino did a short stint working in a hostel.
The Art of Teaching in Colombia: Meet Peace Corps Volunteer and Illustrator Sarah Shaw – Sarah Shaw said goodbye to her Korean teaching job and did the I-got-accepted-into-the-Peace-Corps dance.
Volunteering in Colombia: Can You Make a Difference in Two Weeks? – Karen asks the question when she and her husband went on a volunteer vacation.
Working Aboard A Caribbean Sailing Yacht – The Runaway Guide writes from the sun deck of an 80 foot yacht plying its trade between Panama and Colombia.
* not all these volunteer experiences are with grassroots NGOs or low cost organisations
Image copyright Fundacion Mariposas Amarillas