Once, in Costa Rica, a girl at a language school with a volunteer program told me that she’d volunteered at a “Pet Rescue Shelter” and that though there were no animals in the shelter while she was there, she took care of the owner’s dogs. And when she left, “they were doing a lot better.”

Needless to say, I didn’t end up volunteering through this language school… 

It isn’t easy to find truly life-changing volunteer experiences anywhere in the world. Often, volunteer experiences are poorly run and poorly funded leaving volunteers stapling papers in a dark back room for some marketing campaign that isn’t even real (true story). Or volunteers may end up paying a lot of money to “help” by feeding families that aren’t hungry. It isn’t unusual for volunteer experiences to cost money–a necessary evil because volunteers must be supervised, which costs organizations money. But, many organizations fail to truly develop their volunteer programs to ensure that volunteers have the opportunity for a meaningful experience and that the intended goals of the volunteer activity are met satisfactorily for everyone involved.

The Devela Language School has worked hard to develop a meaningful volunteer program at the park next door to our headquarters. This park is huge and it is in desperate need of renovation, but the city can’t afford to allocate funds to it. So we’ve created programs that will take place throughout the year to help fund renovation projects, as well as programs to do hands-on renovation ourselves such as building fences, painting, and clean-up. 

We will be doing a Halloween event as a fundraiser at the park. We’ll build a haunted house and we’ll “haunt” the whole park to create “Halloween” for Mexicans who have never gotten to go to the United States to experience this strange holiday! We’ll need lots of volunteers to put on the production, which is essentially an interactive theatrical event.

To participate in the Halloween event and other volunteer activities, you must be a student at Devela. And we ask that you donate to our volunteer program to help us continue doing what we’re doing next door. Our volunteer programs do not run continuously at this time (2020), so we recommend that students who want to volunteer, coordinate their travels so that they’re with us when we have programs taking place. Check the calendar for information about upcoming volunteer events and activities.

Volunteering is a great way to mix with the locals and to get to know other like-minded people through interesting experiences. Contact Jennifer Shipp at jennifershipp1976@gmail.com for more information about volunteer programs at Devela Language School.

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