This week, I’d like to highlight All Access Volunteers (AAV), a relatively young volunteer organization that’s doing some great work throughout Latin America. Founded in fall 2009, All Access Volunteers provides a link between volunteers and NGOs—AAV and their volunteers help with long-term development and sustainability of their partner groups.
Their unique, customized experiences have included individual and group placements, with their first Alternative Spring Break program (in partnership with two universities) taking place in 2011.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Collins, Executive Director of All Access Volunteers, to learn a little more about his group—so let’s get right to it!
How long? Most programs have a minimum commitment of two weeks, though exceptions can be made in some cases; there’s no maximum time commitment
Where? Throughout Central and South America
What do volunteers do? A variety of projects, which might include construction, teaching, health care, community development, and working with children
How much does it cost? Projects can start from $795, but double check the AAV website to find the fee for your specific program
Volunteer fees cover:
- Initial comprehensive questionnaire
- In-depth project selection process
- Accommodation (volunteer housing, local home-stay)
- Meals (dependant upon package selection)
- Airport or bus terminal pick-up and drop-off
- Pre-departure training
- Welcome package
- Basic travel and medical insurance
- In-country coordinator
- 24-hour support in-country
- Adventure tours (optional)
- Language classes (optional)
If you’d like to sign up with All Access Volunteers, you’ll first complete an application, with some projects—like health care—requiring some background experience, while most projects are open to anyone who’d like to participate.
All volunteers must be 18 or older, though exceptions are made for younger volunteers traveling with guardians or as a high school group with teachers/chaperones. There’s no maximum age limit.
To help prepare volunteers for their placements, Daniel notes, “AAV will make all arrangements with respect to the project, accommodation, transportation, and can also assist with any extras the volunteer may require such as adventure tours and language classes. Before departure, volunteers will receive an information package containing all information regarding where they are traveling to, project details, emergency contact information and even tips on things to do and see while in-country.”
Our favourite part of working with All Access Volunteers is being able to speak with volunteers on a daily basis. Whether they be past, current or prospective volunteers, having a chance to interact with them each day hearing their enthusiasm is such a thrill for us.
In addition, volunteers receive in-depth briefings with one or more coordinators prior to departure, and they’re encouraged to ask questions or voice any concerns they have at any time before, during, and after their project placement. In-country coordinators are available 24/7 in each of AAV’s regions to help their volunteers settle in, and to guide them in acculturation.
About Their Projects
All Access Volunteers works hard to provide the best placements they can, and have built strong relationships with every one of their partners to ensure their programs are mutually beneficial to the volunteers and their host groups and communities.
Says Daniel, “For us sustainable volunteerism and tourism is imperative. We strive to help minimize the overall impact on the environment, to respect local people and cultures, to offer economic benefit to local businesses and communities, and to provide a memorable experience for all travellers and volunteers.
“Protecting destinations for future generations is everyone’s responsibility, therefore we all need to work together to ensure this happens. By using local transportation, supporting locally-owned businesses, staying in small-scale lodging (i.e., hostels, home-stays, and local apartments), and incorporating community-based ecotourism projects into tours are all ways volunteering abroad can work toward ethical sustainability.”
Honduras: Consider teaching kindergarten through grade 6 in a jungle schoolhouse, or promoting community development in Copán Ruinas
Argentina: Volunteer in a center for mentally and physically challenged individuals, or work in a day care center for disadvantaged children in Buenos Aires
Ecuador: You might like to volunteer with an Amazon animal rescue center, or even embark on a Galapagos Island volunteer adventure
All Access Volunteers keeps in touch with their volunteer alumni through a wide variety of networks—for example, AAV’s monthly eNewsletters let their participants know how their projects are progressing, what current volunteers are up to, and any new events coming up. And because volunteers are a core component of the AAV community, they’re welcome and encouraged to keep in touch with AAV and with one another through email, Skype, and other networks.
Learn more and connect with All Access Volunteers via:
Photo credits: Daniel Collins