Blending travel and charity work are one of the best ways to explore and enjoy Panama. Also known as Voluntourism, vacation travel can be an ideal way to travel and see the world while at the same time doing something meaningful and fulfilling in our lives like building communities, helping children, conserving nature and meeting and bonding with other people.
There are various ways and opportunities where you can do charity or volunteer work in Panama while traveling and enjoying the country at the same time. You can directly join different local and international foundations or non-governmental organizations of your choice and perform volunteer work in Panama. You can join or apply to private organizations that arrange volunteer programs that fit your specific preference, lifestyle or advocacy. You can also study Spanish in Panama, which provides volunteer opportunities.
In this article, we will explore some of the different opportunities and areas where you can do charity and volunteer work in Panama, which will give you the perks of traveling and more importantly the fulfilling prospect to make a difference to people and the world at the same time.
Join Volunteer Programs or Foundations
Directly joining volunteer programs or foundations that perform charity works in Panama is the most apparent means to do charity and volunteer work. These non-governmental organizations are very diverse performing different advocacies including education, environmental conservation, feeding programs, medical rescue, and health promotion, among others. Here are some volunteer programs you can choose and join.
Workway. This Panama-based NGO (non-government organization) focuses on building sustainable ways for indigenous tribes and visitors to work and learn from each other through cooperative resource sharing, art promotion and the preservation of cultural identity.
Amigos de las Americas. Founded in 1965 on the principle that young people can change the world, this NGO is engaged in health promotion and education of families living in remote areas of Panama and other Latin American countries.
Surf For Life. Ideal for surfers and beach lovers, this NGO focuses on providing education, health promotion, nature conservation, and other works especially in local coastal communities in Panama and throughout Central America.
Proyecto Mosaico. A Germany-based non-profit organization founded in 1998, it focuses on environmental education and aquatic resource conservation in tropical countries such as Panama in partnership with other local organizations.
International Service Learning (ISL). This volunteer organization promotes health, education and community building across the world. It promotes cultural awareness, service-based learning, and sustainable development.
Movement Exchange (Move-Ex). This non-profit organization promotes cultural exchange and individual empowerment through the art of dancing. Ideally, for people who love dancing, it primarily provides dance instructions or classes to different communities, especially for at-risk youth.
Website: www. movementexchanges.org
Idol Hands. Perfect for art lovers and artistic volunteers like painters, Idol Hands promotes, celebrates and conserves cultural identities through art. It involves programs like undertaking collaborative mural art projects and similar art events that unite communities and awaken the artistic talents of people.
CEIBA Leaf. This is the implementing arm of GeoParadise, which focuses on indigenous outreach programs and poverty relief endeavors in rural areas in Panama.
Outward Bound Costa Rica. Created in 1992 and specially designed for students, this non-profit organization focuses on adventure-based learning and experiential education in the tropical rain forests of Panama and Costa Rica.
Join Volunteer Placement Organizations
An alternative way to charity and volunteer work in Panama or other countries is by joining private organizations that arrange volunteering programs. These organizations act as volunteer placement agencies that assign you to your preferred place and preferred work of volunteer.
Among the advantages of joining these organizations is it provides you a plethora of volunteer opportunities you can choose from. You can easily and quickly jump one volunteer program to another if you wish to. They also simplify the process of joining the different programs.
Finally, you can also get tax deductions from your expenses when you use volunteer placement. Here are some volunteer placement organizations that can arrange volunteer works for you.
Volunteer in Latin America. This UK-based organization primarily focuses on engaging in different wildlife and nature conservation in Central America in partnership with other organizations and the local government. Volunteers will be deployed in different countries in Latin America to perform different charity programs such as helping children from indigenous communities, volunteering in dive center to ensure marine preservation, doing other wildlife conservation (e.g. leatherback turtles, sloths, albatross, etc.)
Go Overseas. Acting as your travel buddy to make a world of difference, Go Overseas aims to empower human connection through perspective-changing travel. This volunteer placement organization provides a wide range of volunteer and charity work opportunities that you can choose from based on preferences such as location, travel experience, strengths or skills, and others. It can provide you the right program for the type of travel adventure you wish to have.
Go Abroad. Conceptualized in 1997 by travel and volunteer enthusiasts, this organization was basically designed to bridge the gap between traveling volunteers and volunteer opportunities/ organizations. It has a broad selection of volunteer opportunities and resources that will provide meaningful travel for people. It aims to provide international travel opportunities for people who want to make a difference.
Volunteer World. Touted as the “AirBnB” for volunteer abroad opportunities, Volunteer World provides the opportunity for travelers to connect to different volunteer opportunities in Panama thereby making their stay more productive and meaningful. Having deployed over 80,000 volunteers, most of the social programs it provides are engaged in English teaching, medical and healthcare as well as animal and wildlife conservation.
Study Spanish in Panama
Studying Spanish in Panama can also be an opportunity to do volunteer and charity works. Many Spanish language schools in Panama provide opportunities for volunteer works through internships, community outreach programs, and children programs. Here are some of the Spanish language schools in which volunteer work is integral in their curriculum.
Habla Ya. One of the most popular Spanish language centers in Panama for foreigners, Habla Ya integrates fun, travel, experience and learning of Spanish in its curriculum. It has Spanish immersion programs which include volunteer programs whereby students can experience cultural and language exchange with the locals.
Casco Antiguo Spanish School. This school integrates its Spanish language classes with fun and adventure through travel as well as volunteer programs. These activities allow students to explore Panama and directly interact with the locals and get involved in a more immersive and productive learning experience in Panama.
Spanish at Locations. This Spanish Language institute incorporates travel adventures with learning. Students will learn Spanish in their chosen location where they are also given the opportunity to explore the area, immerse themselves in the local culture and contribute to society and the environment through volunteer works.
Can I do volunteer work in Panama?
Anyone can volunteer. If you have time, passion and money to help, you are very much welcome to join any volunteer organization. Volunteering and traveling are popular among students because it allows them to learn and explore Panama at the same. Adults and mature travelers including ex-pats ad retirees from the baby boom generation can volunteer. They usually have the disposable income to travel and help people.
Volunteering is great for any traveler of all ages, especially those seeking more meaningful adventure and fun. Not only will volunteering provide you an opportunity to help and make a difference, it also provides you benefits and exclusive experiences outside formal learning institutions such as building communities, increasing socialization, building bonds, facilitating intercultural exchange and developing social skills, emotional stability, self-esteem and attaining a sense of purpose and fulfillment in life.
What skills should you have to do volunteer works in Panama?
In general, you don’t necessarily have to possess any specific set of skills to perform charity and volunteer works in Panama. What is important is that you have the passion to help people and of course the money to volunteer and travel. Volunteers undergo a quick orientation about the volunteer program and are brief on what they are supposed to do before they are deployed to do volunteer works.
The most common volunteer works involve in Panama included teaching and youth support, clean up drives, tree planting, feeding programs or soup kitchens as well as visiting marginalized sectors such as elderly people, indigenous tribes, poverty-stricken communities or people with disabilities.
However, there are also volunteer programs that may require you to have certain skills to perform volunteer work effectively and safely. For instance, teaching computer proficiency to children entails that you must know basic computer operations.
Teaching music and dance would entail that you know how to sing, dance or play a musical instrument. Wildlife and marine conservation may entail knowledge about animals, camping skills, basic survival skills, scuba diving, and swimming skills.
People normally volunteer for work based on their preferences, inclination, and skills. A surf lover, who knows how to swim and dive is most predisposed to volunteer in programs related to marine conservation and other volunteer efforts along with coastal towns.
Why Pay when you do volunteer work in Panama?
Volunteering is a privilege. It is something that not everybody can provide because it entails certain financial resources. Volunteering is a sacrifice. It means you need to give your time and skills for free and without getting compensated or paid for it.
Donating your time and skills when you volunteer is not enough. In Panama, a volunteer needs to pay for his or her own airfare and travel expenses, accommodation or lodgings as well as meals. This is exactly why you need to pay for volunteering. While there are times and cases, where the hosts or the community you serve will cover some of your food and lodging, it is always important that you have money set aside for your basic needs.
You can do charity and volunteer work in Panama by directly joining local and international non-government organizations doing volunteer works in Panama, joining volunteer placement organizations that will arrange volunteer programs for you or by simply studying Spanish in Panama.
However, you should keep in mind that blending travel and volunteering in Panama aptly called voluntourism, is different from plain traveling for leisure. Traveling for leisure is traveling with the end objective of having fun and relaxation.
Traveling to volunteer entails a different mind-set of fun which includes learning and sacrificing. When you travel for leisure, you can do whatever you want with your time and money to enjoy. When you travel to volunteer, helping comes first before leisure and enjoyment.
It is like a job in which you commit some of your time and resources to help people. You will not spend for your own convenience but spend time and money for the enjoyment of others. In traveling to do volunteer work, you travel not for your pleasure but to help and make a difference in the lives of other people.
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