Volunteer Overseas in Mexico with IVHQ

You are here

Volunteer in Mexico

Volunteer in Mexico with International Volunteer HQ! IVHQ Mexico has a wide range of volunteer abroad projects available, including Teaching English, Childcare, Special Needs, Environmental Research and Animal Care/Animal Rights.
Map of Mexico
Capital: 
Mexico City
Population: 
120.8 million
Official languages: 
Spanish
Currency: 
Peso (MXN)
Time zone: 
UTC-06:00
Weather and climate: 
The Tropic of Cancer effectively divides the country into temperate and tropical zones. Mérida lies on the Caribbean coast in the State of Yucatán and is one of the warmer regions of Mexico. The warm season lasts from mid April to mid June with an average daily high temperature above 35°C (94°F). The hottest day of the year is May 7, with an average high of 36°C (97°F) and low of 23°C (74°F). The "cold" season lasts from mid November to mid February with an average daily high temperature below 31°C (88°F). The coldest month of the year is in January, with an average low of 18°C (65°F) and high of 29°C (85°F).

LOCATION OF MEXICO VOLUNTEER ABROAD PROGRAM

The IVHQ Mexico volunteer program has volunteer placements located in Mérida, the capital of the Yucatán state on Mexico's Caribbean Coast. 

START AND DURATION OF MEXICO VOLUNTEER ABROAD PROGRAM

Volunteer programs begin on the first and third Monday of every month. Volunteers can choose to volunteer for periods ranging from 1 week to 24 weeks.

MEXICO VOLUNTEER REQUIREMENTS

Volunteers must be 18 years or older on the program start date, have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check to IVHQ partner staff on arrival in Mexico. 

MEXICO VOLUNTEER LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS

Fluency in Spanish is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Mexico volunteer program, however on certain projects, such as Teaching English, volunteer work will be restricted with limited language ability. We recommend that volunteers take advantage of the very affordable language lessons offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers by our partner staff in Mexico. Past volunteers feel that taking these lessons help immensely with day-to-day volunteer work and communicating with local people. Volunteers interested in taking Spanish lessons can arrange these directly with the local staff once in Mexico.

VOLUNTEER SAFETY IN MEXICO

In the past decade, Mexico’s reputation as a safe and secure destination to visit has suffered. Despite the news you hear around drug-related violence in the media, for the most part, Mexico is still a safe and welcoming destination. The 'War on Drugs' campaign, initiated by the government in Mexico in 2007, is mainly fought in the border states of Nuevo León, Chihuahua, Tamaulipas and the Pacific coast states of Sinaloa, Michoacán, and Guerrero. The confrontations are usually between members of rival cartels or between the Mexican army/police and the cartels. There is no denying that the whole of Mexico has been affected by this, however there has also been an increased emphasis on civilian safety. This is why you will now notice a more visible army presence in Mérida and police randomly patrolling the streets and stopping traffic. Given the importance of tourism to the country’s economy, it is of prime importance to Mexico to keep foreign visitors safe as well.

Despite the bad press Mexico has attracted in recent years, Mérida and other towns in the state of Yucatán are considered safe for both locals and foreign travelers. Every year, thousands of tourists, students and volunteers flock to the Yucatán for their vacations. During orientation, our local staff will cover safety and security in Mexico and always reinforce certain common-sense street-wise rules to ensure you have an enjoyable and safe stay in Mexico. You have 24/7 access to local our staff to address any of your needs and we genuinely believe that volunteers’ stay in Mexico will be a wonderful and rewarding experience. Prior to departure, IVHQ staff in New Zealand and local staff in Mérida will be there to answer any queries or concerns you have via phone and email. Once you arrive in Mexico, the local team will be there to look after you. To read more about safety in Mexico and to understand how safe the Yucatán is in relation to the rest of Mexico and even to the United States, we encourage you to visit the How Safe is Mexico website.

HOW MANY OTHER VOLUNTEERS WILL THERE BE?

Between 5 and 20 volunteers start on our Mexico volunteer program each month. What does this mean for you? More people to socialize and travel with, more people to meet from different cultures, more people to volunteer with, more projects to work on, more staff support, better infrastructure for volunteers and lower fees! 

MEXICO VOLUNTEER ABROAD REVIEWS

"Overall this has been a wonderful experience for me and one which I will never forget. I'm glad I chose IVHQ and that I chose Mexico, it's the best decision I ever made. I'd also just like to say that when I severely twisted my ankle only a week into my stay and was on crutches for a few weeks, the local staff were wonderful, and even though they were very busy, they made time to run me about, from my house to the volunteer house and back again, and to and from hospital. I felt that they were approachable and if I had any problems they would help where they could. One of the best things was the pool, everybody loved it and commented on how nice and big it was! I would also not hesitate to recommend IVHQ and have done so already." - Elizabeth Cohen (Special Needs Volunteer in Mexico)

Visit our Volunteer Abroad Reviews page to read more reviews from IVHQ Volunteers in Mexico.

 

Mexico volunteer project descriptions

Teaching English

The Teaching English project is designed to spark interest in learning a foreign language and inspire Mexican students to think about their futures. Many of the students that volunteers work with attend public schools and receive little or no English lessons in their curriculum. A passion for education, along with a fun, creative approach to teaching will go a long way on this project. Volunteers work in orphanages, foster care institutions, community centers, as well as in alternative and traditional schools. Volunteers’ lesson builds upon the work of previous volunteers and are structured as weekly themed English workshops. This involves planning activities to reinforce the weekly theme, preparing worksheets, playing educational games, helping with homework and reviewing previous lessons. Classes are taught in the morning or afternoon, depending on the placement. The volunteer workday generally consists of 3 to 4 hours of English class in addition to other recreational activities. During the school holidays, teaching continues in community centers and volunteers are required to work with students/classes independently. Although volunteers are welcome to apply an English-only approach while teaching, a level of basic Spanish skills is required. Volunteers do not need to be qualified or experienced teachers to participate on this project, however IVHQ offers volunteers with the opportunity to upskill for their Teaching projects by gaining an internationally recognized TEFL certification. Visit our Online TEFL Course page to learn more.

Special Needs

Volunteers with a caring and playful nature will be welcomed with warm arms on our Special Needs project in Mexico. Working alongside local staff in a structured learning center, volunteers assist in the care of children, adolescents or adults with physical and/or mental disabilities. Volunteer work includes aiding teachers, helping with daily operations and classroom maintenance, and overseeing simple activities with small groups of students. Volunteers should come prepared to play plenty of basic games and give out lots of hugs! Volunteers will either be placed in learning centers with daily drop-off and pick-up times for children, or in residential sites, which are home to children who have been abandoned by their families because they lack the economic resources to care for them. Volunteers are placed where they are most needed at the time of their program. At the learning center, the day is split into two shifts to accommodate the large number of children requiring the services of the center. The shifts are made up of a morning and afternoon shift and average four to six hours each. These services are provided at no cost to families by the state Education Department and cater to the needs of low-income families. At the residential sites, volunteer tasks include helping with daily operations, preparing food, serving meals and cleaning. Many residents require physical therapy that is given on-site and take classes in basic skills. Most homes are run by religious orders and volunteer work can involve assisting with fundraising efforts and general maintenance work. These residential sites are funded solely by donations.

Childcare

Volunteers are always in high demand to provide support to economically disadvantaged children, orphans and street children in Mexico. Volunteers on the Childcare project offer support to children who may have absent parents, come from backgrounds of domestic abuse, have run away from home, or are living on the streets. Volunteers work at placements with either all girls, or all boys. While some all-girl placements are unable to accept male volunteers, allboy placements accept both male and female volunteers and have a tremendous need for male volunteers who can act as role models for the children. Volunteers will generally be working with school-aged children and there are a limited number of placements in early childhood care. There is also the opportunity to work with pre-adolescents and adolescents on this project. Volunteers organize small group activities to stimulate the children’s physical coordination, mental development and social maturity, which is often lower than average for their ages. Teaching important values, such as responsibility and camaraderie is part of the project and the one-on-one time volunteers spend with the children is invaluable to their development. Some of the children are enrolled in local public schools, so the schedule for activities usually starts around noon and volunteer shifts generally last for around three to five hours. Volunteers with sufficient Spanish skills will also be able to assist individual students with their homework, reading and math skills.

Animal Care/Animal Rights

Although the attitude towards providing proper care to domestic animals is slowly changing in Mexico, there is still a major problem with cats and dogs being abandoned on the streets. The city of Mérida does not have the resources needed to take care of these animals and they are often euthanized as a result. In response, a number of non-profit organizations have taken over the responsibility and care for these animals with the ultimate goal of finding people to adopt them. Volunteers work alongside the limited staff to bathe, brush, train, walk, and play with the cats and dogs to prepare them for adoption. Cleaning cages and providing maintenance to their facilities is also important work. A vital part of the work of these organizations is public education and fundraising. These organizations provide free or low-cost mass spay/neuter clinics periodically throughout the year. Many helpers are needed when these clinics are offered, as well as for large-scale fund raising events. While basic Spanish language skills are helpful on this project, volunteers with minimal language experience should feel confident to participate.

Environmental Research

Volunteers interested in conservation, environmental research or eco-agriculture studies have the unique opportunity to work in a research center in the Yucatán. The Yucatán’s combination of year-round hot weather and ancient Mayan culture provides an interesting research area, not only for environmental research and eco-agriculture studies, but also social anthropology as it relates to the environment. Volunteer work can include full day or overnight trips to research sites to assist in the collection, labeling and classification of samples. These samples include sedimentary, water, plant and fish samples. Other activities include working in research gardens, planting, watering, measuring and labeling plants. Some laboratory work may be available, however this does not require specific expertise, and some longer term volunteers (volunteering for longer than 4 weeks) will have the opportunity to participate in this.

VOLUNTEER ACCOMMODATION AND MEALS

Volunteers in Mexico are accommodated in a volunteer house, nestled in a quiet neighbourhood of Mérida. The volunteer house provides dormitory-style lodging, WiFi, and access to the yard and swimming pool. Volunteers can expect to share a room with several other volunteers. Bedding is provided, however it is recommended that volunteers bring their own sleeping bag for weekends away, along with a towel and toiletries. Rooms have fans, but not air conditioning (if volunteers wish to have air conditioning, accommodation upgrades are available). Living is basic, yet comfortable and the volunteer house has electricity and running water.

There is an accommodation upgrade available for volunteers wishing to have more privacy or to experience a Mexican homestay. This costs an extra US$70 per week and homestays with air-conditioned bedrooms cost an extra US$110 per week. Please note, host families only speak Spanish.

Volunteers in Mexico are served three meals per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner), with a combination of Mexican and Western food. Tap water is not safe to drink in Mexico, however bottled water is readily available and you should budget approximately US$5 per week for this. If you have any special dietary requirements, please let us know when you apply for the program so we can make arrangements for you. 

VOLUNTEER ORIENTATION

Orientation will begin on the first morning of your volunteer program. Orientation will be conducted by our team in Mexico and will cover everything you need to know for your program in Mexico – Introduction to Mexico, Mexican Customs, Language Training Details, Rules and Expectations, Safety, Travel Opportunities in Mexico, Introduction to your Project and Placement. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socializing. Once orientation is complete, volunteers will be transported to their placement and introduced to all relevant parties and placement staff.

VOLUNTEER LANGUAGE LESSONS

Spanish language courses are available for all volunteers at all levels. IVHQ strongly recommends these courses for all volunteers, unless they are fluent. If you have a basic level of Spanish and and are staying for a period of longer than 2 weeks, you should strongly consider these courses, as they will allow you to work and communicate with all parties more efficiently during your stay. Language courses are mandatory for volunteers who join the Teaching English project and do not have at least a basic level of Spanish skills. These language courses are organised on your arrival in Mexico during your program orientation. The language course will be tailored to suit your current level of Spanish. The cost is very affordable and offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers. Each class runs for 3 hours per day in the morning or afternoon, Monday to Friday.

1 week US$225 per person
2 weeks US$365 per person
3 weeks US$505 per person

Each additional week after 3 weeks: + US$150

VOLUNTEER WEEK

First Day: On your first day of volunteering, you will be escorted to your placement by a local coordinator and introduced to the placement staff you will be working with.

Weekdays: A typical volunteer day would be as follows:

7.30 AM Breakfast at the volunteer house or homestay.

8.00 AM Volunteers leave home and travel to their placements. Work and hours are dependent on the project and placement that each volunteer is working at.

2.00 PM Lunch at the volunteer house or homestay. Work at the placement usually ends. Volunteers are free to travel home, take Spanish lessons, prepare for the next day or do some shopping and sightseeing.

7.30 PM Dinner at the volunteer house or homestay.

*Please note, some placements do not begin until 2.00 PM and in this case, volunteers usually have their Spanish lessons in the morning.

VOLUNTEER WEEKENDS

During the weekends, volunteers have spare time and usually just relax or take the opportunity to explore other parts of Mérida and the state of Yucatán. Day trips can be arranged so volunteers can explore popular sites in the area, such as Chichén Itzá – the most famous of the Yucatán’s Mayan ruin sites and one of Mexico’s most visited tourist destinations, the impressive Uxmal Mayan ruin site and the historial town of Izamal.

Mexico Volunteer Fees: 
Volunteer periodProgram fee US$
1 Week270
2 Weeks420
3 Weeks570
4 Weeks700
6 Weeks900
8 Weeks1100
10 weeks1300
12 Weeks1500
16 Weeks1900
20 Weeks2300
24 Weeks2700

To convert these prices to your local currency click here.
Please note: All programs attract a Registration Fee of US$279 on top of the Program Fee.

What do my fees pay for?

Registration Fee (refundable if you choose not to go*) – ongoing support from IVHQ staff, program marketing costs, information pack, administration costs, IVHQ Fund, travel costs to inspect programs and communication costs with volunteers.
Program Fee – airport pick-up, orientation, program supervision, accommodation and meals during volunteer program period, in-country 24/7 volunteer support and in-country administration costs.

What additional costs will I have?

Visa, flightstravel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, transfer back to the airport at conclusion of program, Spanish lessons (optional), in-country trips and tours, souvenirs, spending money (volunteers in Mexico generally find US$25 to be sufficient for basic weekly expenses).

* - Terms and conditions do apply.