Volunteer in Colombia - Cartagena
At a glance…
- Available year-round
- 4 meaningful project options
- Projects based in and around the coastal city of Cartagena
- Accommodation in a volunteer apartment
- Program fees include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, meals and 24/7 in-country support
- Program fees from $US$450 for 2 weeks (approximately AU$580)
- Affordable Spanish language lessons available
- Between 5 and 20 volunteers in Cartagena each month
- Most affordable fees - as the world leader in affordable volunteer travel, we’re able to keep our fees low by partnering with a local organisation in Colombia to support meaningful community projects and local employment.
- Superior support - your experienced IVHQ Program Manager, teamed with our local team in Colombia will ensure you feel supported every step of the way - from planning to volunteering.
- Responsible projects - we’re dedicated to ensuring that our projects are responsibly run and have sustainable positive impacts that are supporting local needs.
- Online training - as soon as you register on an IVHQ program, you will gain access to our interactive volunteer training to ensure you’re well prepared for your program.
- Safety-first - volunteer safety is a top priority for IVHQ and we have clear standards for risk management on each program. You can feel confident that you are placed with trustworthy institutions, organisations and families that have been screened by our local teams.
- New friendships - as an IVHQer, you’ll always be in the company of friendly locals and like-minded volunteer travellers who will quickly become your life-long friends.
- Epic weekend adventures - you’ll have your weekends free to explore Colombia with your new-found friends.
The IVHQ Colombia - Cartagena volunteer program has placements located throughout the historical city of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Volunteers are required to fly into Rafael Núñez International Airport, which is a 17 to 19 hour flight from most major airports in Australia.
Volunteers can begin the IVHQ Colombia - Cartagena volunteer program on the 1st and 15th of every month. Volunteers can choose to volunteer for periods ranging from 2 weeks to 12 weeks.
The Teaching English project provides the opportunity for students from low-income communities in Cartagena to learn English with the support of international volunteers. While students generally receive English lessons at school, the Teaching English project supplements those lessons, giving Colombian students the invaluable experience of conversing with fluent English speakers. Volunteers also have the opportunity to provide support for students in learning Mathematics, Sciences, Humanities, Music, Sports, Dance and Art. Volunteers encourage young students to believe that although they may come from poor backgrounds, they can become the doctors, teachers, sport stars, mathematicians and artists of the future. Volunteers on the Teaching English project work with students from primary school age through to elderly in local schools, day care centres, foster homes and community centres. Placements on this project are flexible and volunteers can either be involved with tutoring a few students or teaching a full class, as well as teaching English students at a beginner or intermediate level. Volunteers often work together to create their lesson plans and are encouraged to be creative and bring new ideas to their placements. As volunteers work with the support of IVHQ’s local team and placement staff, they do not need to be qualified or experienced teachers to participate. However, we encourage volunteers to come prepared by completing some relevant training, like a teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) course. Visit our Online TEFL Course page to learn how to gain an internationally-recognised TEFL certification at a discounted rate.
The Childcare project aims to support various childcare centres in Cartagena by easing the workload for local workers through the assistance of volunteers. Volunteers work with children ranging in age from babies to 18 years old, who are in desperate need of affection, attention and education. Volunteers play an invaluable role in providing knowledge, care and attention to these children and can join in with games, song and dance, reading and writing lessons, meal times and basic chores. Volunteers on the Childcare project are placed in day care centres, and also a foundation for children with cancer.
Volunteers on the Sports Development project play a vital role in teaching children and teenagers in Cartagena the importance of maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle, as well as building skills in teamwork, trust, respect and sportsmanship. The children are full of energy and thrive on the opportunity to learn new sports and develop their skills. Volunteers are encouraged to bring their own ideas to the project in regards to incorporating new games, sports, skills, and holding tournaments with the children. This project is only limited by the availability of volunteers; so if you are interested in teaching a specific sport (whether it be football or swimming, or another sport such as gymnastics or volleyball), please let us know, so we can include this in the schedule. It is preferable that you hold a First Aid Certificate for this project and any coaching qualifications are welcomed, although not essential. It is important to note that the Sports Development project is a component of two other projects and only makes up one to two hours a day from Monday to Thursday. Volunteers will need to supplement their time on the program with another project, such as Teaching English.
The Community project is designed for enthusiastic and flexible volunteers, as work varies and is based on where there is the greatest need at a particular time. Volunteers on this project undertake a variety of tasks while in Cartagena and these could involve carrying out general maintenance tasks, helping in community gardens, teaching English and skills such as computer knowledge, as well as helping the elderly at a local community centre. Volunteers can also work at a rehabilitation centre for teenagers with substance abuse problems.
The program orientation begins on the 1st and 15th of every month and volunteers need to arrive in Cartagena the day before orientation.
After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at the Rafael Núñez International Airport (CTG). Australian travellers do not require a visa to enter Colombia for a duration of 90 days. Your airport pick-up is included in your Program Fee.
When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and transported to the volunteer accommodation in Cartagena. Your accommodation is covered by your Program Fee and includes the night before your program orientation.
If you are travelling in Cartagena prior to your volunteer program, you will need to make your own way to the volunteer accommodation and the local team will provide guidance on this.
Orientation start time varies depending on when volunteers arrive the day prior. However, volunteers can expect to spend most of the day in orientation. Orientation covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Colombia – Introduction to Colombia, Colombian Customs, Language Training Details, Rules and Expectations, Safety, Travel Opportunities in Colombia, 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 socialising.
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. Volunteers typically work in morning and afternoon shifts that last around 3 to 5 hours each.
Weekdays: A typical volunteer day is as follows:
7.30 AM Breakfast at the volunteer accommodation.
8.00 AM Volunteers leave home and travel to their placements.
8.30 AM - 1.00 PM Volunteer work and a lunch break.
1.30 PM - 3:30 PM Spanish lessons and volunteer work.
6.30 PM Dinner at the volunteer house.
Please note, this is an example schedule as work hours are dependent on the project and placement. Volunteers on the Cartagena program can easily take part in a range of the projects if they would like to, this can be arranged with the coordinators.
Evenings: To ensure the safety of our volunteers and respect of others in the volunteer apartment, a curfew of 11:00 PM has been put in place from Sunday to Thursday and a 2:00 AM curfew for Friday and Saturday.
Volunteers are accommodated in a volunteer apartment with other volunteers in the safe neighbourhood of Crespo. Bedrooms are comprised of bunk beds and you can expect to be sharing a room with 4 to 6 volunteers of the same gender. For couples or those wanting more privacy, private rooms in the volunteer apartment are available for an additional US$20 (approximately AU$14) per night, subject to availability. Living is comfortable and the volunteer apartment has electricity, running water and western bathrooms (generally with hot water). Sheets and pillows are provided, and you will just need to bring your own towel and toiletries. All volunteers help with cooking and clean up on a roster system, so be prepared to help out.
WiFi is available for volunteers to use at the volunteer apartment in Cartagena. You can also purchase a local SIM card with data for an unlocked mobile phone to keep connected.
Volunteers in Cartagena are provided with three meals per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) Monday through Friday, served at the volunteer house. Breakfast is varied and can include pancakes, fruit, eggs and arepas (corn bread). Lunch and dinner include a balanced range of traditional Colombian and western dishes. Tea, coffee, juice and toast are available in the volunteer house throughout the day. Tap water is fine to drink in Cartagena and we recommend bringing a reusable water bottle to fill at the volunteer house and bring with you to your placement. Alternatively, bottled water can be purchased for around AU$1.20. If you have any special dietary requirements, please let us know when you apply for the program so we can make arrangements for you.
“Volunteering in Cartagena was an eye opening experience that left me with a whole new perspective on life and the world. Teaching English to pregnant teens and teen mothers was especially life changing. Building relationships with and teaching these young women was empowering for me and them. There are many opportunities in Cartagena for volunteering. It is a beautiful city with much to enjoy but also has a lot of areas where help is needed. This combination creates an awesome place to spend time and visit but also volunteer.” - Leslie Polster (Community Development Volunteer in Colombia-Cartegena)
During the weekends, volunteers have free time to relax or take the opportunity to explore Cartagena or other parts of Colombia, such as the picturesque Tayrona National Park and the capital city of Bogota.
See our Colombia Travel and Tours page for more volunteer travel options in Colombia.
|Currency||Colombian Peso (KES)|
Weather and climate: Given Colombia’s proximity to the equator, the country experiences little variations in temperature throughout the year. However, the climate does vary greatly with changes in altitude, creating various climatic zones from hot coastal lowlands to freezing mountainous peaks. Cartagena has a tropical climate that is generally characterised by hot winds. Humidity averages around 90%, with the rainy months extending from May through to November. Throughout the year temperatures remain constant with an average high of 31°C (89°F) and an average low of 24°C (76°F). The driest months are November through to April.
Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate. All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check to IVHQ’s local team on arrival in Cartagena.
Speaking Spanish is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Colombia - Cartagena volunteer program, however on certain projects; the 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 program staff in Cartagena. Past volunteers feel that taking these lessons can help you immensely with your day to day volunteer work and communicating with local people. Volunteers interested in taking classes can arrange these directly with the local staff once in Cartagena.
Free Interactive Volunteer Training - All volunteers are encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training, which is available exclusively to registered IVHQ volunteers. The training is designed to build an understanding of important aspects that need to be considered before embarking on an IVHQ program. It helps volunteers to prepare in the right way by providing advice on what it takes to be a safe, responsible and valuable volunteer. Try a sample of the training here.
Spanish language lessons are available for all volunteers regardless of their ability. IVHQ recommends these lessons for all volunteers unless they are fluent in Spanish. Volunteers with a basic level of Spanish should strongly consider these lessons to allow them to work and communicate more effectively during their program. These language lessons are organised upon your arrival in Cartagena during your program orientation. The language course is tailored to each volunteer’s current level of Spanish. The cost is very affordable and offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers at COP$30,000 per hour. There is also ample opportunity to participate in conversation exchanges if your Spanish is at a more advanced level.