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Special Needs Support Volunteer Program in Colombia - Medellín

Special Needs Support Volunteer Program in Colombia - Medellín

Want to volunteer with disabled populations in Colombia? International Volunteer HQ’s Special Needs Support project is an opportunity to help improve the quality of life for intellectually disabled children, youth, and adults. This is achieved through a range of activities, such as music, sports, arts and crafts, dancing, learning languages, and more. As a volunteer, you’ll help disabled populations develop the tools and skills they need to interact with their families and the wider community, promoting inclusivity and independence.

Highlights:
  • Programs start on the first and third Tuesday of each month
  • Affordable fees from $345 for 1 week
  • Includes accommodation, breakfast, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
  • Help disabled populations have more independent and fulfilled lives

  • Explore Medellín’s natural beauty and vibrant culture

  • Stay with other volunteers in a local homestay or hostel

Key information

Empower & support disabled people
Local organization in Medellín
Homestay or hostel accommodation
Volunteers aged 18+
Fully hosted experience from $345 for 1 week
Durations from 1 - 24 weeks
Discover Medellín's beautiful scenery
Up to 7 hours volunteering a day

This program is ideal for:

Empathetic, respectful, and caring volunteers who want to help support those living with disabilities and can speak Spanish prior to starting the program.
Who is this program suited to?

What to expect and how you'll make an impact

In Colombia, 6.3% of the population is diagnosed with a disability, the second highest in Latin America after Brazil. In addition, those with a disability face much stigma and are often discriminated against in a society that believes they cannot work or be independent.

As an IVHQ volunteer, you’ll support a local organization that aims to improve the quality of life of children, young people and adults with intellectual disabilities. The aim is to help disabled populations strengthen their skills for coexistence with their families and increase their participation in the community, which empowers them to lead a more fulfilled and independent life. This is achieved through education, sports, cultural and social programs and services which allow disabled people to develop and leverage their inclusion in society. These organizations also raise awareness in Medellín for those living with a disability and educate the population on their skills and abilities.

Some of the tasks involved in the Special Needs Support project may include:

Supporting children:

  • Assisting the tutors with therapies
  • Helping to make therapeutic materials which are used for activities
  • Supporting the tutors to select and order the materials used for activities and therapeutic care
  • Conducting inventories of the therapeutic materials owned by the organization
  • Helping tutors to move children to different places within the organization
  • Accompanying tutors on walks with the children in surrounding neighborhoods

Supporting youth and adults:

  • Assisting the educational and academic processes of the organizations
  • Teaching different subjects such as music, sports, arts and crafts, dancing, languages, including English and more.
  • Volunteers with knowledge and skills in marketing and/or fundraising may have the opportunity to assist the organization with their marketing and fundraising efforts

This project is well suited to volunteers who are charismatic, empathetic, respectful and proactive, who want to learn, understand and assist with the work that the organizations are doing to support disabled populations in Medellín. Volunteers need to be respectful and comfortable working in a team, have the ability to practice patience in any frustrating situations that may arise and the commitment to finish an assigned task with flexibility.

It is strongly recommended to learn as much Spanish as possible before your program, to make communicating at your placement and in your accommodation a bit easier, as your hosts may speak very little English or have no command of the language at all. You can download a language app like Duolingo or Babbel to practice before you arrive.

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #3: Good Health and Well-Being

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #3: Good Health and Well-Being

Good mental and physical health is key to sustainable development and building healthy and happy communities. Now more than ever, we must increase access to free healthcare and health education across the globe to achieve an acceptable standard of living and wellbeing for all.

Why do Special Needs Support volunteering in Medellín with IVHQ?

When you volunteer with disabled populations in Colombia you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:

  • Helping those with disabilities develop essential life skills
  • Improving quality of life for disabled populations
  • Developing your communication and Spanish skills
  • Gaining Special Needs Care experience
  • Immersing yourself fully in the Colombian way of life
  • Discovering Colombia’s history and culture

Volunteer requirements

  • Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate in this program. If you are under the age of 18, IVHQ offers alternative volunteer opportunities for teens. Visit our High School Volunteer Abroad page to learn more
  • All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance
  • Volunteers need to have a conversational / intermediate level of Spanish to join this program. If you don’t meet this requirement, you may like to check out our other Special Needs Support projects in Argentina, Guatemala, and Peru.
Are you eligible to volunteer?

Submit a free application so we can confirm your eligibility and check availability for your preferred dates.

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Volunteer Abroad in Medellín, Colombia with IVHQ

Location

IVHQ’s Colombia program is based in the stunning city of Medellín. Nestled in a picturesque valley surrounded by mountains, it boasts a balmy year-round climate, earning it the nickname “City of Eternal Spring.” In your free time, volunteers can explore the city’s rich cultural heritage, from vibrant street art and incredible food to museums and historical sites, including the Museum of Antioquia and the Casa de la Memoria. For nature-lovers, you can enjoy fantastic views of the surroundings from cable cars, and there are plenty of excellent parks and hiking opportunities.

While Medellín has made significant progress in recent years, it still faces many social and environmental challenges, which volunteers can help address. This includes helping with economic, sustainability, and community development initiatives, as well as improving access to education, healthcare, elderly care, and other social services for underserved communities.

Arrival and orientation

The program orientation begins on the first and third Tuesday of each month, and volunteers need to arrive in Colombia on the Monday before program orientation.

After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at José María Córdova International Airport (MDE) in Medellín on the Monday before your program orientation. 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 Medellín. Your accommodation is covered by your Program Fee and includes the night before your program orientation.

If you are traveling in Colombia prior to your volunteer program, we can arrange for you to be picked up at a prearranged destination in Medellín on the day before your program orientation.

Orientation is hosted by our Colombia team in Medellín for one day (approximately 8 hours). Orientation begins on the morning of your chosen start date and covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Colombia – an introduction to Colombia, Colombian customs, language training details, rules and expectations, safety, travel opportunities in Colombia, and an 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.

Volunteer schedule example

First Day

You will be escorted to your placement by a local coordinator and introduced to the placement staff you will be working alongside.

Weekdays

During the week, you will have a volunteering shift that runs all day, approximately 6 - 7 hours from 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM, Monday to Friday. If you would prefer to contribute for 3 - 4 hours instead in the morning or afternoon, this can also be arranged in advance.

A typical day working a full volunteering shift of 6 - 7 hours is as follows:

7:00 AM Breakfast at your accommodation or a cafeteria/restaurant nearby.
8:00 AM Leave your accommodation and travel via public transportation to your placement which can take around 30 minutes depending on traffic. Your volunteering placement work begins at 9:00 AM.
12:00 PM Lunch which you will need to purchase yourself from a local restaurant or supermarket close by to your placement
1:00 PM Continue volunteering on your placement until 4:00 PM.
4:00 PM Volunteering work on your placement usually ends. You are free to travel back to your accommodation, go sightseeing or shopping, or head to a local restaurant for dinner.
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM Volunteers usually have dinner around this time. Please remember that you will need to purchase your own dinner from a local restaurant or supermarket.

Weekends

Whether you want to explore or relax on your weekends in Medellín, there’s plenty of opportunity to do both. Stroll through Plaza Botero, packed with sculptures, street performers and artists, El Poblado neighborhood where you could find Parque Lleras with street vendors, artisans, food sellers, musicians and the most famous street in Medellín “Provenza”; or you can visit Jardín Botánico, the botanical gardens, a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city.

You could visit two main tourist attractions such as Pueblito Paisa, which is a replica of a turn-of-the-century town located in the hills of Medellín and offers visitors a chance to experience traditional Antioquian culture. Here, you’ll find cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, a beautiful church, and amazing views of the city, and on the other hand you can visit Parque Arví, which is a very large ecological nature reserve located in Santa Elena, which is a rural area of Medellín.

Take in a museum, the Museo de Arte Moderno, Casa de la Memoria and Museo de Antioquia are fantastic options. Then check out a free walking tour, food tour, or a tour of Comuna 13, Moravia, MacroMural Constelaciones in Manrique or Comuna 8, these neighborhoods are recognized for their incredible social transformation processes; taste-test the city’s fabulous cuisine or sample a brew from Medellín’s blossoming craft-beer industry.

It’s worth noting that Sunday is a religious day of rest, however you could find many stores, shopping malls and restaurants open. Usually Sundays are devoted to spending time with family. If you wish, you can join your host family to do different kinds of recreational activities or explore the city.

On long weekends you may choose to travel around the rest of Colombia and the many towns and cities, volcanoes, jungles, and beaches which are more than worth a visit. Many of these are only a short trip from Medellín.

Accommodation and WiFi

Volunteers are either accommodated in a homestay or a dormitory-style hostel. Volunteers staying for 1 or 2 weeks will be accommodated in a dormitory-style hostel. Those volunteers joining the program for 3 weeks or longer will be accommodated in a homestay. However, if your preference is to stay in a hostel and you are joining the program for 3 weeks or longer, it can be arranged for you to stay in a hostel instead.

Hostel:

For volunteers joining the program for 1 - 2 weeks, you will be accommodated in a dormitory style hostel. You can expect to share a room with up to three other volunteers of the same gender and bedding is provided. Attached to your room will be a western style bathroom with hot water and you will have your own locker to store valuables. Please keep in mind that you will need to bring your own padlock from home for your locker.

Hostel staff members will clean the accommodation throughout the week; however, volunteers are required to keep their bedrooms and bathrooms clean and tidy.

Homestay:

For volunteers joining the program for 3 or more weeks, you will be accommodated in a homestay and hosted by a local family who has been approved by our local team in Colombia. Your host family is given a fee for your support, food and board. It is exciting to stay with a host family, providing you with a unique opportunity to learn about the Colombian way of life, meet local people, try traditional food and speak the local language - especially when host families in Colombia tend to have limited English.

Living is often basic but comfortable and all homestays have electricity, hot water and western style bathrooms. Most homestays can accommodate one volunteer at a time; however, depending on availability, you may have to share a homestay, and bedroom, with one other volunteer of the same gender. For those homestays that can accommodate one volunteer at a time, you will have a double bed. If you are accommodated in a homestay that has capacity for two volunteers at a time, it’s likely you will have a single bed. Bedding is provided by your homestay.

You may be required to share a bathroom with your homestay family, depending on the size of their home.

WiFi is available in all volunteer accommodations, free of charge. If you would like to keep connected during your stay, we recommend bringing an unlocked mobile phone and purchasing a local SIM card when you arrive in Colombia.

Meals

Volunteers are provided with breakfast everyday. Breakfast typically consists of Colombian arepas (arepas are known as corn cakes made out of corn dough or precooked corn flour in a flat circular shape, similar to a pancake), bread, spreads, scrambled egg and cheese, milk, coffee, aromática (a mixture of fresh herbs, fruits, and boiling water), and hot chocolate.

Lunch and dinner is not included in the program and you will need to purchase these yourself. You can expect to budget around $3 - $6 for lunch and slightly more for dinner; however, prices will vary depending on what type of establishment you choose to purchase your lunches and dinners from.

Bottled water is readily available in Colombia and volunteers should budget approximately $8 - $10 per week for two liters of water per day.

If you have any special dietary requirements, please let us know when submitting your application so we can make arrangements for you. As you will be living and volunteering abroad, you should not expect to eat as you normally do at home; however, the local team will do their best to ensure you are well taken care of.

Pricing

  • USD
Duration
Program Fee
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
  • USD
1 week $345 Equivalent to $58/day
2 weeks $586 Equivalent to $49/day
3 weeks $812 Equivalent to $45/day
4 weeks $1,032 Equivalent to $43/day
5 weeks $1,252 Equivalent to $42/day
6 weeks $1,472 Equivalent to $41/day
8 weeks $1,872 Equivalent to $39/day
10 weeks $2,272 Equivalent to $38/day
12 weeks $2,672 Equivalent to $37/day
16 weeks $3,352 Equivalent to $35/day
20 weeks $4,032 Equivalent to $34/day
24 weeks $4,712 Equivalent to $33/day
  • Accommodation
  • Breakfast
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • In-country program orientation
  • Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
  • Airport pick-up
  • Personalized preparation tools, guides and check lists
  • Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
  • Discounts on language lessons
  • Certificate of International Volunteer Service

Learn more about what's included in your IVHQ Registration Fee and Program Fee.

  • All programs attract a Registration Fee of US$329 (approximately $329) in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services.
  • A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • Additional things to budget for include: Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, lunch and dinner, public transport to and from your placement each day and return to the airport when your program finishes.
  • Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Colombia generally find US$200 to be sufficient for weekly expenses, including lunches and dinners, transport and miscellaneous spending.

Free-time experiences & tours in Colombia

Take your volunteer experience to the next level with IVHQ's affordable activity and tour add-ons in Colombia! Explore your options below and learn how to book them once you've been accepted onto the IVHQ Colombia program.

Semi-intensive Spanish Language Lessons
Semi-intensive Spanish Language Lessons

Small group classes with a native-speaking Spanish teacher; Classes average 3-5 students, with maximum of 8 students. Classes are 3 hours; 15 hours per week.

From $228
Spanish Language Lessons
Spanish Language Lessons

Enhance your Spanish language proficiency at an affordable rate with small group classes that run for 2 hours per day, Monday - Friday.

From $159
Semi-intensive Spanish Language Lessons
Semi-intensive Spanish Language Lessons

Small group classes with a native-speaking Spanish teacher; Classes average 3-5 students, with maximum of 8 students. Classes are 3 hours; 15 hours per week.

From $228
Spanish Language Lessons
Spanish Language Lessons

Enhance your Spanish language proficiency at an affordable rate with small group classes that run for 2 hours per day, Monday - Friday.

From $159

Check what's required to visit Colombia

Safety and support with IVHQ

Safety and support

IVHQ follows best practice and industry-leading health and safety procedures, which are regularly reviewed and optimized as part of the B Corporation recertification.

  • All volunteers encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training.
  • All local teams trained on best practice volunteer management & First Aid.
  • All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ's Risk Management Policy.
  • All volunteers have access to 24/7 in-country support from our local team.
Learn more about IVHQ's safety

Essential country information

Capital Bogota
Population 50.3 million
Languages Spanish
Currency Colombian Peso (KES)
Time zone UTC-5:00

Weather and climate

Medellín, nestled in the Aburrá Valley of the Andes mountains, enjoys a temperate climate at an elevation of approximately 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) above sea level. Often referred to as the “City of Eternal Spring,” Medellín boasts mild and consistent weather throughout the year. Daytime temperatures hover around a comfortable 24-28°C (75-82°F), providing a pleasant and spring-like atmosphere. Evenings bring a slight coolness with temperatures ranging from 15-20°C (59-68°F). The city experiences two distinct rainy seasons, from April to June and from September to November, with brief afternoon showers. However, overall, Medellín is characterized by a predominantly dry climate. Volunteers are advised to pack lightweight clothing and a jacket for cooler evenings.

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