Volunteer in Mexico - Merida
At a glance…
- Available year-round
- 5 meaningful projects including Maya Agriculture
- Projects based in Merida on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast
- Accommodation in dormitory-style volunteer house
- Program fees include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, meals and 24/7 in-country support
- Program fees from $270 for 1 week
- Affordable Spanish Language lessons available
- Between 5 and 20 volunteers start in Mexico 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 organization in Mexico to support meaningful community projects and local employment.
- Superior support - your experienced IVHQ Program Manager, teamed with our local team in Mexico 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 travelers who will quickly become your life-long friends.
- Epic weekend adventures - you’ll have your weekends free to explore Mexico with your new-found friends.
The IVHQ Mexico volunteer program has volunteer placements located in Mérida, the capital of the Yucatán state on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast. During your stay on the Maya Agriculture project you will be located around 2.5 hours from Merida, by bus.
Volunteer programs begin on the first and third Monday of every month. Volunteers can choose to volunteer for periods ranging from 1 week to 12 weeks.
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. This program requires volunteers to speak an intermediate level of Spanish. 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-recognized TEFL certification at a discounted rate.
Volunteers are always in high demand to provide support to economically disadvantaged children in Mexico. Volunteers on the Childcare project in Mexico offer support to children in a wide variety of different settings; including a family crèche at children’s therapy centers, day care centers for single mothers, as well as shelters for adolescent children who are victims of domestic abuse. The role of the volunteer is to help these programs animate, educate and support young children and adolescents from many different backgrounds. Day to day tasks may include arranging small group activities, games and arts and crafts to activate the children’s mental development, creativity, and physical coordination. Some placements may also require day to day care of younger children including feeding and nap time. Teaching important values such as responsibility and camaraderie, providing hope and a new insight into different cultures is all part of the project, and the one-on-one time volunteers spend with the children is invaluable to their development. Many of the childcare organisations in Merida lack sufficient resources to provide materials for activities, therefore volunteers must think outside of the box, bringing creativity and flexibility and where possible outside materials, such as games, handcrafts and learning exercises assist with this project. Volunteers on this project must be prepared to travel longer distances to their placement each day.
Special Needs Care
Volunteers with a caring and playful nature will be welcomed with warm arms on our Special Needs Care project in Mexico. Working alongside local staff in a residence for abandoned adolescents and adults with Special Needs, volunteers assist with physical, medical and therapeutic attention. Volunteer’s contribution provides additional support which allows the shelter to provide a safe environment and a dignified life for those in care. Day to day work includes aiding teachers, helping patients with physical therapy and exercise, arts and crafts, and assisting with other occupational activities, as well as daily operations such as preparing food, serving meals and cleaning. Volunteers should come prepared to create activities, play lots of games and give out lots of hugs. Most homes are run by religious orders and volunteer work can also involve assisting with fundraising efforts and general maintenance work. These residential sites are funded solely by donations.
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 organisations 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 organisations is public education and fundraising. These organisations 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.
The Maya Agriculture project provides volunteers with a unique opportunity to work on sustainable farming and reforestation within rural, contemporary Mayan communities. The projects are still in their early developmental stages, therefore volunteers should be prepared to work hard, get dirty and be flexible with the tasks they are assigned. Day-to-day tasks employ a mix of Mayan methodology and newer techniques and work can include maintaining native plant gardens, sowing seeds, producing compost, harvesting and processing produce, building irrigation systems, labelling native plants and trees for educational purposes, cleaning and monitoring wildlife around reservoirs and lakes, plastering rudimentary buildings, excavating cave systems, digging and replanting indigenous plant species. Most of the placement staff are Mayan, however volunteers seeking further interaction within the community may be able to participate in childcare or teaching English. The projects are located remotely, around 2.5 hours from Merida by bus, however all volunteers on this project will be required to arrive into Merida initially. Orientation introduction and training will take place on site during the first week of the volunteer placement. This project is suited to volunteers with a passion to experience a very different, basic lifestyle and who wish to learn more about sustainable farming practices. Volunteers on this project must be prepared for a more basic standard of meals and accommodation - sleeping in hammocks, composting toilets and bucket showers – and no on-site access to WiFi. Volunteers may also be asked to assist in a roster of cleaning and cooking duties. This project is only available from October to March. Please note that the project has a minimum duration requirement of 2 weeks and involves a one-time surcharge of US$65 to cover the training and resources used in this project. This amount will be included in the Program Fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply.
The program orientation begins on the first and third Monday of every month and volunteers need to arrive in Merida on the Sunday before orientation.
After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive into Manuel Crescencio Rejón International Airport (MID) in Merida, where you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and transported to the volunteer accommodation; or if you are arriving into Cancun International Airport (CUN), you will need to take a 4-hour bus from the airport to Merida.
If you chose to arrive into Cancun, the best bus company for traveling to Merida is ADO. You will see a big red and white ADO sign at a kiosk at the exit of the airport. You should purchase your ticket for the next departure for Merida Altabrisa Station, which is close to the volunteer accommodation. Please call or email the local staff to let them know your estimated time of arrival so they can arrange for your pick-up. Your IVHQ Program Manager will provide further guidance in regards to travel options between Cancun and Merida once you have registered for the program.
Your accommodation is covered by your Program Fee and includes the night before your program orientation.
If you are traveling in Mexico prior to your volunteer program, we can arrange for you to be picked up in Merida on the day before your program orientation.
Orientation will be hosted 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.
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.
Volunteers in Mexico are accommodated in a volunteer house, nestled in a quiet neighborhood of Mérida. The dormitory-style volunteer house provides shared rooms and bathrooms, a communal outdoor kitchenette for basic food preparation and access to the yard, patio and swimming pool. You can expect to share a room with up to five other volunteers of the same gender. Living is basic, yet comfortable and the volunteer house has electricity and running water. Volunteers who wish to arrange an accommodation upgrade for more privacy, air conditioning, filtered water and heated showers can do so with the local team after registering for the program. The host families speak Spanish and therefore homestay accommodation is also a great way to practice the local language and experience the local culture first-hand.
The volunteer house in Mérida has WiFi and internet cafes are located within walking distance of the volunteer house. The Maya Agriculture project is based in a more remote location and there is no WiFi available, however volunteers can purchase a local SIM card with data for an unlocked mobile phone during the program orientation in Mérida.
In Mexico, volunteers are provided breakfast and dinner in the volunteer accommodation, with a combination of Mexican and Western food. We recommend budgeting between US$5 and US$10 per day to purchase lunch and upon your arrival, the local staff will provide recommendations on economical places to eat in Mexico. 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. Maya Agriculture volunteers are provided with lunch given the limited availability of restaurants in the rural settings this project is based in. Please be sure to let us know of any specific dietary requirements you have so we can make special arrangements for you.
“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)
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.
See our Mexico Travel and Tours page for more volunteer travel options in Mexico!
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 April through 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). Being prepared for the intense heat during this time frame is essential. The “cold” season lasts from November to 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).
Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate, unless volunteering with a parent or guardian. All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check to IVHQ’s local team on arrival in Mexico.
Fluency in Spanish is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Mexico volunteer program. However the Teaching English project requires volunteers to have at least an Intermediate level of Spanish as volunteer work will otherwise 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.
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.
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. 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