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2011 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Amigos De Las Americas

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Children & Youth, Health, International, International Academic Exchange, International Development, Public Health, Youth Development

Mission: Amigos de las Americas is an international, voluntary, nongovernmental, not-for-profit organization that trains high school and college age students for a summer of service in Latin America. After training with a local chapter or through the correspondence program, AMIGOS volunteers live in Latin American communities in small teams and promote basic health and environmental education. Among the services provided are: construction of latrines and wood-burning stoves; dental hygiene; health promotion; and reforestation. Services are provided in partnership with a local host agency and are designed to meet the needs of a particular country or region. Volunteers gain leadership skills, self-confidence, language skills, and awareness of other cultures, while making a positive difference in the lives of impoverished communities. In 1998, AMIGOS had 12 summer projects in Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Brazil, and Paraguay.

Programs: Our programs for high school students create a unique opportunity for young people to take on real-world challenges and build responsibility. Program participants work with other us students and latin american peers to design and lead community projects related to areas such as: public health, children's rights, and environmental sustainability. This includes 632 participants from our chapter network, our national office network, and our federal grant partnerships traveling to/from latin america during 2014.

our programs for gap year create a unique opportunity for young people to take on real-world challenges and build responsibility during a transformational year of full-time international service. Program participants work with other us students and latin american peers to design and lead community projects related to areas such as: public health, children's rights, and environmental sustainability. This includes 6 gap participants in nicaragua for 2014.

Community Stories

46 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Board Member

Rating: 5

My daughter received over 200 hours of training prior to going in country (2014). She was more than prepared and as a parent I felt extremely confident in this organization to provide a safe and illuminating experience. If she had done something like this on her own, at 16 years of age, without proper guidance and training, I wonder if she would have even returned for lack of preparation.

Because of this training and the immense preparation, she is now contributing as a leader training new participants, and contributing to the overall growth and continued excellence of our local chapter.

Shawn
Parent & Board Member

Client Served

Rating: 1

I was enormously disappointed with the program because Amigos required me to do my own fundraising in addition to paying over $6,300 to participate That's an outrageous amount of money, especially considering that the cost of living is so low there. I could have spent the same amount of money and stayed for 6 months, not 6 weeks, if I did the trip on my own. Volunteers relentlessly made their pitches at my school to convince kids to participate as well as urge their parents and relatives to donate money to their company. I was given the impression I'd get financial aid but I got nothing - like I said, I was responsible for fundraising and using social media to draw more people in. There are better ways to experience another culture and perform community service than to go through Amigos. They claim that they'll increase your confidence through their programs, but if you think about it, you already have to be pretty confident to be willing to travel abroad to a rural community abroad. Overpriced. Underwhelming. Look elsewhere.

2 Vanessa16

Volunteer

Rating: 5

In 2010, at age sixteen, I served as a volunteer for Amigos de las Americas (AMIGOS) in Azuero, Panama. To say that my volunteer experience in Panama was transformational is an understatement. Words cannot truly depict the complete metamorphosis I underwent during that summer. I became more self confident, improved my public speaking abilities (in both English and Spanish), discovered new passions, and created lifelong friendships and relationships across the Americas. I returned to the United States as a mature young woman with a greater perspective on the world and increased empathy for those living in poverty. This past summer I returned to AMIGOS as a project supervisor in Perez Zeledon, Costa Rica. My time serving on project staff was again a truly transformational. The level of responsibility I was given as a project supervisor allowed me to grow in ways that other non profits and other jobs would never have let me. The high level of collaboration between AMIGOS and our local partner agencies is unparalleled with other non profit agencies of the Global North. Through engaging in real, authentic partnerships AMIGOS is empowering youth from across the Americas to be catalysts for positive social change in their own communities.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I went to Ecuador with Amigos for the first time as a 16-year old for one month. It was the most influential experience of my young adult life. I have been back to Ecuador twice to visit my host family and perform research for my honors thesis in college. I have also once hosted my host sister in my home in Houston.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Becoming a volunteer with Amigos de las Americas was the very best choice I have ever made for myself. My six weeks spent in a rural community called San Isidro in Paraguay changed the way I see myself and my place in the world. AMIGOS does way more than train and send volunteers to work on a community project. AMIGOS inspires life-long leadership, creates an appreciation for all cultures and makes you realize just how much one person can do. I think of my time in San Isidro every single day. I learned a countless number of things this summer and I now know that all I want to do with my life is make an impact and continue learning. If I had one wish, it would be that every single person could be a volunteer with AMIGOS. AMIGOS teaches you things that you could never learn anywhere else. I feel so much pride when I say that I was a volunteer with Amigos de las Americas.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My experience with amigos changed my life. I spent a year training, two months in Barahona, Dominican Republic, and then another year training others.
It is different from any organization in that it implements skills to achieve cultural sensitivity and global citizenship that one carries with them throughout their lives. The consistent mindset of support rather than help and collaboration rather than implementation is what truly sets it apart and empowers youth leaders.

Volunteer

Rating: 4

Amigos de las Americas is an amazing organization. It can greatly benefit everyone involved.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My experience as an AMIGOS volunteer is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I spent 6 weeks in a rural community in Paraguay with two other volunteers. I lived with the most caring host family and worked with the community to build stoves that improved the safety and health of families. I learned that I can connect with anyone, anywhere and I am always going to continue working with this organization.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered with Amigos when I was 16 years old. I was placed in a tiny town called La Carroza in Guanajuato, Mexico. When I look back on my time as a volunteer I wonder how I was able to do what I did at such a young age. Then I remember it wasn't just me doing it. With the help of my partner, the Amigos staff, my host family, and the citizens of La Carroza we were able to make what was hopefully a long-lasting change. We petitioned the local government for a trash pick-up service to come once a week, helping a town that previously burned or buried their trash. We got durable trash cans which we painted and decorated with local students, who were simultaneously learning about personal and environmental health. Even now when I am faced with a challenge, I look back at my time as a volunteer and think "If I could do that, I can do this." It is so much more than a service trip, it's an organization that builds bridges that change lives on both sides.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered for 8 weeks in a small community in Paraguay in 2011. I had just finished my sophomore year in high school. No other program offered an opportunity to be as independent in a foreign country and truly get to know the culture without being surrounded by fellow Americans. I loved my time, the people I worked with (both Amigos employees/other volunteers and community members). I built 16 latrines, ran camps for the kids everyday lasting 2-8 hours, fundraised money in the community to buy 3 community trash cans, picked up trash and worked on a photography initiative run by one of the leaders. I had such an amazing time, that I became a trainer the following 2 years helping more students prepare for their amazing adventures. I just moved away and am missing this part of my life so much that I'm looking to get involved with AMIGOS across the country from where I'm from.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Hi! I'm Meg Radunich, and my times as a volunteer with AMIGOS de las AMERICAS was one of the most valuable experiences I had as a young person.

I went as a 17 year-old -- most volunteers are in high school or college -- and found my 8 weeks in Guanajuato to be both challenging and rewarding.

Why you should do AMIGOS!

1. Life-Long Friendships: I still keep in touch with my fellow vols and site supervisors. You also make friends with other local volunteers in your chapter. Even if you are assigned to different countries, they are an invaluable support when you return and you miss being in the field, speaking Spanish, feel like no one 'gets' you, and you miss being an amigo :)

2. The fundraising is do-able: The program really helps you sell the walnuts and grapefruit to fund the trip. Also, you'll be surprised by how much people want to help make this trip possible for you! People are very generous with donations. The fundraising was not as hard as I thought it would be.

3. You LEARN SPANISH: Seriously. You learn to survive. My host family was extremely patient and supportive as I picked up the language throughout the summer. By the end I was completely conversant, making it that much easier to foster real, lasting relationships with the locals in my community.

4. Volunteers get A LOT of flexibility and power over projects/project management: It's one of the only programs who really lets volunteers (ages 16 - college) really take ownership of their experience. If you want to teach a class at the local school, you can do that. If you want to organize a health seminar for the community, you can do that. The program seeks to empower young people, and that is not just lip service.

5. Self-discovery, personal challenge: AMIGOS taught me life-long skills. You find a deeper sense identity, as a citizen of the United States and your place in the world at large. I learned the value of serving and learning from others who are different than I am. My time as an AMIGOS vol helped me better understand my worldview and set me up personally and professionally for future opportunities.

Bottom Line: I recommend AMIGOS to any young person interested in personal growth and lifelong friends. I look back on that time and cherish all of the great conversation with my host family and all the rich, rich cultural experiences had!

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I started out as a vlounteer in the Amazon giving vaccinations in a small village at the age of 17. It was such an inspiring,transforming adventure I was able to join field staff & worked the next 3 summers in Colombia,Honduras&Guatemala facilitating volunteers in villages running vaccination clinics & working in community development. These amazing experiences changed my life & developed strong skills of self-reliance,leadership & figuring out a way to get the job done despite all obstacles that make things seem impossible.I have watched Amigos develop & transform its mission over the last 40 years,expanding its reach to many more countries,a greater variety of missions & espe cially the inclusion of youth volunteers in each country served.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was a volunteer with this program in 05. Now I am a trainer, helping high school students prepare for their amazing summers to come. I feel very connected to Amigos and it was the event in my life that led me to becoming a Spanish teacher.

Previous Stories
1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Amigos was the best experience of my life. It brought me closer to my family and friends at home as I volunteered abroad. I came home with so much love and gratitude for my life and for the people who I met in Honduras. When I left my town, I truly felt that a piece of me was being taken away and saved in the hearts of my 120 person village. This was the most meaningful summer that I could have imagined. Now that I have graduated from college, I am not only still connected to the people I met and my dedication to service, but I have become a Spanish teacher so that I can teach what I learned to others while speaking in Spanish, one of the highlights and challenges of my adventures in Honduras.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was an Amigos vol in Nicaragua in 2011. It changed my life, in so many ways. There is no other organization that puts so much faith in youth with the secure knowledge that when given responsibilities, young people will meet the challenge and then some. I learned so much about the world, about people, about myself. To be involved in Amigos in a beautiful, incredible experience and one that stays with you forever. I'm going to be a trainer this year and a project supervisor in the future; I absolutely cannot wait for what Amigos has in store for me in the future.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a woman in my 30s, I always feel a little ridiculous saying that one of my most life-changing experiences happened when I was 16 years old. But Amigos still is and probably always will be one experience that grew me and stretched me in ways I did not think possible. I was able to practice leadership skills and I developed my cultural awareness and sensitivity. I am now in local non profit and believe that Amigos is largely responsible for preparing me for my career.

Todd23

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Probably the greatest experience in my life!!! Fun, challenging, exhausting, and absolutely addictive. Where else can you live in a rural community in Latin America with the responsibility to work side-by-side with other young people, hold summer camps in Spanish, and organize a community towards a common goal???

One of the true Youth Development organizations that lives up to its potential.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered with AMIGOS in Guanajuato, Mexico in 2007 and fell in love with the program even before working in country. Not only is the year-long training for Chapter volunteers excellent and more than adequate to prepare volunteers for a summer of hard work, putting yourself in a myriad of different and sometimes challenging positions, and learning to embrace an entirely new culture, but the AMIGOS training in country also prepares volunteers for exactly what kinds of situations they will be facing in the communities in which they work. It is an eye-opening experience for both the youth volunteers and the members of the communities. I am so grateful to have participated in this program and to have met a whole new family that I can call my own.

In order to give back to this program, I participated as a Project Supervisor in 2011 and feel just as appreciative of this past summer as the one I spent as a volunteer. Though challenging in different aspects, I was delighted to see just how inspiring the program continues to be and how much growth was seen on the part of the youth volunteers, youth from the communities in which we were working, and among staff members as well.

AMIGOS is a program that challenges one physically, mentally and emotionally, but is one that prepares the volunteers for any situation that arises, offers adequate support for the volunteers, and also allows for the youth volunteers to rise above any struggle.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered in Panama in 2009 and in Nicaragua in 2010. Amigos improved my Spanish abilities, and made me more confident as a leader and as a person. I met so many amazing people and it was an amazing experience.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Amigos taught me leadership, compassion and understanding. As a 17-year-old working in rural Nicaragua, it was a life-changing, and life-enhancing summer experience. Over the years, I stayed with Amigos as a volunteer, field staff member and board member.

Rachel2345

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Amigos de las Americas is an amazing organization. The summers I spent as a volunteer with Amigos were some of the best times of my life for sure, and helped inspire me to study abroad my junior year of college in Spain, to major in Spanish and International Relations, and to seek out other oppportunities for foreign travel and to help others.

I spent the summer of 1984 as an Amigos volunteer in Paraguay living with a young family in a rural town. We were giving immunizations against Yellow Fever and Measles (we practiced on oranges and paper bags at our weekly Amigos meetings to get good at it). People would line up every day at the house where I was staying asking me to help with their illnesses and maladies. At 16 there wasn't much I could do but I was able to help one boy who had his arm in a sling and having read the book 'where there is no doctor', I knew his arm needed to be elevated so I retied the sling. We were able to mix up some drinks to help with dehydration issues they had. Then we had brought balloons (and practiced beforehand) to make balloon animals-the kids in town had never seen balloon and loved it. So fun!

The summer of 1985 I was an Amigos volunteer in Guanajuato, Mexico building latrines. They did not have any bathrooms prior to this and illness was a reality based on this. Most of the men did not want women doing the actual labor as that is the culture, so I did alot of explaining and supervising while men in town constructed. We knew how to make a cement base and build the whole latrine based on practice back home. We would walk an hour each week to go wash our clothes in a stream and rinse off. It was funny because the donkeys would go to the bathroom upstream while we were doing this which of course defeated some of the purpose as it flowed into our washing water :). It was so hot that by the time we walked home we were all sweaty and dirty again! The most exciting moment was when I returned to my first town at the end of my summer and the town was so proud to show me how they had completed other latrines and had even found some blue paint somewhere to give some color! They sent me home with some homemade tamales (one of my favorites dishes to this day) put in a big olla (pot) we carried water in. This program introduced me to what would become some of my best friends and gave high school kids an opportunity to step foot outside of our privileged lives and see another side of the world and to make a difference. Amigos is truly one of the best organizations of all times and I cherish the memories! May the good work continue forever!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

During my AMIGOS experience I learned so much about myself, as well as the world. I learned that I can do anything and be anyone I want to be as well as how big the world is, yet how small it can seem. It changed my life for the better and I will never forget all the amazing people I met through my experience with Amigos de las Americas.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I will never forget the things that Amigos de las Americas taught me. I was a volunteer this summer in The Dominican Republic and I continue to talk to my host family daily and plan to visit them this summer. There is no other program like AMIGOS, no program that challenges you and teaches you so much about the world and about yourself. I learned so much about myself and what I am capable of while in The DR. Amigos is a great organization!

Kevin234

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I served as a volunteer in Limon, Costa Rica, in the summer of 2010, just before my senior year of high school. My partner, Travis, and I lived in the home of Benita, our host mother, and we worked closely with her daughter, Jane, on community projects that included trash pick-up and recycling, along with fundraisers to support our main project: building a playground at the school. I can't think of a single better way I could have spent those six weeks.

Tricia W.

Donor

Rating: 5

Where else can a teen learn leadership, independence, responsibility, expand cultural awareness in a way that will change their life and those around them. My daughter participated in Amigos during the Summer of 2011 in Honduras and her trip was amazing. It was not all rosy, but that is part of the growth. The relationships built are lifelong. This experience definitely will direct her future decisions. The time frame is balanced for the age. It provides a true immersion in the language and culture, not just a week long retreat/mission. They experience some politics and have to cope with varied situations. The support structure is also balanced in that it provides time for the youth to experience different levels of success and failure in a very, very safe environment. The life lessons are priceless.

Patricia2345

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was a volunteer with AMIGOS in 2004 in Paraguay and it honestly changed my life. Going from living in a privileged community in the US to a tiny Paraguayan village and the contentment amidst hardships that I saw there not only made me want to be more involved with AMIGOS (and I was a supervisor and later an APD and would still love to work for them if our paths cross again some day) but also inspired me to travel around the world, work for non-profit organizations, and become a responsible and socially conscious adult. I will definitely send my children on AMIGOS!

Melissa2345

Volunteer

Rating: 5

In 2009 I spent six wonderful weeks in Honduras through Amigos and then last year, I returned to Latin America with the same program, this time to Panama. This experience has taught me so much about who I am as a person and what I can accomplish. I have met some of my closest friends through Amigos and have basically built up a second (and third!) family during my experiences, ones which I know I can always fall back on. I feel that Amigos is a unique organization in its ability to provide independent leadership opportunities to both American and Latin American youth as well as in its success in empowering communities to make great strides in environmental welfare, youth leadership, community organization, outlets of creative expression, and overall community public health. There is no program quite like Amigos de las Americas.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I was a volunteer in '75 and my daughter has volunteered the past 2 summers. After her first summer, in a rural nicaraguan community, she came back much more empowered and with a much better idea of what she wanted for her life "To be useful and connected to other people". The community benefitted from the cultural exchange, lessons for kids on health and the environment, and a kitchen and community garden for their school. After her second summer, in a more urban community in Oaxaca Mexico, she is glowing with enthusiasm and energy. She got to play an instrumental role in facilitating the development of a community gym which among other things will offer kung fu lessons to reach young people and give them something meaningful to do instead of drinking and drugs.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Amigos changed my son's life. He volunteered in every capacity that Amigos offered. He became a trainer for the local Amigos grooup. His Spanish skills are exemplary. NOw he works in a job that is similar to Amigos and travels often to Latin/South America.
I became a parent who trusted her child's instincts adn good judgement even tho he was far away. I have watched him grow into the wonderful, kind adult he is today.

Petron G.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

What an amazing experience! Totally opened my eyes to a way of life that I would have never been able to experience otherwise. I was in Rodeito/Manguito, Lempira, Honduras with 2 partners in the mountains. There, we organized and taught classes for various age groups about hygiene, disease, nutrition, english and the like. I really felt that this program was significantly more sincere and influential than say, a church trip building homes for people, as you really become a PART of the community. People know you by name and will constantly invite you in for food, tea or a friendly conversation. I was there for 7-8 weeks and I have endlessly benefited from it. All and all, Amigos is a fantastic program which I would recommend to anyone who is willing to get a little dirty, come out of their shell and experience something truly foreign and new.

Elizabeth2345

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Two of my children have spent multiple summers volunteering with Amigos. It has been a life changing experience for both. They have developed cultural awareness and sensitivity. Their Spanish skills have improved. They have a different appreciation and perspective on life. Because of the projects and group activities that they participated in they see that their work can yield meaningful and lasting differences in the lives of others. Lastly, they have formed bonds with people from other countries and the US that are unlike friendships they have experienced in their day to day life in our home town. My children both maintain many of their Amigos friendships.

Lucia23

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered with Amigos in the DR in 2009 and Oaxaca in 2010. I worked on my chapter training staff in 2010 and 2011, preparing Amigos for their summer as volunteers. Amigos does an amazing job of building communities both in Latin America through their project initiatives, and the United States through chapter training. Throughout training and the summer, I've found some of my best friends-- people who understand where I'm coming from and share the same passions. But one of the most important things that Amigos gives young people is independence-- the independence to be somewhere completely new and the independence to try, make mistakes, fail, succeed, laugh, and learn.

Amigos made me realize that there's far more to learning than a school classroom. I'm going on into a gap year between high school and college. Amigos probably influenced my decision not to go straight to school in the first place. In the first part, I'm taking an outdoors course that focuses on leadership training. In the second part, I'm looking into community-building volunteer work in Brazil. I plan to study public health in college. I have Amigos to thank for that.

Board Member

Rating: 5

In 1995 I spent the summer before my Senior year in El Oro, Ecuador. It opened my eyes to how fortunate I am to be growing up and living in the United States. I learned about indepdence, decision making, the world and that there is much i can learn from other Cultures.

I have now been on the Board of Directors in the Seattle area for 4 years. I find it exteremly rewarding to see young people transformed by sharing a summer aboard with another family, in another culture doing things they never thought they would do.

Corinne D.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

AMIGOS changed my life. I served in Paraguay (vol), Costa Rica (route leader), and Mexico (PD), and the experience I gained has been invaluable to my career and professional and personal relationships. AMIGOS trusts youth and gives them the skills and opportunities to demonstrate their responsibility and ability to grow. AMIGOS is a well-run, responsive, and efficient non-profit organization.

Josh23

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was a volunteer with Amigos for the first time in 1992, 1993, and 1994 while in high school. After college, I got involved again at the Board level in the New York City and Boston Chapters. AMIGOS has had a major guiding influence in my life, from majoring in Spanish and secondary education in college, to serving in Peace Corps for three years, to working in the public sector as a career. It is an excellent opportunity for students and I highly encourage people to take a look and consider participating in the field or working with a Chapter!

Cindy G.

Donor

Rating: 5

My daugher has spent 3 summers with Amigos de Las Americas. Two as a vol in communities and 1 as a route supervisor. The training she initially received in order to go out into a community followed by learning how to work with an unknown group has served her so well in many areas of her life. She has matured beyond any expectation I could have had for a then 16 year old. She has made lifetime friends, learned and come to love a different culture and has expanded her family. Oh and is now fleunt in a second language. Amigos has been an exceptional growning opurtunity for her.

I wish all students would consider this type of volunteer project. It is such a remarkable chance to learn and grow.