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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!