Bring Fun and New Skills to Disadvantaged Children and Special Needs Individuals!
Colombia is a fascinatingly diverse country filled with incredibly welcoming people and stunning landscapes, which is rapidly growing more developed. However, there is still great scope for social improvement in many areas, particularly in the provision of care for special needs individuals, as well as stimulating after-school activities for children. We need YOUR help to provide these things so that the new generation of Colombia can reach the heights they aspire to.
This project is part of our Colombia Volunteer Circle, in which you can combine up to five projects located in the same region into one comprehensive program.
€ 499,00 – 2 weeks (min.)
€ 249,00 each week after
CHANGE THE LIVES OF SPECIAL NEEDS AND DISADVANTAGED CHILDREN IN BEAUTIFUL RURAL COLOMBIA!
- Accommodation and three meals a day.
- Pickup and transport from airport.
- Pre-arrival welcome pack.
- Welcome Dinner.
- Complimentary t-shirt.
- 24 hour support.
The modern world, although bringing many benefits in its wake, can also have some drastic negative effects on society. Because it introduces a plethora of new ideas and social attitudes through different forms of media and the movement of people, it can encourage the dissolution of traditional family and social structures. In search of ‘The Dream’, many young people leave their rural villages for the city, which over time results in the breakdown of the community and the local infrastructure and economy.
When young people follow the promises of the modern world and emigrate to big cities in search of more opportunities, better financial prospects, and a higher standard of living, however, things do not always go to plan. A large proportion, unprepared for and uneducated about the harsh realities of modern life, vulnerable to exploitation and sheer bad luck, are losing their dreams to drugs, alcohol, criminal activities, and early pregnancies. By the time this happens, they often have no resources with which to get back to the safety and support of their families, and so on many occasions they continue on a downward spiral.
But it is also common in this region for children to have to face the challenges of the streets on a daily basis even at home, as they are often left outside to fend for themselves whilst their parents are at work or busy because the family cannot afford to pay for childcare. This again leaves them open to exploitation, and does not provide them with the stimulation to pursue a good education and so improve their prospects in life.
Individuals with special needs are also losing out on their dreams of modernity; although there are basic laws in place to protect the living and working rights of physically and mentally disabled people, they are not entitled to public assistance unless they are completely unable to function by themselves. As the majority of disabilities do not prevent a person from being at least partially autonomous, this puts them at a major disadvantage throughout their life, and centers which try to cater for their specific needs, both in terms of care and education – without being incredibly expensive – are fairly few and far between. Most often their families must look after them at home, where it is a daily struggle to fund their specific physical or mental needs and education.
Most young people who are vulnerable to exploitation, criminal activity or substance abuse are only so because of a lack of education and emotional or familial support. Therefore, we need people to provide these two things to give the local children the tools with which to make sensible and informed decisions in their lives.
The youth and special needs center offers extracurricular activities for children, teenagers, and people with special needs. These activities are held after school and allow children to be in a safe environment, utilizing their time in a healthier and more useful way than being out on the streets. The center offers cultural and ludic activities (relating to or involving play), theater training, dance training, sports, IT training, emotional counsel and guidance, help with homework, lectures in social development, education and counsel about and assistance with early pregnancy and contraception, and initiatives and education for the prevention of child abuse, child trafficking, and substance abuse. However, the center is struggling due to a lack of staff, particularly those trained in special needs, and financial support. We need people to help with the general running of the center and/or specialize in working with the special needs attendees.
Short-term plans: Initially, this center just needs some enthusiastic and caring volunteers, who want to spend time with the attendees, encourage their development and support the current staff in their efforts.
Long-term plans: To increase the number of people that can benefit from this project. To teach the young people new skills and support their social development. To teach sign language or similar skills to individuals with special needs in order for them to become independent.
Volunteer duties will vary according to your skill set and knowledge, as well as the specific needs of each attendee. Volunteers with training in or experience of working with special needs individuals are particularly welcome. You can choose to focus on youth activities or special needs support.
Volunteer duties relating to all children:
- Teaching the children musical instruments, dance, art, sports and/or theatre – if you would like to begin some kind of theatre, dance or art project you are very welcome!
- Teaching IT skills.
- Teaching your native language (preference is given to English).
- Using games and play to introduce the children to new concepts or subjects.
- Playing board games or other childhood games and generally entertaining the children.
- Helping the children with their homework.
- Teaching the children about new cultures and ways of life.
- Educating the older children about contraception, safe sex and family planning; substance abuse; and how to prevent and combat verbal or physical abuse.
- Providing psychological care or emotional guidance for all attendees.
- Generally, encouraging all of the children to be independent, to make sensible and informed decisions, to develop their skills and interests, and to be proud of themselves.
Volunteer duties relating to special needs individuals:
- Supporting the special needs staff.
- Giving the special needs attendees new skills which will enable them to be more independent (e.g. sign language, writing and text interpretation skills, speech skills, etc.).
- Providing specialized therapy for the special needs attendees (spacial awareness management, motor skill and auricular therapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy, behavioural therapy, etc.).
- Making visits around the region to identify individuals who need special care.
General volunteer duties:
- Running errands for the center.
- Reporting to your project leader on a daily basis.
- Keeping a diary for NGO Taxi and participating in weekly meetings.
The exact tasks you will be asked to carry out will depend on the current needs and priorities of the project as determined by the project organizer and NGO Taxi management. The tasks stated here are therefore examples of some of the possible types of activities you will be asked to do.
The centre is open between the hours of 8am and 6pm from Monday to Friday, with a lunch break between 12pm and 2pm; your exact timetable can be negotiated with your project organizer, but you will be expected to work for around 6 hours a day.
The center is located in a large town two hours from Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, half an hour from the village where your accommodation is. The town has shops, internet cafes, restaurants, ATMs, and night life.
Buses from the village to the town leave frequently throughout the day and cost around COP $2500 per trip, taking about 30 minutes (not included in the project fee). There are also plenty of taxis (including mototaxis). In all cases the project leader can offer their own transport, a car for a total of five people, for a small fee. There are also very frequent buses to Bogotá, run by a handful of companies, and to several nearby towns and villages.
Accommodation and Food
You will stay in the house of the project organizer. The area is fairly rural but all basic amenities are available. The house is split into two, with the project organizer and their family living in the main house and the volunteers sharing the bungalow (including 2 bathrooms). There is also a garden and outside sitting/dining area. If there are more than 4 volunteers private rooms will not be available.
The internet can be very slow, although if you need to you can take the short bus ride into town to use the internet cafes there.
You will be provided with 3 meals a day from Monday to Friday. On a Saturday you will be given 2 meals (all of these meals are shared with the family). None will be provided on a Sunday. The project organizer is very happy to provide for any special dietary requirements (vegetarians and vegans, celiacs, any allergies or intolerances, etc.) if advised before you arrive. You are welcome to use the kitchen to prepare your own meals, as long as you keep it clean and tidy, or to eat in the restaurants in the village or town. If you choose to eat any meals not provided by the project organizer these will be at your own cost.
In general,all that is required of you is to be enthusiastic, willing, and prepared to learn new skills, displaying a hardworking attitude and respect towards the local community and those you will be living and working with.
Any experience in teaching or working with children would be fantastic! A generally patient attitude and ability to communicate well with children is required. The project would also really appreciate help from anyone with formal training in psychology, play therapy, behavioural or cognitive therapy, Makaton, special needs care and speech or physiotherapy. Volunteers for this project in particular need to have a can-do attitude and a well-developed ability to work autonomously and take the initiative, as, due to the lack of sufficient staff, they will not always be well supported.
Generally, you should be ready to respond to changes and be able to deal with the unexpected for any work or travel in South America. For this program in particular, you should be willing to live and work in areas where the standard of living is much lower than that in the EU or US.
You must have at least a conversational level of Spanish for all of these projects, as few local people speak any more than basic English, if any English at all. However, the project organizer has a very good level of English, having lived in England for several years, and can help you if you have any problems. Having said that, there would be little point in volunteering in another country if you could not communicate with the people you live and work with. Therefore, it is advisable to have at least an intermediate level of Spanish – and we can help you with this! After all, the better the Spanish you speak or learn before you arrive the more you can bring of yourself to the project, the more you can communicate and understand, and the more you will get out of your volunteering experience. In any case, you will be amazed how much Spanish you will learn by simply living and working in another country. We can help you with this! We offer a wide array courses suited to your level, including specialized courses, for as many course weeks as you require. Please see http://ngotaxi.org/language-course/ for more information.
Additional Information and Specials
Length of Stay:
At least one week.
Every Monday (arrive on the Sunday).
It is absolutely necessary that you have current immunizations. This includes, among others: yellow fever (certified), tetanus, typhoid, diphtheria, hepatitis A and B, and rabies. You’ll receive exact information pertaining to immunizations needed in Colombia, as well as your personal preliminary documentation, following your successful application with us.
You can inquire in advance concerning immunization requirements by consulting medical authorities in your country of origin, e.g. in the US, check with the Center for Disease Control and Protection
- Accommodation including bedding.
- Three meals a day.
- Pickup and transport from airport.
- Pre-arrival welcome pack.
- Welcome Dinner.
- FREE NGO Taxi t-shirt.
- 24 hour support.
- Certificate of successful volunteer participation on your project.
- Daily transport to and from your project site.
- Weekend or non-organized activities.
- Snacks and non-mealtime drinks.
- Travel insurance.
- Personal spending.
- Any additional items not listed in the ‘Included Services’ list.
In general, you must bear in mind that you will be representing NGO Taxi to communities and project partners and are therefore required to demonstrate a professional attitude. Lightweight long sleeves and trousers are recommended for the area, as it can get very hot and there are mosquitoes.
Tidy and clean presentation is essential, so please keep your clothes clean, wear your hair up, keep your nails short and unpolished, and remove all piercings and jewellery.
You will need to provide a criminal background check, medical records, proof of travel and medical insurance and any professional certificates or proof of vocational qualifications that you may have.
During this program, you will be in contact with a lot of people. However, you might also be the only volunteer working with local staff at times, so be prepared for variety in the people you will meet and work with.
Free Time Activities
NGO Taxi provides tours in other areas of Colombia, such as the Lost City trek or a trip to Punta Gallinas. Sounds like the thing for you? Then take a look at our page http://ngotaxi.org/tours/ for more information!
And if you want to explore this fascinating and diverse country on your own, may we suggest…
- Joining a graffiti tour in Bogotá, one of South America’s graffiti hotspots, and learning some fascinating facts about this hugely diverse and socially expressive art form (highly recommended!).
- Visiting the underground salt cathedral of Zipaquirá.
- Taking a trip to the beautiful colonial town of Villa de Leyva.
- Experiencing the famous nightlife of Medellín and Bogotá.
- Testing your moves on the dance floor in the Colombian, possibly even South American, capital of salsa: the city of Cali.
- Staying on a coffee finca in La Zona Cafetería.
- Seeing some of the amazing archaeological remains of San Agustin and Tierradentro.
- Hiking in the glorious Tayrona national park.
- Watching the famous Barranquilla carnival.
- Exploring the Caribbean coast, including a day trip to Las Islas Rosarios off the coast of Cartagena.
- Meeting indigenous communities or taking a survival training course in the Amazon.