COSTS & FINANCES
1.Why does the YMCA Colombia require an Administration Fee?
The administration fee covers our service through every step of the program. Our service allows us to find the ideal placement and safe housing, offer pre-departure assistance, airport pick-up, welcome packet, local support and follow-up, city tour and orientation, and planning for weekend trips.
We invest in providing an orientation and training to each of our volunteers and place volunteers in schools and institutions that rely on their presence to support the improvement of English language learning outcomes. A program deposit of the administration fee before the second interview, is our way to ensure each volunteer’s commitment to this program and to the schools and institutions.
2.Why is your administration fee so affordable?
As the YMCA Colombia is non-profit, we do not look to profit from the Prints of Hope program. Taking into account the fees candidates are required to cover (flights, insurance, visa, etc.), we want to make sure our administration fee does not hinder the candidate’s budget. We value the hard work and effort that our international staff puts in to our programs and office support, which greatly makes up for the lack of financial profit.
3. Is the living stipend really enough to live on?
Yes, the living stipend is enough to cover basic living expenses: modest rent, food and local transportation costs. Volunteers are advised to arrive to Colombia with an estimate of $600 USD (or equivalent in their local currency) to cover expenses prior to the first stipend payment. We also advise to come financially prepared for expenses that go beyond what the living stipend can cover - weekend travel, student loan payments, emergencies, etc.
4.How much should I budget for this experience?
Volunteers should plan to budget for the following to confirm participation in the Prints of Hope Program:
- $400 - $600 USD administration fee
- International roundtrip travel from/to home country
- V Visa ($222) before arrival and National ID (Est. $60 USD) upon arrival
- International travel insurance (varies)
- Volunteers should also budget discretionary funds to cover initial in-country expenses as the first living stipend is paid at the end of the first month of program participation.
1. Do I need to be able to speak Spanish?
It is not required that participants speak Spanish. Before you arrive we advise you to learn some basic Spanish & useful phrases in order to make the most of your time in Colombia (these can be found in our Welcome Package).
Some YMCA Colombia partners offer Spanish courses to international volunteers (estimated cost: $200-400 USD/course). Volunteers are also encouraged to reach out to YMCA Colombian volunteers for private tutoring (costs vary). There are also Spanish Conversation Clubs offered at no cost.
2. How do I obtain my Criminal Background check?
To participate in the Prints of Hope program, all volunteers are required to provide a criminal background check during the application process. The process for obtaining the background check depends on each individual’s country of residence. We recommend contacting your local police department to enquire what the process is, asking your current employer if they can provide it to you or checking online.
3. Do I need any vaccinations?
You should be up to date on routine vaccinations while traveling to the country, and vaccinations you require will depend on the parts of the country you plan on traveling to.
According to the CDC, those traveling to Colombia should make sure they are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. Although not required, most travelers may consider getting the Hepatitis A and/or Typhoid vaccinations.
Those planning on traveling to remote lowland areas including the Pacific, Los Llanos and the Amazon should consider taking anti-malarial medication. The Yellow Fever vaccination is REQUIRED for traveling to the Amazon.
4. How will the YMCA Colombia decide my placement?
We work together with our in-country partners to identify schools and universities that meet program criteria and express interest in participating in this program. During the interview process, candidates are asked about their placement preferences. We do our best to accommodate preferences, however, we cannot guarantee that volunteers will be placed where requested. Ultimately, volunteers are placed where there is a need or if they have the profile an institution is requesting. Those who are flexible will have a better chance of securing a spot.
5. Am I able to extend my stay in Colombia?
The YMCA Colombia is eager to consider outstanding volunteers for program extensions. If the volunteer is eligible to extend to longer than a year, they are required to switch to a different placement. In some cases, for volunteer eligible to extend over their 5-month program, they may be required to switch their placement. Returners are provided with a Housing Bonus for their vacation month between semesters. Volunteers who wish to extend should speak with their program staff.
6. If I am not a Native speaker, what proof of English fluency is required when applying?
We accept certificates proving English proficiency at a C1 level or higher from any accredited institution (IELTS, TOEFL, Cambridge, etc.).
7. Do I need a specific type of degree for this program?
You do not need a specific degree for this program, however, applicants with a degree in education, speech pathology, social work, psychology, public health, international relations, and related fields, or who have previous camp experience are preferred.
SAFETY & SECURITY
1.Is Colombia safe?
Colombia has completely transformed over the last decade, and safety has vastly improved with the Government on the brink of signing an historic Peace Agreement. Security in Colombia has improved significantly and while violence continues to affect some rural and urban areas, most of the country is safe for travel. Volunteer are required to live in safe neighborhoods and are encouraged to exercise the usual caution they would when traveling anywhere new and to consult their on-site supervisor for recommendations, best practices and areas to avoid. The YMCA staff constantly monitors the security situation in all parts of the country. Volunteer safety is our top priority and we take measures to prepare volunteers to navigate their new context comfortably.Like in any foreign country, common sense applies. If basic precautions are maintained like not exhibiting too much luxury clothing, jewelry, watches, or expensive cameras, you will live an unforgettable experience in Colombia.
2.What do I do in case of emergency?
Upon your arrival in Colombia you will be assisted in purchasing a mobile phone and/or SIM card, if necessary, which you can use to contact a member of our team in case of an emergency or for general support & advice.
For health emergencies, we ask participants to call their international health insurance provider before arrival, to get a list of local clinics and hospitals in their placement city that accept their insurance.
3.What happens if there is an emergency in my home country and I have to leave?
We understand that emergencies can happen unexpectedly and respect the decision for a participant to return to their home country due to such circumstances.
The volunteer will be responsible for closing their program at their placement and completing whatever necessary steps are required to cancel their housing agreement (can vary between housing placements). Once the volunteer return to their country, their V Visa will be cancelled.
If the volunteer requires only a temporary leave, the YMCA Colombia can allow for up to (one week) absence.
Over the years Colombia has become a nation reborn on the path to peace and prosperity. The country's new image has led to a rise in tourism & Colombia is now one of Latin America’s most sought after tourist destinations, especially considering it is the second most bio-diverse country on the planet
From snow-capped mountains in Tolima to the far and wide plains of Los Llanos, from the seven types of blue in Caribbean Sea to the breathtaking beaches on both the Pacific coast; with diverse wildlife, beautiful plants, exotic fruits, colonial villages, castles, and 19 Natural National Parks - there is much to see and experience in this country full of magical realism.
2.What is a normal day/week like in the program?
If placed at a primary/secondary school, the participants will likely have 3 days during the week spent at their placement and 2 - 3 days spent in volunteer activities. During off-peak seasons, most volunteer activities are likely to be supporting the national office, conversation clubs at partner school/universities and/or developing/implementing PeaceMakers programs at partner schools, and in some cases, volunteering in YMCA social programs depending on the city they are placed in. During peak seasons (between 1 - 2 months duration) volunteer activities will include participation in English Immersion programs and camps.
3. Why the focus on English language?
- Increase cultural understanding
- As English is one of the languages most in demand, students learning it will have a wider range of personal and professional opportunities
- Through English, you can teach lifelong skills, good academic and personal habits, discipline and critical thinking
- Take the fear out of learning by guiding students out of their comfort zone through a variety of fun, dynamic and innovative activities
- Create motivation through sharing cultural knowledge and experiences
- Learn how to manage groups and teach as a leader
4.Why the Micro-Immersion model?
A micro-immersion offers an artificial context in which second language learners have direct contact with peers or Cultural Ambassadors who speak the target language for an extended period of time. Through micro-immersion activities, learners are put in situations that require their active participation to practice the language.
5.Why the Co-Teaching Model?
Co-teaching pairs teachers with a Cultural Ambassador in a classroom to share the responsibilities of planning, teaching, and assessing students.Through co-teaching, Cultural Ambassadors work in collaboration with the teacher to implement various teaching techniques in the classroom.
6. What populations does the YMCA Colombia serve?
The national office of YMCA Colombia partners with educational institutions ranging from independent and private schools to public and private universities and local secretaries of education. We provide diverse programs in Colombia linked through the YMCA network.
Local YMCAs are located in 9 departments throughout Colombia and offer various social programs in vulnerable communities. Participants will have the opportunity to volunteer in these programs, in the city of their choice, during their final month.
7.How much time will I be able to travel?
Colombia celebrates many holidays, some of which fall on Mondays. In the case of 3-day weekends, if there are no English Immersion programs/camps scheduled, these are great times to travel. In some cases, participants will have time to travel the weekend before classes start. There will also be plenty of time to travel after completing the semester at their placement, in which participants will be invited to volunteer at a YMCA in another city/department. There will also be a Cultural Camping Trip organized for the team during the start of the program for participants interested in going.
8.Will I be able to learn Spanish during my program?
There will be plenty of opportunities to practice Spanish with YMCA staff, however, as some staff members are bilingual, it is up to the participant to challenge themselves to practice. In some cases, volunteers may be placed with a Colombian host family who they can practice with. Partner educational institutions also offer Spanish classes (additional cost) and/or conversation clubs (free) for international volunteers.
1.When am I expected to arrive?
Volunteers accepted for the January start date are expected to arrive no later than January 17th. Volunteers accepted for the July start date are expected to arrive within the first two weeks of July; the exact date will depend on the start date of the semester.
2.What can I expect during on-site orientation?
Orientation takes place during two weeks in Bogotá in which we cover topics related to: YMCA Colombia History and Mission, Experiential Education, Integrated Education, Teaching English in Non-Conventional Spaces, Safety and Security, the Colombian Cultural context, your placement, and the goals of your program and role. You will also meet YMCA Colombia staff and local volunteers, obtain your Colombian identification card, purchase a local cell phone and/or SIM card if necessary, and prepare for your successful entry into your host city and school or university. Orientation is fun, exhausting, and will leave you feeling excited to get started.