Guias Unidos is thinking ahead. We're looking into grants, which require planning our program's future. One of our ideas when starting out was to invite people from the ecotourism industry who have a few months on their hands, such as fellow seasonal National Park rangers, to come work with us. What we would like to know right now is, would anyone come?
What volunteers would be doing:
At the moment, our work is focused on giving workshops and leading informal training hikes to augment the skills of local guides, and Spanish/English language exchange. As our organization grows, we're looking into several possible projects:
- establishing a full certification course for ecotourism guides with requirments for continuing certification; initially to be administered and majority taught by Guias Unidos, but ultimately to be turned over to local professionals to teach and administer
- collaborating with a new English-language after-school program for children to introduce environmental education topics into the curriculum
- working with an established after-school program for children at risk to teach environmental education topics
- helping with the conversion of a boarding house for Nicaraguan children into a hostel for international volunteers, with minor renovations and improvements of the building and the grounds
Who we're looking for:
- Self-starters who have a specialized skill or two.
- Spanish language skills are a must. If you don't yet speak Spanish or need to improve, plan on coming for an extra few months to take intensive classes first.
- People with a respect for other cultures, and a desire to live and work with Nicaraguans.
- Previous travel experience is a plus.
We are especially interested in the following skills:
- Wilderness first aid/responder certifications; better yet, instructor certification
- Kayak safety trainers (in the future - kayaks are hard to come by here, but the guide organization is working on it)
- Trail crew leaders or trail designers
- Interpretation mentors and trainers
- Ecotourism professionals from private industry
Other skills we can use:
- Science interpreters with specialties in tropical botany, birds, geology, or archaeology
- English as a second language teachers
- Trail maintenance
- Minor building remodeling and landscaping
We are expecting volunteers to dedicate several months to our program. Six months would be a good amount of time to get to know the area and to be able to use your skills to the fullest. We are flexible, however - the more desireable your skill set, the more we're willing to consider shorter stays. A person who is fluent in Spanish and a wilderness first responder instructor could drop by for a week if they're willing to give a course to local guides during that time. Those who come not fluent in Spanish and with basic interpretation skills would be expected to stay for many months so they can improve their language skills and still have time to share their skills with the guides.
Volunteering in countries like Nicaragua usually comes with paying your own way. Living here is relatively cheap compared to the US, but income is correspondingly low - paying your own way allows for our organization's funds to be used directly for projects in the community.
We estimate a budget of $300-$500 per person per month, depending on your choice of food and living arrangements. That includes food, place to stay (on the farm where we stay, renting a house in town, or living with a host family), incidentals like in-country travel and medicine, travel insurance, an occasional meal in a restaurant, etc. Flight prices vary widely, but $500 would be a solid estimate. Administrative fees will be about $500 (flat fee, no matter how long you stay). If you want to take Spanish lessons, they are generally $10/hour, and for full effect, 4 hours a day is the usual amount.
So, a three-month stay would cost approximately $2000-2500, and a six-month stay would be $3000-4000.
Our question for you: would you come and work with us? If this is something you would seriously consider in the next few years, please let us know so we can have an estimate to put into our grant proposals. Email us at guiasunidosnicaragua at gmail dot com, facebook message us, or send us a smoke signal - whatever works!