COVID-19 Information

Find out more about what we're doing to make AMIGOS programs safe, our polices and requirements related to COVID-19, and new programs we're developing.

For over 55 years, AMIGOS has been the industry leader in cross-cultural exchange, leadership development, and community service. We believe in a world where all people are lifelong leaders sharing responsibility for our global community.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have spoken with families, young people, and AMIGOS constituents. And we have consulted medical experts and sources, including our Medical Director and contacts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Our first priority remains the health and safety of our volunteers, host families and communities, staff, and chapter network.

This year, volunteers will be given much-needed time to explore their passions, learn and practice Spanish, and unplug from technology, all while they live, work, and learn together. They will learn invaluable life skills as they are assigned rotating roles and responsibilities where they will learn how to cook, co-facilitate activities, lead daily guided reflections, and much more!

AMIGOS volunteers will tackle global problems such as environmental sustainability, diversity, inclusion, conservation efforts, and more while partnering with local organizations and grassroots efforts.

AMIGOS is here for you and your family, so please feel free to reach out at any time with any questions or concerns.

Have questions? Click here to schedule a call!

 

COVID-19 Protocols for Summer 2022

We continue to carefully monitor the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. AMIGOS policies and procedures are updated routinely in consideration of the most current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and local ministries of health. All policies are reviewed by our AMIGOS Medical Director.  Please see the answers to the frequently asked questions below for more details.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the COVID-19 vaccination policy?

AMIGOS requires all volunteers and staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. We expect the definition of “fully vaccinated” to continue to evolve throughout the spring. At present, for those residing in the United States, fully vaccinated is defined as having received a two dose series of either the Pfizer or Modern mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. Recently, the FDA approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster for young people aged 12+ at five months after completing their first two-dose series. This expansion now allows for all AMIGOS volunteers to receive extra protection against COVID-19. The health and safety of our volunteers, staff, and communities is our number one priority and as such, we are now requiring that AMIGOS volunteers and staff receive whatever booster(s) are available as soon as eligible to provide extra immunity and protection against COVID-19.

Please send a copy of your COVID-19 vaccination card to [email protected] within 30 days of travel. If you have any questions about this policy, please contact [email protected].

Will I need any additional vaccinations?

In addition to our immunization schedule, AMIGOS is requiring that all volunteers have the flu vaccination. Many symptoms of the flu mimic COVID-19 and given the close contact among volunteers, we want to be diligent to avoid any contagious illnesses. Volunteers will receive a list of required immunizations included in their welcome packet.

If AMIGOS cancels a program, will we get our deposit and/or program fee refunded?

Yes. If we cancel a program, you may transfer your enrollment to another AMIGOS program or receive a refund of your deposit and your program fee. Your refund will include everything minus the $50 application fee and fixed costs associated with the canceled program.

What if I decide after enrolling that I don't want to participate in AMIGOS because of the COVID-19 pandemic?

We understand that many factors are considered when you choose AMIGOS, and that circumstances may require you to cancel your participation in AMIGOS. Our $425 program deposit is fully refundable if requested within 30 days of payment. Additionally, partial refunds are available for payments made towards the program fee. The amount of the refund is calculated based on administrative and fixed costs incurred through the date of cancellation. If you are unable to join AMIGOS due to a documented health concern, you can also choose to hold over funds for use in the next program year. The complete finance policy can be found in the Welcome Packet which was sent via email upon acceptance. Local chapter volunteers should reach out to their chapter for the specifics of their financial agreement.

How is AMIGOS designing programs in response to COVID-19?

Before the program begins, volunteers must follow strict social distancing guidelines for 14 days prior to the program start date.

Seventy-two hours before the program starts, volunteers will be required to take a COVID-19 PCR nasal test and show a negative result. All volunteers will also need to follow current entry requirements of their destination when traveling.

Pre-planned excursions and events are in more remote areas away from large cities and crowds. Private transportation will be hired for the duration of the program and volunteers and program staff will be required to wear face masks and maintain proper social distance anytime they are outside of the pod or when interacting with others who are not part of the pod.

Volunteers and program staff will be monitored daily for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 by an onsite health and safety coordinator.

While these measures will reduce the overall risk of exposure, AMIGOS cannot guarantee that there will not be COVID-19 exposure. AMIGOS has developed a thorough response plan in the event of a positive case and will work tirelessly to minimize the spread and ensure access to health care, if needed.

What if the volunteer is fully vaccinated against COVID-19?

All volunteers and project staff must self-isolate for 14 days prior to their departure, regardless of vaccination status. The newer COVID-19 variants are the most transmissible yet. While being fully vaccinated and boosted is extremely important and required, there are still breakthrough cases.

We want everyone who has signed up to do AMIGOS to join us this summer. Ensuring that they do the pre-departure self-quarantine is one of the best measures we can take.

All volunteers regardless of vaccination will still be tested between days 5–7 in-country.

What preventative measures will AMIGOS follow?

AMIGOS believes that education is core component of prevention. All volunteers and staff will be required to undergo a COVID-19 predeparture training and pass a test with at least 85%. In addition, we will follow protocols which include social distancing, regular and frequent handwashing, face coverings when outside of the pod, and isolation anytime someone is showing symptoms. We will disinfect surfaces multiple times a day and volunteers will be required to monitor and report their signs and symptoms daily.

Anytime that someone comes into contact with the pod, they will be screened for symptoms and their temperature will be taken. Social distancing and face masks will be mandated when interacting with those outside the immediate pod.

AMIGOS will contract with a vetted, private bus for our transportation needs and public transportation will be prohibited. Volunteers will be instructed to maintain social distancing and will wear masks on the bus and all windows will remain open to allow for ventilation.

Students should self-isolate for two weeks before departure and must show a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure. Upon arrival, the pod will isolate together and receive another COVID-19 test within the first few days. A Health and Safety Coordinator is on staff and onsite. Students will have minimal contact with anyone outside the pod.

Who cooks and cleans the facilities where the volunteers live in Latin America?

Lodging sites have housekeeping and maintenance facilities that clean and disinfect surfaces, bathrooms, bedrooms, and shared spaces. In addition, all lodging sites have full-time cooks who will prepare meals. Volunteers may be involved with food preparation at select locations and are excepted to follow rigorous guidelines for food preparation and sanitation. All volunteers are expected to be contributing members of the group and do their part to maintain a tidy environment.

AMIGOS ran in-person programs in 2021 during the pandemic. Were there any cases of COVID-19?

233 students ages 15–22 joined AMIGOS in-person programs in Latin America and Colorado in 2021. Approximately 85% of Summer Program volunteers in 2021 were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Approximately 55% of our staff were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Some staff and volunteers are based in Latin America where vaccine availability remains limited. We anticipate that as vaccine access increases in Latin America, vaccination rates will be higher for staff and volunteers. 

Volunteers followed strict testing, masking, and distancing protocols before and during the program. COVID-19 testing was completed pre-departure and at pre-determined intervals during the program Additionally, mandatory COVID-19 pre-departure training was required. We monitored for symptoms of COVID-19 in all volunteers on a daily basis.   

We experienced four positive COVID-19 test results isolated to the project. Two students tested positive during the program and two students tested positive upon returning to the United States. Each of these four students was fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and their cases were either asymptomatic or mild. No staff members on the 2021 Summer Program tested positive for COVID-19.  No volunteers or project staff team members tested positive prior to program departure. 

In each incidence of a positive test result, quarantine protocols were activated and contact tracing was completed. No evidence of community spread was found. Each student recovered and none required hospitalization.  

What happens if I am on an AMIGOS program and the situation becomes unsafe due to the spread of COVID-19?

AMIGOS reserves the right to suspend or relocate a running project for any reason. In the event that a project must be suspended, we will make every effort to relocate the volunteers to a comparable project. If relocation is not possible, volunteers will return home early. In this case, refunds will be available less any costs incurred up to that point in the program and less any costs required in order for the volunteer to return safely home.

What happens if a volunteer contracts COVID-19?

If any volunteer produces a positive COVID-19 test, whether or not they are exhibiting symptoms, we will activate our monitoring and quarantine response protocol. Any volunteer with a positive test will be immediately isolated, a detailed record of their symptoms will begin to be recorded, and the AMIGOS Medical Director will be notified. The student will be given their own room at the program site and a staff member will bring them all meals and attend to any need they may have. They will also be offered the opportunity to get outside and spend time in nature recovering away from other volunteers. At this time, all other volunteers and staff members will also receive a COVID-19 test if they have not already. We will be in close communication with the AMIGOS Medical Director to determine the best course of treatment and clinical environment for each volunteer.

COVID-19-positive volunteers will be required to complete an individual isolation according to best practices from health officials and the AMIGOS Medical Director at the time of the program.

In the case of known exposure, families will be notified immediately and be kept up to date with any developments or changes.

In the event the symptoms become severe or require medical treatment, the volunteer will be taken to a private hospital and/or clinic for treatment.

What happens if I test positive for COVID-19 before departing for my AMIGOS program?

All students on our in-person programs must send AMIGOS a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to departure. If a student tests positive for COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure, they cannot participate in the program. Instead, they can elect to transfer their participation to an AMIGOS program with a later start date. The student will need to produce a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of any AMIGOS program start date. If they are still unable to produce a negative test or prefer not to attend another AMIGOS program, they can receive a partial refund. No late starts on programs are permitted.

During the period at the beginning of a project, what happens if a volunteer tests positive?

We routinely update our policies and procedures to reflect the most current medical and public health recommendations. The current policy is that they will be isolated from the group and will be retested after 5-7 days. Once they have received a negative test and they are asymptomatic or there are improvements in their symptoms and no fever for 24 hours without a fever reducing agent, if fever was present, they may reintegrate into the group. During the period of isolation, their health and wellbeing will be monitored by an AMIGOS staff member, they will be given their phone to communicate with, and they will be allowed time outside.

Do volunteers have to test for COVID-19 before they return to the United States? If so, what happens if they test positive?

Yes, at this time volunteers and all persons entering the United States via plane need to produce a negative viral COVID-19 test within one day of entering the United States. If a person has recently recovered from COVID-19, they may instead travel with documentation of their recovery. If a volunteer tests positive when returning to the United States, they will remain in Latin America in isolation until they recover and are able to produce the necessary documentation to return to the United States. AMIGOS project staff will monitor and care for any volunteers who need to isolate.

What happens if my child tests positive for COVID prior to return and is (under current policy) unable to return to the United States as scheduled? Will AMIGOS provide lodging/food for those required to quarantine until permitted to return?

Yes, AMIGOS will provide lodging, food, and care for the volunteer throughout the duration of their quarantine period. Additionally, an AMIGOS staff member will monitor the volunteer’s health throughout this period and the AMIGOS Medical Director will be in close contact regarding the volunteer’s health. AMIGOS will be in touch with the family on a daily basis throughout this time. AMIGOS will also arrange alternative travel home to the United States for the volunteer once cleared to return.

Will AMIGOS volunteers administer COVID-19 vaccinations?

While we have a history of involvement in vaccination campaigns, the focus of our programs has changed over the last few decades. We design our programs using the approach of asset-based community development: leveraging a community’s strengths and building on existing assets rather than a model that relies entirely on outside support. While we hope to support ongoing efforts to ensure that people throughout the Americas will have access to the vaccine, we believe it is most appropriate for health care workers and/or trained local community members—not AMIGOS volunteers—to administer COVID-19 vaccinations in their own communities.

Our current programs are based on collaborating with local organizations addressing critical global issues that are affecting their own communities, like conservation, climate change, and sustainable agriculture. Local communities are addressing these topics in innovative ways that we can support and learn from.

You can learn more here.

If AMIGOS cancels my program and I was fundraising, what will happen to my donations?

Donors who contributed to your fundraising effort may be given the option to convert their donation to be used for the AMIGOS Annual Fund or to have their donation refunded. Additionally, if you opt to defer, you can hold over your donations for your program fee.

I have some additional questions or concerns. Who can I speak with?

Please contact our Health and Safety Manager, Elizabeth Martinez, at [email protected] or at 713-782-5290 x115.

Program-Specific Questions

Gap Programs in Latin America

When will AMIGOS return to Ecuador or Uruguay?

AMIGOS is returning to Ecuador in fall 2022 for our traditional homestay program. Volunteers and staff will follow enhanced COVID-19 precautions in their day-to-day lives, like wearing masks, COVID testing, and isolating if appropriate.

 

What will the COVID protocols be?

We are returning to homestays in several of our programs this summer, so we foresee using many of the same protocols for our Gap Programs. Volunteers and staff must be vaccinated. In Ecuador, it is common to provide proof of vaccination upon entering places of interest.

We also recognize the pandemic has changed over time and will likely continue to shift. As always, we will implement guidelines with the health and safety of our volunteers, staff, and host communities as our top priority.

In all instances, volunteers and staff will be required to follow local laws and regulations. Just as they would at home, volunteers and staff are expected to take reasonable precautions and make good decisions to protect themselves and others.

Summer Programs in Latin America

Will AMIGOS run summer programs in Latin America in 2022?

Yes! Click here to learn more about our Summer Programs in 2022.

 

What will AMIGOS do if you can’t run a certain program?

We have built program offerings with potential cancelation in mind. Our projects have other project locations running at the same time to allow for easy transfer over for families if one location is not able to run. If multiple programs are canceled, volunteers will be issued refunds.

Summer Programs in the U.S.

Is AMIGOS planning any summer programs in the U.S.?

Yes! Click here to learn about our program in Colorado. 

Youth Ambassadors Program

How has COVID-19 impacted the Youth Ambassadors Program?

We ran our first-ever virtual Youth Ambassadors exchanges in 2020 and continued to run virtual exchanges in 2021. We are excited to return to in-person programming with Youth Ambassadors in 2022!

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Frequently Asked Questions