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.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is AMIGOS able to operate a program during a global pandemic?

The health and safety of each AMIGOS volunteer and staff member is our top priority. For fifty-six years, AMIGOS has welcomed more than 30,000 volunteers throughout Latin America with an exceptional track record in health and safety. AMIGOS operates a Health, Safety, and Risk Management system comprised of a dedicated team who consult regularly with our medical director and mental health consultant. The evolving COVID-19 pandemic continues to present challenges when considering in-person interaction or travel. However, we believe that students benefit tremendously from participation in programs like AMIGOS which include engagement with peers, connection with new cultures, and the chance to develop leadership skills.

We understand that the decision to travel or interact with others in person is a very personal choice, and we understand the need for each family to do what is best for them.

In-person AMIGOS programs during the COVID-19 pandemic will take into consideration the guidance of organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Peace Corps, U.S. Embassy, and Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

We have developed predeparture COVID-19 education and training for volunteers and program staff. All volunteers and program staff will also undergo a rigorous physical and mental health screening process with the Health and Safety Manager, medical director, and mental health consultant to confirm that our program is a good and safe fit.

AMIGOS closely monitors the number of active cases in our project work areas and follows the direction of the host country government and ministry of health when applicable. Each program has an onsite health and safety coordinator who will monitor volunteers and staff for signs and symptoms as well as oversee preventive safety protocols and testing regimens.

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.

Students enrolled in the Gap Semester in Costa Rica for spring 2021 will not be billed for their program fee until January 15, 2021.

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.

Students who were enrolled for spring 2021 programs in Ecuador and Uruguay may transfer to the Gap Program in Costa Rica or Colorado, join the Civic Action Gap Semester, or defer their program start to fall 2021.

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.

The program will operate in a pod or camp-like structure where all volunteers and program staff will live together in the same facility.

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 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 all CDC guidelines 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.

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. 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.

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

Will the spring 2021 Gap Program in Costa Rica definitely run?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international travel and border regulations which are beyond our control, it is difficult to say anything is definite. That said, we have every intention to run this program, and we are very excited to do so!

As of November 1, 2020, all U.S. citizens will be able to enter Costa Rica on flights departing from the United States. Because these regulations are subject to change in short time frames, we are waiting until January 15, 2021 to begin collecting program fee payment and paperwork for the Gap Program in Costa Rica. Running the Gap Program in Costa Rica is dependent on the status of U.S. citizen entry into Costa Rica and other travel and health regulations. On January 15th, our team will email you informing you of the program status. Keep in mind this means that after January 15th, the turnaround time on paperwork and payment will be quick.

 

When will AMIGOS return to Ecuador or Uruguay?

We have suspended spring 2021 programs in Ecuador and Uruguay due to health concerns. Our traditional programs involve homestays with local families and in-person internships at partner agencies, which are not feasible at this time. We are monitoring the situation and will return to those countries when it makes sense from a programmatic and health and safety standpoint.

 

What happens if I test positive for COVID-19 before departing for my Gap Program?

All students on our in-person Gap 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.

 

What precautions are you taking on the Gap Program in light of COVID-19?

Students on this program 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.

 

Will I need any additional vaccinations?

In addition to our immunization schedule, AMIGOS is requiring that all volunteers have the flu vaccination for the 2020–2021 influenza season. Many symptoms of the flu mimic COVID-19 and given the pod like structure we want to be diligent to avoid any contagious illnesses. Volunteers will receive a list of required immunizations included in their welcome packet. 

 

If someone has to undergo isolation, where will they stay and for how long?

If anyone tests positive for COVID-19 they will be required to undergo isolation for a minimum of 10 days and until symptoms are improving and they no longer have a fever for 24 hours without the use of a fever reducing agent. 

They 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.  

Gap Programs in the U.S.

Is AMIGOS developing any domestic programs?

Yes, we have a Gap Semester in Colorado that starts in March 2021.

Community Impact Project

Are there any impacts from COVID-19 on the Community Impact Project?

Yes! The Community Impact Project is a virtual program in which students develop a service project to address a need in their own community. While the program itself is conducted virtually, students may develop a project to be implemented in-person as long as it is safe to do so. Others have opted to create an all-virtual project.

We have a Community Impact Project in select cities where we have AMIGOS chapters for spring 2021. This version of the program may include in-person components. Click here to see all programs.

Civic Action Gap Semester

What are the impacts of COVID-19 on the Civic Action Gap Semester?

The Civic Action Gap Semester, a partnership between AMIGOS and Tufts University, is entirely virtual. Students explore social change across the Americas, do meaningful work through a civic volunteership, connect across borders and cultures, and earn college credit.

Because this experience is virtual, students have the opportunity to volunteer with organizations in other parts of the country and meet students from across the Americas! Find out more here.

Summer Programs in Latin America

Will AMIGOS run summer programs in Latin America in 2021?

We are not sure yet! We are in the planning stages for several pod-based program models, where students live together in a group with minimal contact with anyone outside their pod. We hope to get back to our traditional program models soon, but do not believe it is safe yet – for students or for our host communities.

Fill out this form to receive more information when we have it!

Summer Programs in the U.S.

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

We are not sure yet. We are in the early planning stages of domestic summer programs. Fill out this form to be notified of any Summer Program updates!

Youth Ambassadors Program

How has COVID-19 impacted the Youth Ambassadors Program?

We ran our first-ever virtual Youth Ambassadors exchange in summer 2020 and are planning two more virtual exchanges for fall 2020.

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Frequently Asked Questions