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Are you or your child considering a summer or gap program in another country? Here are some questions to ask providers (and our answers!) to help you find the right program.

 

  • How long have you been running programs?
    • More than 53 years! AMIGOS was founded in 1965 by a group of students who traveled to Honduras to take part in a polio vaccination campaign. Since then, we’ve worked in 17 countries in the Americas! Over time, we’ve evolved to meet the needs of local communities and participants by designing collaborative programs, cultivating long-standing relationships in-country, and diversifying project options.
  • How are students trained for your programs?
    • All participants complete training before they begin their project. Students who join a local chapter attend trainings with other participants in their area while others complete online modules prior to in-person sessions in Houston or in-country immediately prior to beginning their program. Topics include health & safety, effective communication, resource mobilization, multicultural understanding, and asset-based community development. All participants take part in briefing, which takes place in country as a group. During briefing, participants learn more about their specific country and project area. Finally, all participants attend debriefing, which takes place during their last few days in-country. They come together as a group, do fun activities, go on excursions to places like Chichén Itzá or the Panama Canal, and reflect on their experience.
  • What will participants do on each program?
    • AMIGOS is unique in that participants collaborate with communities on a local Community-Based Initiative Process (CBIP), which varies from community to community. Each experience will be different depending on where they are placed, who they are working with, and what they put into the experience! All AMIGOS programs adhere to the same core elements, however, which include living with a host family, working on a CBIP, interacting with local peers, and receiving personalized mentorship. Gap participants also complete an internship with a local organization and take Spanish classes.
  • How many service hours will participants receive?
    • Summer participants can earn up to 270 service hours. Check out our Service Hour Calculator here!
  • What safety and risk management systems do you have in place?
    • AMIGOS is the industry leader in safety and risk management. Staff members are on call 24/7 and consult with a network of doctors and mental health professionals as needed. Each participant receives extensive training and a personalized plan in case of an emergency. Read more about our safety and risk management system here.
  • What are the qualifications of your staff?
    • Several tiers of staff are present in-country and at AMIGOS headquarters. All of our project staff go through a rigorous selection and training process prior to entering the field. They all speak both English and Spanish and many of them have either prior AMIGOS or travel abroad experience, allowing them to draw on their own international experiences in addition to their training while supporting their participants. Many of them also have a background with youth/child development and mentorship.
  • What support do participants receive while they are in-country?
    • Our On-Call Emergency Management Team operates 24/7 while participants are in the field. Summer participants under 18 travel as a group and all program participants are greeted at the airport by AMIGOS project staff.
      • Discover AMIGOS is a facilitator-led experience set up to support the younger age group to expand their leadership capacity. Your participant will always have access to the AMIGOS staff members and educators who are on the experience with them. When participants stay in community, a member of our staff will stay in the same community.
      • On our 4-9 week long Summer Program, participants will have a staff member who will come and visit them in their community once a week to check in. They stay overnight in the community in order to check in with both the participants and the host families. During these meetings, the mentor and the participant have the chance to discuss how the adjustment process is going as well as troubleshoot any issues that may have arisen around the community led service project or the extracurricular activities. The staff team in country is led by team members who are on-call 24/7 to respond to any situation that may arise. All participants also have the additional support system of their partners in place, as they are placed in community with 1-2 other Amigos. Project staff support participants to stay healthy and safe, to move forward with their community project, and have a meaningful and rewarding experience.
      • Gap Program participants are supported by full time staff members who live in their project area year round. These staff members will conduct check ins with participants, their partner agencies, and host families to ensure that all parties are benefitting from the relationships and aid in working through any issues that many arise. Gap staff is available 24/7 to respond to issues.
      • Our training also provides participants with tools to work through the adjustment period that comes naturally with being away from home and in a new environment. All of our program participants are supported by the 24/7 on call system run on out of our headquarters, led by our Health and Safety Manager and Emergency Management Team.
  • What is the housing situation?
    • Participants live with host families who are vetted and trained. Trusted local partner organizations help identify host families and host communities. AMIGOS staff holds trainings for families before participants are placed with them. Staff members also visit communities to determine the best eating and living arrangements for participants. Many of our host families enjoy hosting participants year after year! During briefing, debriefing, and excursions, participants stay together with staff as a group at a hotel or hostel that has been evaluated for safety. Discover Nicaragua participants stay in hotels/hostels for the majority of the trip.
  • What is the length of the program?
    • Program length varies! Our summer programs run from 2 to 9 weeks and our gap programs last a semester or a full academic year. Learn more about our programs here.
  • What will a participant get out of this program?
    • Check our Service Hour Calculator to see how many service hours you can earn! Participants report increased Spanish fluency, increased self-esteem, better ability to engage with other cultures, greater sense of purpose, and increased decision-making skills. AMIGOS experiences also make for great college essays!
  • How many participants are placed on each project?
    • Each summer project has around 40 participants and 6-8 project staff members. Participants are placed in communities with 1 or 2 other participants. They are assigned a project supervisor, who visits them weekly. Discover AMIGOS has around 20 participants, and Gap Programs typically have 5-15 students.
  • What measures do you take to ensure positive relationships with the communities in which you work?
    • We have long-standing relationships with local partner organizations, who are trusted by local community members. This ensures that participants work on projects that are locally designed and meet the needs of the community. The inclusion of Latin American youth in AMIGOS programs and our strong community partnerships allow us to help other organizations be more impactful in their coordination of youth programs.
  • Are your programs sustainable in local communities?
    • We know that projects are only sustainable with community ownership and collaboration. Because of this, we work with partner organizations to identify passionate and committed individuals and communities to join in our programs. Participants are incorporated into a community-owned process of designing and implementing a project – they will join at different stages of this process, depending on their country, project area, or even community! To achieve sustainability, all projects are identified through a collaborative process that meets local needs and utilizes existing community assets.
  • How are your programs different from those of other providers?
    • AMIGOS is the most immersive leadership program abroad for young people. Summer Program participants work with local peers to overcome challenges while learning about the community development process firsthand. We give young people the responsibility and independence to manage projects, solve problems, and navigate cultural differences. Our strong training and support system ensures that young people are well-prepared and safe during their extraordinary experience away from home. We train local youth from the countries where our participants are placed to amplify our impact on the ground. We recruit participants from the countries in which we run programs to participate as Amigos alongside participants from the US.  Living with host families provides an enriching cultural experience that allows participants to live like a community member, not as a tourist.
  • What opportunities are there for alumni to stay involved?
    • Our alumni network is 28,000 strong! AMIGOS alums may participate again in another country (we offer an alumni award and an alumni discount). If they meet the requirements, we encourage alums to join our project leadership teams as a Project Supervisor, Senior Project Supervisor, Assistant Project Director, or Project Director. If you live near one of our 25 chapters, we encourage you to join the board! There are several positions available, and you can help recruit and train the next class of Amigos. We also encourage alumni to apply for jobs at our headquarters in Houston. Open positions are listed on our website.

 

 

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