After extensive consideration and months of planning, we have decided to offer in-person programs in Latin America and the U.S. for summer 2021. We made this decision because we believe we can operate programs safely and responsibly at a time when making real connections and addressing critical issues is needed more than ever.
Below are some frequently asked questions about our programs in 2021:
How will AMIGOS programs differ from previous years?
We developed entirely new programs for 2021 rooted in the same AMIGOS principles of cultural exchange, meaningful service, and authentic experiences. The program model, staffing, pre-departure training, and health and safety protocols have all changed as we understand and respect our new reality.
Due to COVID-19, students will not be living with host families this year. Instead, they will live and travel together in a pod of 15–20 students, learning about interdependence and cooperative coexistence. We will dive deep into the theme of the projects by visiting local initiatives and meeting community members. Students will take part in volunteer projects that support local organizations. All interactions with local communities will take place outdoors while wearing masks and maintaining physical distance.
What extra precautions are you taking for COVID-19?
Before the program begins, volunteers will self-isolate for two weeks, take an online training course about COVID-19, and must show a negative test result 72 hours before departure. Once volunteers arrive they will travel to a location for a 10-day quarantine period. During this time, they will get to join group activities outdoors and while maintaining physical distance. They will be tested periodically and as-needed.
Volunteers will take private transportation and all interactions with anyone outside the pod will take place outdoors, wearing masks, and distanced. AMIGOS will provide PPE and cleaning supplies.
We created a new staff position for each project: a Health and Wellness Coordinator. This staff member will monitor the health and safety of every volunteer as well as implement COVID-19 protocols. Learn more about our COVID-19 plans here.
Why is AMIGOS offering in-person programs this year?
After nearly a year of virtual school, canceled extracurriculars, and limited in-person social interaction, students have a need for real human connection. We designed programs that meet these needs in the safest way possible by giving teens the opportunity to engage with students from across the Americas and explore issues they are passionate about by learning from local communities in Latin America and the U.S.
We recognize that travel is a privilege. During an incredibly difficult time, we can still work toward our mission of inspiring leaders through authentic service and immersion experiences. Our programs build empathy and create connections across cultures. Students from the U.S. and Latin America join our programs not to solve problems, but to learn from leaders who are addressing global issues in their own communities. By supporting local initiatives and shaping young leaders from across the Americas, we are actively working toward a brighter future.
Two questions that we will ask in every program this summer:
- What can we learn from the work and innovations of local communities to address the challenges they face?
- How can we respectfully and safely be of value and support to this work?
These programs cultivate the skills youth need to address critical issues in their home communities and across the globe: leadership, cultural humility, grit, collaboration, integrity, and innovation.
Throughout the program, volunteers and staff will adhere to strict health and safety protocols. Our COVID-19 procedures and enhanced health and safety measures were developed by our Medical Director and Health and Safety Manager based on guidelines from the CDC and WHO. We believe this protocol will minimize risk and enable students to safely engage in service and connect with each other.
How will you keep host community members safe?
Any interactions students have with local communities in-country will take place outdoors while maintaining physical distance and wearing masks. Before meeting community members, students must have negative COVID-19 tests.
Local youth volunteers will follow the same pre-travel protocol as U.S.-based volunteers.
Volunteers will not stay with host families this year. When volunteers go on excursions, they will visit outdoor areas and avoid crowds.
How much Spanish practice will students get?
It depends on the program! This summer, some of our programs are bilingual pods. These projects require 2+ years of high school Spanish (or the equivalent). Two spots in these pods are reserved for students from the host country. All group activities will be led in Spanish.
Other projects do not have a Spanish requirement. Students on these programs will still have the opportunity to practice Spanish with the people they meet abroad and many of the activities will be led in both Spanish and English.