FAQ

Read on for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about AMIGOS and our programs. If you still have questions, please send us a chat message, email, or call us at 800-231-7796.

Amigos de las Américas (AMIGOS) is a nonprofit international youth development organization with over 56 years of experience providing immersive, independent leadership experiences for students ages 13–22. We provide the safest and most authentic volunteer abroad programs in Latin America and the United States.

We offer programs in Latin America and the U.S. Learn more about our programs here.

AMIGOS is governed by a board of directors. Our day-to-day operations are managed by the staff at the AMIGOS headquarters in Houston, Texas, and regional offices throughout the U.S. and Latin America. AMIGOS meets the criteria for exchange programs set by the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel and is a member of the International Volunteer Programs Association and Inter-Action, and is accredited by the Gap Year Association. AMIGOS has a network of more than 30 partner agencies that work in community development and support the design of our programs throughout the region of the Americas.

Meet our staff and board here!

Approximately 80% of each dollar raised by AMIGOS goes directly to cover the cost of our programs. Program expenses include airfare, room & board, training materials and workshops, supervision of volunteers, a 24/7 On-Call Safety Team, planning and management of the projects, and supplies for volunteers’ community service activities. The other 20% covers the cost to run our organization, including insurance, staff, and our office.

See our financials here.

We’ve been running programs in Latin America for more than 56 years!

In 1965, a 29-year-old youth director from Houston, Texas, named Guy Bevil, led a team of teenagers into rural Honduras to fight a growing polio epidemic. Serving communities in remote areas of the country, this group of 181 youth and 36 adults helped protect thousands of people from the crippling disease and established friendships that crossed borders. This service had a positive impact on the lives of these young people, and as a result, they returned more mature, culturally aware, and inspired to continue serving communities at home and abroad. AMIGOS has grown and evolved since that first year, operating programs in 17 countries throughout the region during the last 50+ years.

AMIGOS is the industry leader in health and safety. Our 24/7 On-Call Safety Team includes AMIGOS staff and medical and mental health professionals, who review every case and advise us. We review and update our protocol every year. Each volunteer gets a personalized safety plan. We will pull projects out of a country if the situation becomes unsafe. We coordinate with organizations like the Peace Corps, the CDC, and U.S. Embassies to constantly monitor any risks in the areas where we have projects.

In our 58 years of programming, all 30,000 volunteers have returned home safely after their project ended.

Learn more about health and safety here.

Since 1965, health and safety has remained a top priority at AMIGOS. We care deeply about the well-being of our volunteers, staff, and local communities. We prepare thorough contingency planning around health and safety year-round, as we understand that there may be risks associated with travel. 
In case of emergency, we offer a 24/7 On-Call system staffed by a team of travel, doctors, and mental health specialists available for volunteers and families at any time. Our staff are fully trained and equipped to help volunteers with any situation that may arise from the moment they arrive at the airport, to the day they come back home after their projects.

Yes! You can earn two college credits on AMIGOS three-week summer programs or the AMIGOS Gap Semester in Cuenca, Ecuador program. As a partner of Western Colorado University, AMIGOS offers two college credits for the political science course POLS 197: Global Citizenship. WCU charges $170 per credit (so $340 total) for this course. Students who complete an eligible AMIGOS program will receive credit and do not need to submit any additional coursework. Find out more information here.

Yes! AMIGOS partners with Western Colorado University, which enables us to accept 529 College Savings Plans for students enrolling in three-week summer programs or the gap program. You do not have to be a student at Western Colorado University (or enrolled in college at all) to use your 529 College Savings Plan to pay for AMIGOS. Find out more details here.

Currently, AMIGOS offers custom online programming and a follow-on program for returned volunteers.

Custom: The Community Impact Project is available to groups who are interested in having AMIGOS plan and facilitate this program. Find out more here.

Free, follow-on program: The Social Impact Accelerator is a free, virtual program where you’ll develop the tools to foster positive change in the world around you. We are excited to add a new rung to the AMIGOS Leadership Ladder and support your development as a young leader throughout this program.

First, start your application here! You’ll fill out information about yourself and answer a couple of short answer essay questions.

You will be contacted shortly after you submit your application to be interviewed via phone or in person, depending on your chapter and program choice. You will have the chance to share more about yourself and your passions and motivations. We’ll also do a short Spanish language assessment if you are applying for a Gap Program.

There is a check box on the application that you should mark if you are applying for financial assistance. You will need to submit documentation of income and apply by the financial assistance deadline. More information is provided in the application, but you can contact our Admissions team at [email protected] if you have any questions.

During the application process, we are looking to see that you meet the requirements of the program you are applying for, as well as demonstrate a commitment to AMIGOS and our values.

For the Summer Program, students must meet the age and Spanish language requirements of the project they’re interested in joining. You are still encouraged to apply if you are between schools or have graduated from high school.

Gap Program students must be aged 17–22 at their project start date and must have graduated high school.

Youth Ambassadors Program requirements may vary year-to-year and country-to-country. Please check the Youth Ambassadors page for updates and application requirements.

No, the application will not save until you submit the essay portion. Once the first part of the application is done, you will be prompted to pay a deposit. You may exit and save from there, but your spot will not be saved until you pay the deposit.

Many Summer Programs have a full or partial homestay component. Students on the Gap Program in Ecuador live with host families for the duration of their stay. Learn more about each project here.

 

With AMIGOS, you’ll receive pre-departure training in cultural understanding, health and safety, community development practices, leadership, and team building. Our training curriculum prepares students to manage projects, organize community members, solve problems, accept responsibility, and learn from others. You’ll get hands-on experience to gain skills necessary to succeed in our projects.  

Once you arrive abroad, you’ll spend a few days in what we call “briefing.” This is a chance to meet everyone on your project. This part of your journey is led by your in-country staff team, who will introduce you to the specifics of your country and your project, as well as prepare you to live in your host community.

All AMIGOS programs are rooted in the principles of ethical service, cultural humility, and leadership.

You’ll do different activities depending on which program you sign up for. Click here to learn more!

AMIGOS staff are trained to support volunteers throughout their time abroad. A Health and Wellness Coordinator is on staff with each project and has responsibilities including but not limited to: monitoring each individual for COVID-19 symptoms, administering COVID-19 tests, bringing volunteers to medical care if needed, and contacting our On-Call system for professional medical advice.

AMIGOS staff in the field are young leaders themselves, often with backgrounds in the critical issues the projects focus on. Staff speak Spanish and English, have lived or traveled abroad, and have experience working with youth. They serve as mentors to volunteers.

While programs are running, we have a team of professionals on call 24/7. Our On-Call Safety Team includes medical and mental health professionals and full-time AMIGOS staff. They are trained to respond to any issue that may arise.

We maintain a ratio of one staff member to every 5 volunteers. Group size varies by project.

Yes, prior to departure, volunteers and families will be invited to attend a webinar that accompanies the “Project Information Packet”. This project-specific webinar provides the opportunity to meet other volunteers assigned to the project, as well as the chance to meet project staff and learn more about the project.

During the summer, students are not allowed to use their personal cell phones. This guideline enables them to maximize their immersive experience. Our 24/7 On Call system is available for both students in country and family members at home to utilize if the need arises.

For this reason, AMIGOS project staff will run Instagram accounts that families can follow, showcasing the experiences volunteers are having.

Read about our technology policy here.

Definitely! Check out our Service Hour Calculator to see how many service hours you can earn from each of our projects.

AMIGOS values a diverse array of students from different backgrounds and skill sets. The cornerstone of the AMIGOS mission is that all young people will rise to the challenge. We are looking for students who are passionate, enthusiastic, independent, self-driven, and value cultural exchange and teamwork. We welcome students regardless of whether they have had past experiences abroad. AMIGOS is an excellent fit for young people with interest in international community development, public health, international business, political science, international economics, nonprofit management, or other social service themes.

AMIGOS does not pay commissions to any referrals for the gap year program. Neither therapeutic nor court mandated youth can participate in AMIGOS.

AMIGOS provides pre-departure training and guidance for volunteers and parents, focusing on health and safety, as well as preparation for travel. Once in-country, AMIGOS staff provide a comprehensive orientation which covers: 

  • Local history, culture, and language 
  • Preparation for serving as an intern in a local community development organization during your gap year or semester 
  • Project management – visioning, building a leadership team, mobilizing support for a project, evaluation 
  • Country-specific health and safety procedures 
  • Team building and social time with other participants in your gap cohort 

The learning does not end with orientation! Gap students take several excursions to explore a new part of the country and share best practices and lessons learned. 

Gap volunteers are free to contact their families at home as often as they would like. Students will be able to access the internet regularly.

No Spanish is required for the Gap Program. Students will begin their stay in Ecuador with Spanish classes tailored to their level.

We would love to hear from you. Please update your information here.

Unfortunately, we are not looking to create more local chapters at this time. However, we welcome students and alumni everywhere to get involved and would love to chat with you about what time/talent/treasure you can contribute. Please email us and let us know how you want to get involved!

You can always send people to our website where they can request more information. If you would like resources to share AMIGOS in your community, email us at [email protected].

Yes! You can work with us in Houston as a member of our On-Call team, or you can work in the field on project staff. Visit this page for more information and when you request information online, say that this is what you are interested so we know to notify you about the application.