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 54 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.

We offer programs ranging from 2 weeks to 9 months. 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.

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.

We’ve been running programs in Latin America for more than 54 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.

There are two ways to apply to AMIGOS.

Local chapters throughout the U.S. accept applications for high school and college students participating in Summer Programs. Chapters are led by a volunteer board of directors who coordinate recruitment, group fundraising, and training. Chapters provide a support system for participants and their families before and after the summer. Joining AMIGOS through a chapter means you participate in training and fundraising events in your hometown prior to departure.  You can click here to see if there is a chapter near you.

The National Chapter accepts applications on a rolling basis for Gap, Summer, and Discover AMIGOS Programs regardless of your proximity to a local chapter location. If you join our Summer Program through the National Chapter, you’ll complete a four-day training workshop alongside other National Chapter volunteers prior to departure. We’ll provide you with fundraising tools and support.

Whether you choose to join AMIGOS through a local chapter or the National Chapter, the first step will be to fill out your online application which you can start here. You will need to complete the essay questions, project preferences form, and pay the application fee before you will be considered ready to move onto the next step of an interview. For Gap Program applicants, the application fee is part of the deposit paid after an interview with our Admissions staff.

Have questions? Read more here or chat with us!

There are two ways to join AMIGOS, but the application process starts out the same way!

Start an application online here. You’ll get to choose whether to apply to a local chapter (near you) or to the National Chapter.

 

The application deadlines are:

Local chapter priority deadline: November 5, 2018

Local chapter final deadline: December 3, 2018

National Chapter deadline (Summer and Discover AMIGOS): April 9, 2019

Gap Semester – Spring 2019: November 19, 2018

Gap Year or Semester – starting Fall 2019: July 1, 2019

 

Local chapters throughout the U.S. accept applications for high school and college students participating in Summer Programs. Chapters are led by a volunteer board of directors who coordinate recruitment, group fundraising, and training. Chapters provide a support system for participants and their families before and after the summer. Joining AMIGOS through a chapter means you participate in training and fundraising events in your hometown prior to departure.  You can click here to see if there is a chapter near you.

The National Chapter accepts applications on a rolling basis for Gap, Summer, and Discover AMIGOS Programs regardless of your proximity to a local chapter location. If you join our Summer Program through the National Chapter, you’ll complete a four-day training workshop alongside other National Chapter volunteers prior to departure. We’ll provide you with fundraising tools and support.

Whether you choose to join AMIGOS through a local chapter or the National Chapter, the first step will be to fill out your online application which you can start here. You will need to complete the essay questions, project preferences form, and pay the application fee before you will be considered ready to move onto the next step of an interview. For Gap Program applicants, the application fee is part of the deposit paid after an interview with our Admissions staff.

Have questions? Read more here or chat with us!

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.

The application fee ($50) is nonrefundable.

The deposit ($425) for National Chapter participants is refundable if requested within 30 days or if you are found to be ineligible for the program during the interview or health screening processes.

Local chapters may have different policies. Please contact them directly if you have specific questions about refunds.

AMIGOS Summer Programs are comparable in price because the largest program expenses do not vary by length of project. Flights, staffing, housing, and training costs are the same for each summer project.

For the Summer Program, students must be at least 15 year by the start date of their project, and must meet the Spanish language requirement (at least two years of high school Spanish, one year of college Spanish, or be a native speaker.) If you are between schools or have graduated from college, you are still encouraged to apply, however students must be 22 years or younger by their project start date. 

For Discover AMIGOS, students must be 13-15 years old at the start of the program. There is no Spanish requirement for Discover AMIGOS. 

Gap Program students must be age 17 – 22 at their project start date and have graduated high school. There is no Spanish requirement for the Gap Program. 

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

You’ll be embraced by a host family in another country, experiencing day-to-day life as a local, not a tourist. This authentic cultural and language immersion enables youth to have a meaningful and unforgettable summer. Our staff visits communities and host families in advance of the volunteer’s arrival to determine the best eating and living arrangements. Staff members spend the night in each host community before the program begins to ensure the host families and communities are safe and are prepared to receive volunteers. All of our host families are also trained by AMIGOS staff.  

Projects may vary in the length of time spent with a host family, but this immersive exchange is a crucial component of our programs and is one part of what makes AMIGOS unique. 

 

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.  

Summer Program volunteers who join AMIGOS through a local chapter train in person throughout the spring. Gap and Summer National Chapter volunteers are trained during a 4-day group workshop on the front end of their experience, either in country or in Houston. All of their AMIGOS training occurs in country for our Discover AMIGOS program. No matter where and when your training takes place, it is a great way to meet other students and make new friends while gaining skills.  

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, regardless of whether they applied through a local chapter or the National Chapter. 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.

Discover AMIGOS (2 weeks)

You’ll travel with a group of volunteers your age, try new foods, visit a local organization doing good work (like a sea turtle recovery project or a reforestation initiative), volunteer, meet local students, spend some time with a host family, and practice Spanish.

 

Summer Program (4–8 weeks)

First, you’ll go through training that prepares you for your summer with AMIGOS. When you get to your host country, you’ll spend a few days with everyone on your project, doing fun activities and getting acquainted with a new culture! Then, you’ll get to meet your host family, and you’ll live in a town with one or two other AMIGOS volunteers. Each day, you’ll work together on a community service project, and you’ll lead day-camp activities for local youth about topics like nutrition or recycling. You’ll bond with your host family and become part of a new community. At the end of your trip, you’ll reunite with the other volunteers in your group and spend a few days reflecting, exploring cool spots in your host country, and preparing to go back home.

 

Gap Program (semester or year)

On an AMIGOS Gap Program, you’ll go beyond travel and experience life in another country, gain a new host family, get real-world experience at an internship, learn to speak Spanish with local slang, and build a community of friends and family across cultures. You’ll join a multi-day training in Houston before heading abroad. For the first month abroad, you’ll take intensive Spanish classes. After the first month, you’ll start your internship while continuing Spanish classes for part of the day. You’ll get to take part in workshops on topics like current affairs in your host country, international development, project management and budgets, and career panels. You’ll also get to join your fellow gap volunteers in group excursions to unique spots in different regions of your host country.

Host families are recommended by representatives of our partner agencies and or/friends and family of our in-country staff. Our host families are thoroughly vetted and screened by project staff. Before volunteers arrive in Latin America, AMIGOS staff visits each community and stay the night in each host family’s home to make sure it will be a proper environment for the students that summer. Many of our host families host volunteers for multiple summers. 

Host families provide the most authentic cultural immersion possible. You’ll be surprised by how quickly your Spanish improves when you use it every day! You’ll share daily life with a family who has welcomed you into their home, sharing in celebrations, holidays, and learning about their culture by living in it.

Each AMIGOS project has several staff members whose job is to support volunteers. Project supervisors are responsible for a small group of volunteers (what we call their “route”). Each week, supervisors travel to the communities on their route, checking in with each volunteer and spending the night in their community. Volunteers are able to contact their supervisor or any member of the project staff team at any time as well as access our 24/7 On-Call Safety Team (including a network of medical and mental health professionals) based in the U.S.

AMIGOS promotes independence and empowers each student to get out of their comfort zone, make new relationships, improve their public speaking, and much more.  

On a daily basis, the volunteer will connect with their host family, community members, and their AMIGOS partner(s). AMIGOS partners are other volunteers placed in the same community. Every volunteer is placed with at least one partner. Students will never be in their community without their partner – if one partner must leave community for any reason, they both go together. 

Discover AMIGOS is a group experience. Volunteers will spend a majority of their time with the rest of the group and their project staff. A member of AMIGOS staff stays in the host community for the entire duration of the home stay on Discover AMIGOS.  

Discover AMIGOS is the most immersive group experience for 13- to 15-year-olds. This two-week group trip is led by experienced facilitators. Volunteers learn about community service in another country, try new foods, practice Spanish, spend time with a host family, and work on a service project with local volunteers.

AMIGOS volunteers will have pre-determined times to contact their families while they are abroad. Writing letters is encouraged! We discourage students from bringing their personal cell phones so they are able 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.

Definitely! We offer 30 hours of community service per week you spend in community. For our Summer Program, students will also get 35 hours of community service for their pre-departure training. That means you can earn up to 270 hours of community service in just one summer!  

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! AMIGOS staff bring gap students together for a weekend excursion every month to explore a new part of the country and share best practices and lessons learned. 

AMIGOS gap volunteers are all able to access the internet, either through an internet cafe or home wifi. Therefore, most communication with your family will be up to you. AMIGOS staff members communicate with parents/guardians in situations relating to travel, health, and safety. This is outlined in detail in the parent preparation handbook your family receives as a part of the AMIGOS training program.

Host families are recommended by representatives of our host partner agencies and/or friends and family of our in-country staff. Students are placed in households based on their agency selection for the internship and their preferences for the type of family they would like to live with. All houses are located within the city where they have their internship or within a 30 minute bus ride.

As often as you want! Official AMIGOS group activities take place every two to three weeks at minimum. These activities include training, workshops, and excursions.

There is no Spanish requirement for the Gap Program because the first month of the program focuses on Spanish immersion and Spanish classes. Advanced speakers may have the option to opt out of the language course at the beginning of the experience, but we recommend the course because it is tailored to your level and will help you succeed, make new friends, and even learn regional slang!

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. You can also email eaucar@amigosinternational.org and she can share resources or contacts that will help you spread the word about AMIGOS in your community.  

YES! You can work with us in Houston as a member of our On-Call team, or you can work in the field as a Supervisor, Project Director, or Assistant Project Director for one of our summer projects. 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.