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.

Learn more about health and safety here.

Find out about our COVID-19 protocols here.

We have updated our health and safety procedures for programs in the U.S. and Latin America. You can read about all of our COVID-19 protocols in detail here.

Currently, AMIGOS offers custom online programming. The Community Impact Project is available to groups who are interested in having AMIGOS plan and facilitate this program. Find out more here.

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 be at least 15 year by the start date of their project, and must meet the Spanish language requirement if there is one. If you are between schools or have graduated from college, you are still encouraged to apply, however students must be 19 years or younger by their project start date. 

Gap Program students must be age 17–22 at their project start date, must have graduated high school, and meet any Spanish language requirements by project.

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.

Currently, we do not have any programs where students live with host families. This is to protect the students and local communities from exposure to COVID-19. Learn more about our COVID-19 protocol here.

We hope to return to our host families in the near future, when it is safe to do so.

 

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. For 2022 programs, briefing will take place during the quarantine period at the beginning of the project.

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!

All 2022 programs are group travel experiences. Students will live and travel in a pod of 15–20 volunteers and at least 3 staff members. 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 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.

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

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. 

Students are discouraged from bringing wi-fi enabled devices on our pod-based gap programs. Part of the AMIGOS experience is learning and discovering your “why,” or your passions in life, along with forming new friendships. We believe that the excessive use of a screen, whether it be a cellphone or laptop or any other digital device, can be a barrier to a transformative AMIGOS experience. We have found that students who do not use their phone during their AMIGOS experience reported higher satisfaction with the program and deeper connection with fellow volunteers and local community members.

Personal cell phone use will be allowed at designated times but students should not plan to use their phone daily.

We understand this may be a challenge, but we believe that you are interested in AMIGOS because of your drive, desire to connect, and ability to dive deep and succeed! AMIGOS is confident that by disconnecting, you will connect with others, and reconnect with yourself in new and meaningful ways.

Spanish requirements vary program-to-program.

For programs with a two-year Spanish requirement, students may opt to take 1:1 virtual classes through our language partner Casa Xalteva in Nicaragua. Contact Admissions at [email protected] for more information.

Spanish is required for some programs because local students will also be joining the pod. We want all volunteers to be able to communicate with each other during the experience.

See each project’s requirements for details.

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 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.