You are about to discover a new culture, accomplish something unforgettable, and explore what Panama has to offer!
Get involved in a variety of community aid projects in beautiful Panama. With such a range of interesting projects there's one to suit everyone. You have the opportunity to contribute to orphanage, school, wildlife, and environmental projects, working with the elderly or handicapped, literacy projects, jewellery making, and much more! The Panama projects are based in the small mountain village of Boquete. It is a picturesque tropical rainforest tucked away on the eastern slopes of Volcan Baru.
People can spend a lifetime searching for their passion and a sense of purpose. I am thankful for the GVN Panama Volunteer Coordinators, two people who have found their passion and dedicate their being to service for others. Through them I have realized that I can make an impact. Boquete was my first true service experience, and thanks to Kaytee & Oscar, I will continue to pursue this newfound passion!
Jen | Panama Volunteer
Such a great organization!!! This was the best volunteer experience of my life. GVN's partner organisation is doing such great things for the community. I think that everyone should be given the same opportunity that I had because it was life-changing. Keep up the good work!
Meg | Panama Volunteer
Just Choose a Project and Apply!
Volunteers are accommodated in either a volunteer house or a home stay. For volunteers staying in the volunteer house, it is conveniently located in the center of town on the main street; the home has a peaceful atmosphere that will make you feel just at home. The home has hot water and you will be able to share an equipped kitchen, a comfortable living room lounge to chill out and free internet access is available. Volunteers need to bring their own towels and laundry services are available within a block of the home. Volunteers should expect to share a room with a fellow volunteer of the same gender, the house can accommodate up to 13 people at one time.
For volunteers living in home stays conditions may be more rustic than for those in the volunteer house and an extra charge will apply. However, living with a Panamanian family during your volunteer time is an incredible cultural experience. A homestay offers you an amazing opportunity to practice Spanish in a natural, relaxed and authentic atmosphere as well as being in a unique position to be immersed in the Latin American culture, cuisine, customs and daily way of life.
Your program fee provides for your breakfast from the start date of your placement. Breakfast foods may include: cereal, bread with jam/peanut butter, fruit, yogurt, granola, pancakes, eggs, juice, tea and coffee. Please note that meals will differ between different accommodation. For all other meals - lunch, dinner and snacks - volunteers are responsible for purchasing at your own cost and preparing food for yourself.
Are you drawn to helping children in need? Do you have a soft spot for cheeky smiles? As a volunteer you have the opportunity to help children in need and aid in developing and inspiring their minds and hearts. These children seek love, attention, knowledge and education to empower them to have successful futures, free from poverty and filled with opportunities. This program works to create growth and development opportunities for children and teenagers with a focus on children living in orphanages, and those who come from low income families. Volunteer opportunities may include: working in orphanages assisting with daily activities and childcare duties, helping with homework, running Saturday morning soccer & music classes. It is important to help in the way they need it. This could mean you will be helping with mentoring and playing with the kids, teaching in a classroom, working in the laundry, cooking meals, or feeding and bathing the children. As some of these projects are not full-time, volunteers must be able to join 2 to 3 projects to build a full-time schedule. This program is suitable for positive, caring, motivated, and self-directed people who have a love for children.
Are you excited about helping out and learning about a community in Panama? Our partner works with a number of small community based organizations which provide development services to enhance the local community. Volunteers have the opportunity to work with the disabled, animal & wildlife programs, medical and community recycling. As some of the projects are not full-time, volunteers may take part in a flexible schedule, which includes a combination of projects.
Centre for Disabled Children and Adults:
Volunteers with relevant qualifications and experience have the opportunity to work in the centre for the disabled giving physical or speech therapy to both children and adults, and act as a mentor. Volunteers without such qualifications are welcome to participate here in a range of other activities, including playing games, pushing someone in a wheelchair, reading a book, helping with handicrafts, or just being available to lend a helping hand where needed. Basic Spanish is useful, but many of the staff members speak both English & Spanish. Long-term volunteers are encouraged to apply. Unless volunteers are suitably qualified, this is a part time placement (meeting as a group once per week) and volunteers will need to participate in other projects to complete their volunteering schedule.
Animal and Wildlife Project:
Volunteers will work with an animal refuge and educational centre that saves and provides a home for unwanted, abused, and abandoned animals, and also provides a long-term home for macaw parrots. Volunteers are needed to assist in caring for the animals, maintaining the center, increasing awareness, and providing valuable information to guests of the center. Volunteers with veterinary background can also help in a spay and neuter clinic.
This is the perfect placement for all you environmentalists! Volunteers will work with an organization which is dedicated to educate school children about the environment & organize community activities & events. Volunteers are needed to assist with the school-based program and also with the collecting, sorting and distribution of materials.
The GEM Project
The GEM Project is a multifaceted international jewelry-making empowerment program that inspires positive thinking, global giving and creative power for positive individual and social change. The GEM Project is currently working with mothers with children with disabilities and young pregnant teens who are struggling to care for themselves and their babies. The ladies join together on a weekly basis. Volunteers at this project will work with various aspects, including: program development, training, incorporating new jewelry designs, marketing of jewelry, fundraising and program administration. Volunteers need to be able to communicate in Spanish and have to have experience making jewelry to participate in the project. This project is for dedicated, creative volunteers who are innovative and positive thinkers. Please note, the GEM project is not available year round, as it is offered in 12 week sessions.
Entrepreneurship Development Project
Do you have a project or idea you would like to implement into the community of Panama? We want to hear your ideas! The Entrepreneurship Project is designed for those who know what they are passionate about and have the desire and determination to move forward with their ideas. This project aims at giving you the connections needed to implement your ideas into serving the community. It is self driven, but our partner organisation is there to support you along the way.
Hablas Ingles? (Do you speak English?). The ability to read, write and speak English are increasingly important for many Panamanians in the workforce or those planning to enter the workforce. Volunteers have the opportunity to work as English teachers with the community of Boquete with both adults and younger students. The classes are offered one-on-one or in small groups. This role is suitable for an organized, patient, and self-motivated individual. A teaching qualification is not required, but volunteers need to be confident teaching English and preferably have or are studying towards a university degree.
Our vision is to connect people with communities in need, with a particular focus on vulnerable women and children. We do this by supporting the work of local community organizations in countries through the placement of international volunteers.
We are excited to get your placement under way where you will:
Be a part of GVN's efforts to inspire learning, innovation and action to unlock the potential of vulnerable communities around the world. Work with exceptional grassroots projects in community development, conservation and wildlife, personal development, fundraising and physical challenges.
Have the 24/7 support of a non profit with 12 years experience in placing 19551 volunteers that will provide you with an affordable and rewarding placement.
Volunteer with a world-class organization which is recommended by Bill Gates and CNN.
Be a part of progressive non profit that has raised over $2 million to help women and children in need.
Have the comfort of knowing that GVN staff have collectively flown over 1 million miles to ensure you get a quality placement.
Make a long-term impact in your community of choice - it's not just a vacation.
How GVN works...
The first step is to fill out an application to see if we have a place for you. Then if your application is successful you will be accepted and we will then get to work organizing your placement.
GVN is a registered Charitable Trust, so volunteers finance themselves, or can fundraise online with our unique GVN platform, with US donors receiving tax receipts. The Program Package provides you with all that is listed below, along with personalized support from our expert staff and the knowledge that you'll be working with a reputable and registered charity with over 12 years experience in the field.
At the heart of our work is the communities our volunteers work to support - we ensure that these communities truly benefit from your time in Panama and that the Program Package fully supports you financially while you're volunteering.
The Program Package also includes a project donation, which supports the work the GVN Foundation does in addressing nutrition, education and healthcare needs, as well as supporting longer-term development approaches, including income generation activities and microfinance.
Your program package includes:
Personal support from your Program Specialist throughout the preparation process.
Your Program Guide, with all the details on Panama and your placement.
Fundraising strategies and access to our crowd funding platform where you can raise up to 100% of the cost your trip, with tax receipts for your US based donors.
Access to Your Own Online Journal: which helps you to communicate effectively and easily with your family and friends back home.
Opportunities for Preferred Pricing and Personalized Service when booking Airfares: through our travel partner GYT Flight Centre who go the extra mile to support GVN volunteers.
Accommodation: Volunteer House (Home stays & several other lodging options can be arranged for an additional fee).
Meals: Breakfast daily.
Project Donation: Included to empower local organizations.
Airport pickup: On arrival date.
Training: In-country Orientation & training covering placement logistics & also a very personal exploration into your life goals & aspirations.
Supervision: In-country staff supervision.
Support: Pre-departure personal support from your volunteer coordinator, 24/7 in-country support from partner, and 24hr emergency line.
Extras: Spanish crash course, weekly volunteer dinners & outings, free reliable wi-fi Internet at volunteer house with access to volunteer computer, weekly volunteer reflections, Certificate of Completion & reference letter upon request.
An opportunity to debrief and provide feedback
Free access to GVN Changemakers program which alerts you to future internship/job opportunities at GVN.
A Letter of Completion in Volunteer Service.
The opportunity to stay connected with your project.
Global advocacy and fundraising campaigns to continue your part of the movement for social change with an international non-profit that has granted over $2 million to our partner organizations.
The program package does not include: Flights, insurance, visas, vaccinations, project transportation, departure from the program.
We recommend you allow a weekly budget of US $35 for your other expenses such as bottled water, personal items, beverages, transportation and entertainment.
Your Program Package
Calculate the price of your individualised program package. Details on longer placements may be available on request.
Select A Project
Then: Select A Length
Your Program Package
For those securing far enough in advance, there is a possible US$300 discount. Confirming your placement early on allows us and our partner communities the ability to plan in advance with confidence in terms of volunteer numbers and funding for the months ahead.
Tell me more about Boquete, Panama?
The valley of Boquete is located in the western highlands of Panama at 1,200 meters above the sea. Nestled amongst the country’s most mountainous region, this peaceful town is situated between the Caldera River and the Baru Volcano. Boquete is considered the ecotourism capital of Panama and is known as the best coffee producer in the world. Surrounded by untouched tropical rain forests it is just one hour away from unspoiled white sand beaches in the Pacific and 3 hours away from Bocas del Toro in the Caribbean. Boquete is home to 20,000 welcoming people whose cultural roots can be traced from Native Indians, Spaniards, Europeans and North Americans among other ethnicities. All give shape to the cultural melting pot that is Boquete today.
What is the climate like in Boquete, Panama?
Boquete enjoys a sunny, cool mountain climate, with temperatures ranging between 60° - 80°F (16° - 28°C).
Where will I be located?
The projects will be predominantly located in Boquete and surrounding areas. However, some volunteers will be based in David.
What kind of volunteer work is available?
The Global Volunteer Network offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities in Panama. Volunteers can work with a range of projects including: orphanages, literacy, animal refuge, working with the elderly or handicapped, jewelry making and recycling. Our partner will also work with the volunteer closely to place you were your knowledge, skills and talents will be best used.
Do I have to be from New Zealand?
No, volunteers are welcome from any country.
What age do I have to be to volunteer?
You must be at least 18 years of age. There is no upper limit, you just have to be in good health.
Do I need to speak English to volunteer?
Many of the programs are run in both English and Spanish. If you are a native English speaker and have no Spanish speaking skills, we do recommend that you learn a basic level of Spanish before you start volunteering, as this will enhance your overall experience. The staff at our partner organization speaks English, but the locals at your specific project may have very limited English. All volunteers participate in a Spanish language crash course included with orientation. Volunteers will have access to our partnering language school for additional lessons during their stay for an additional fee.
When do I need to arrive in Panama?
Volunteers are encouraged to arrive on the Friday before the 1st or 3rd Monday of each month, as this will give you time to settle in and explore the area before starting your placement on Monday. Please note airport pick-ups cannot be arranged for those arriving on a Sunday. Volunteers will need to cover the costs of additional accommodation. Special arrangements can be made to start anytime throughout the month if needed.
Is the program available year round?
Most projects are closed during special holidays such as Easter Week, Christmas and Carnival. Some of the teaching projects are not available during the summer months of January-March; however there are alternate placements available during this time.
When will I know specific details on the placement?
After you have joined the program, you will be sent the program guide with more details about the program and your Program Specialist will begin making arrangements for your placement. Once you’ve confirmed your placement, you’ll be put in touch with our partner organization.
How safe is it to volunteer in Panama?
As in many countries, foreigners are perceived as wealthy in Panama. Most of the people are generally warm and friendly towards foreigners, as well as appreciative of the work done by volunteers, but not every individual is the same. We work extremely hard to ensure you are placed in safe environments while volunteering and security policies are in place to achieve this. However, as in any situation at home or abroad, there is no way to erase all potential threats. You should avoid extremely remote areas where you will be alone. Volunteers will be given further safety advice, including for the case of natural disasters, in their orientation session.
Tell me more about flying into Panama?
Volunteers need to fly to Enrique Malek Airport (DAV). All volunteers will need to fly through Panama City, Panama or San Jose, Costa Rica to make a connecting flight. If you need to spend the night in Panama City or San Jose because of your flights, our partner can arrange an airport transfer and night in a hotel for you.
May I choose which project to volunteer in?
Our partner works with many organizations and we work diligently to place our volunteers with the project most suited to the volunteer's knowledge, skills and talents.
May I volunteer in a combination of projects?
Yes, due to the scheduling of several of our partners projects, volunteers are able to participate in a variety of projects. Volunteers will have a main project that can be supplemented with additional projects and interests.
How do I get to the project?
Many of the projects are within walking distance from the volunteer house, however for those further away, you will be able catch a bus or taxi to your project each day. The cost for the bus is around US $.50 - $2 each day, or for a private or a shared taxi the cost is around US $.50 - $3 per day.
What immunizations/vaccinations will I need?
This is a suggestion of what may be needed - please consult with your medical professional or travel specialist for more details.
Hepatitis A & B
Diphtheria and tetanus
Malaria (see notes below)
Malaria is not needed for Boquete or David. Discuss closely with your doctor if you plan to travel through the rest of Panama.
Some of these can be taken in oral form so please discuss with your doctor to see what is best for you. Some people can be affected quite differently to others by medication.
What are the living arrangements when volunteering?
The majority of volunteers will live in either shared gender dorm rooms in a volunteer house, or more traditional home stays are available in certain areas. The volunteer house is equipped with basic western style amenities. There is a male and female dorm and one private room in the volunteer house. The home stay accommodation is more rustic than for those in Boquete. The Boquete Volunteer House can accommodate up to 13 volunteers. There is a male and female dorm and one private room.
A homestay offers volunteers an amazing opportunity to practice Spanish in a natural, relaxed and authentic atmosphere as well as being in a unique and privileged position to get immersed in the Latin American culture, cuisine, customs and daily way of life.
Can I bring my family/children to this program with me?
Our partner encourages family volunteerism, so you are able to bring your family, including children of all ages. Childcare can also be arranged at an additional cost if needed for some of the projects.
Can you accommodate specific dietary requirements?
Yes we can. Please indicate any dietary restrictions on your application form.
How does GVN choose volunteers for this program?
Each GVN program has different criteria depending on our partner's requirements. Every application is reviewed to ensure that the minimum requirements (as set out on the program page) are met. Next we look to see what skills or experience you have that relate specifically to the program. We are also interested in any previous volunteer experience you may have (either local or international), travel experience, and your particular interest in the program.
After reviewing your application, should we require any further information from you, we will email you to request this.
What hours am I expected to take part in the program?
The schedule for each project is different, but normally volunteers work 6 hours per day 5 days a week. Some programs offer services on the weekends also that volunteers may choose to participate in as part of their hours.
What resources will be available?
Each project will provide you with the resources you need. However, for the teaching and childcare projects we encourage our volunteers to bring additional resources such as: teaching resources, craft materials, sports equipment, toys or games to assist you. Our partner organization also has a selection of resources including games, books, pens and paper etc.
Can groups participate in this program?
Yes, we are able to accommodate groups for this program - please contact us for more details on specific group placements that are available.
Are there holidays or festival I should be aware of when traveling?
There are many festivals in Panama however this will not hinder your volunteering as when they are on you will most likely be invited to celebrate with everyone. During Christmas & Carnaval many organizations are closed for more extended periods of time.
Is there opportunity to take classes such as language or cultural activities while on the program?
Yes, all volunteers will have the option of adding Spanish classes each day for the duration of their project for an additional fee. All the Spanish teachers are professional teachers - either certified in teaching Spanish as a foreign language or with a Masters in Education. Volunteers will also be provided with basic terms and phrases during orientation to help with basic daily activities. Many volunteer group activities will give you the opportunity to participate in cultural activities and also explore the outdoor paradise of Panama.
Are we able to do any sightseeing while volunteering?
Yes. Volunteers have their weekends free for traveling and we recommend you take advantage of being in Panama to see places of interest. Our partner organization is able to assist you in booking tours of Boquete, Bocas Del Toro Archipelago, Panama City, and the Panama Canal.
What clothing is appropriate for the program?
Generally speaking, what you wear at home, you can wear in Panama. With that being said, as many variations of style differ, volunteers should dress appropriately at all times, according to the customs in Panama. Volunteers need warmer clothing for the nights (light long-sleeved shirts and sweaters, pants/jeans), and light/loose clothing for the day (t-shirts, shorts).
Are there more expenses once I arrive?
The program costs cover accommodation, airport pick-up and breakfast daily. If you plan on arriving early or staying on, then you will need to have spare money for this time. You may also require extra money for your days off depending on what you intend on doing. Other costs include food, bottled water (if you desire), visa (only required if staying longer than 90 days), travel, and any shopping you will do personally. Volunteers need to pay for the bus to their project each day - approximately US $.50 - $2 per day. All visitors to Panama are required to pay approximately US $5 for a tourist card at their departure airport; your airline will provide these prior to your flight to Panama.
What happens if I get sick or have an accident while Iím in Panama?
You should contact our partner organization so that they can take you to a clinic with an English-speaking doctor. They will also give you an emergency number during your orientation session. If you are unable to contact our partner organization, you may call GVN using our 24/7 emergency hotline.
How many volunteers are there on site at the same time?
This will depend on the time of year and the project you choose. We try to place volunteers with at least one other at their placement if possible. There is room for up to 20 volunteers at any one time in the volunteer house.
Can you tell me more about your partner in Panama?
Our partner organization was founded in September 2005 after a life changing volunteer trip to Indonesia the day after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. It was this event that inspired and empowered her to start the organisation.
What is the course content of the training?
Orientation takes place on the first or third Monday of the month. Volunteers are given a general introduction to the language, projects, and a cultural orientation.
Who organizes my visa for my volunteer placement?
Volunteers from the majority of countries are automatically given a 90-day tourist visa on entry into Panama. If volunteers wish to stay longer than 90-days, they have the option of crossing the border into Costa Rica and re-entering Panama, where they will be given an additional 90 days. Alternatively, our partner can take volunteers to immigration in David where they can apply for an extension of their visa.
Do I need travel insurance?
All GVN Volunteers must have insurance. You are free to take out insurance cover through any provider of your choice. However, as some policies do not cover volunteering, we recommend you check you are covered during your volunteer placement.
For your convenience we have arranged a comprehensive package specially designed for volunteering. It includes excellent medical and accident coverage as well as “loss of deposits” cover which covers fees paid to GVN, airlines etc. If you would like to learn more just follow this link: http://www.globalvolunteernetwork.org/insurance/
How do I pay my fees?
Your program fee is payable to Global Volunteer Network 10 weeks prior to the 1st of the month you wish to volunteer. Please note, your placement is not confirmed (ie secured) until your program fee has been received. Please note that all charges incurred by the payment of the program fee are at the volunteer’s expense, e.g. if a bank transfer incurs a bank fee at the point of origin, that is at the expense of the volunteer. Seventy percent (70%) of the program fee is refundable until two calendar months before the 1st of the month you are due to begin your program. For example a volunteer with 15 July 2012 as their start date would need to submit their refund request form by the last day of April 2012 to be eligible for a refund. Refer to GVN's legal terms of service for full details.
Will I need a police check?
As volunteering in Panama involves working closely with children and other vulnerable individuals, volunteers need to provide a police clearance document before volunteering commences. There are different types of police clearance but at minimum the check must include your full name and date of birth. Note, minor offences such as traffic infringements will not be taken into account. If you come from a country that does not issue police clearances for volunteer work, three character references from reputable sources (employer, justice of the peace, landlord, the minister of your local church, teacher, etc) may be substituted. Your character referees should know you well enough to vouch for your character.
Tell me more about David, Panama?
David is situated on gently rolling plains about half way between the Pacific Ocean to the south and the Cordillera Talamanca Highlands to the North. On the ocean, a short drive away, you will find the city of Puerto Armuelles and the beaches of Lar Barqueta, Las Lajas and Playa Hermosa. David is the second most populous city in Panama. In David you can encounter several museums and cinemas where you can go to the movies, shopping malls and plenty of more dance clubs, bars, and restaurants. It is the capital of the Chiriqui Province and the center of a rich farming region. The city’s heart is its fine central plaza, the Parque de Cervantes and is located 1.5km southwest of the highway.
David is located 38 kilometers (23 miles) away from Boquete. You can arrive in car between 30-40 minutes and by bus in one hour. It is also the halfway point between Panama City and San Jose, Costa Rica.
What is the climate like in David, Panama?
For those seeking warmer weather, David, which is close to sea level, is the place for you! David is hot year round with less rainfall than Boquete, with average temperatures usually between 78F and 82F (25C – 28C).
How many other volunteers can I expect to be there at the same time?
Volunteer numbers differ between seasons and demand. If you are concerned you may be the only volunteer there, you may want to encourage a friend to join you.
Panama is bordered by the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, and met by Colombia and Costa Rica at each end of it's S shaped body.
The valley of Boquete is located in the western highlands of Panama at 1,200 meters above the sea level. Nestled amongst the country's most mountainous region, this peaceful town is situated between the Caldera River and Baru Volcano.
Boquete is safe, beautiful, inexpensive and exciting. It can be easily accessed by 1 hour daily flights from Panama City to David (the country's second largest city), and then a 30-40 minute car / 1 hour bus journey from here.
Development in Panama
Strong economic performance has reduced the national poverty level to 29% in 2008; however, Panama has the second most unequal income distribution in Latin America. Panama has extremes of wealth and poverty with the wealthiest 20 percent of Panamanians controlling more than 50 percent of the country's wealth, while the poorest 40 percent only control 12 percent.
Despite Panama's relatively high income per capita (US$3,080 in 1997), poverty remains pervasive. Over one million people (37 percent of the population) live below the poverty line. Of these, over half a million (19 percent) live in extreme poverty. One-half of all Panamanian children are poor.
Volunteers provide assistance to disadvantaged socio-economic groups within Panamanian communities, focusing primarily on orphaned children, animals, environmental projects and school children.
As a volunteer in Panama you can provide love, affection, education and support to orphaned children. You will help to improve education in schools ensuring children learn and flourish. Depending on your interests you can also contribute to recycling projects, working with the elderly, or handicapped and jewellery making. You will also provide education, inter-cultural exchange and understanding in Panamanian communities.
What else can I do in Panama?
Free from large crowds of tourists, visitors to Panama will enjoy discovering this beautiful country.
Panama has no shortage of stunning beaches, mountains and rain forests to explore, along with it's smattering of colonial towns home to exquisite handicrafts and the country's friendliest people.
Those looking to get further out and explore will enjoy trekking in the Parque Nacional Volcán Barú, home to Panama's only volcano.
All volunteers will have the option of adding Spanish classes to enhance their volunteer experience for an additional fee with our partner school.
Also, Global Volunteer Network has established a partnership with the Spanish school Instituto Exclusivo, which offers GVN volunteers a 5% discount off their online Spanish lessons. This is not like other courses which give you pages of web material or recordings of various phrases to repeat. You will speak to, and see your instructor as he/she is giving you a private lesson, tailored to your level of Spanish. Learn spanish before you go