A country with a strong economy and extreme landscapes, Chile continues to eradicate extreme poverty in every region, including Santiago. The social problems Chile faces create the need for international volunteers in local communities. The vast gap between the rich and poor is clearly evident in Chile, where a large part of the population struggles with day to day life. Individuals who love community projects are a big help for Chile. On top of being able to contribute important skills to developing communities, you can learn Spanish from some of the warmest people in the world while volunteering in Santiago, Chile.
Volunteer Programs in Santiago
Volunteering opportunities in Santiago are as varied as its geography. With a wide range of volunteering works in the capital city, a picturesque landscape with various hiking trails, relaxing and volunteering is a good combination when choosing Santiago as your next stop. Volunteering placements are available in a range of sectors. These volunteering projects run from a couple of weeks to few months, with support provided to the volunteers for the entire duration of each project.
Health & Health Services. Health programs will place volunteers in local hospitals and clinics. These programs will focus on public health efforts, physical therapy, and medical shadowing. These projects are good for individuals pursuing a career in medicine; it’s a great opportunity for hands-on, real-world experience. Institutions offering services like physical therapy for children and athletes with disabilities, and which participate in health campaigns and outreach programs for remote communities also require passionate international volunteers.
Animal Welfare. These programs are for volunteers who love and enjoy taking care of animals. Volunteers will be most likely be assigned to an animal shelter which rescues dogs and cats from the streets, where they struggle to survive. Volunteers will help in the shelters, taking care of ill and abused animals, or with an organization that feeds and looks after the animals that remain living in the streets.
Social Work. Social work in Chile, especially in Santiago, is a big issue, with many institutions in need of volunteers and financial support. Join one of the projects and work with different institutions, such as children’s homes, in women’s shelters, or taking care of handicapped and elderly adults. You will be trained and empowered to help and foster the development of local institutions, and to nurture the development of kids as role models, educators, and ambassadors for social justice. The lack of financial support from the government and its social service systems are one of the reasons why volunteering in social works in Santiago is a priority in Chile. Make a difference by staying in a local institution for a few weeks, or months, and help change lives.
Education. Volunteers who wish to develop their skills as English teachers, or even as teachers in general, will be able to experience teaching in different environments. Volunteers will be assisting local teachers and work closely with children, helping develop lesson plans, providing small group tutoring, and carrying out other admin/support tasks. Volunteering in a non-English speaking community is definitely difficult, but it is an opportunity to learn, and it provides positive insights for future teaching environments.
Life in Santiago
Strategically located in a valley, a volunteer in Chile in the city of Santiago is surrounded not only by warm people, but by the snow-capped Andes and the Chilean Coastal Road. On weekends and holidays, volunteers can enjoy Santiago’s rugged natural landscape, a nice way to take a break after a long week of work in the hosting organization.
Santiago, the capital of Chile, is the fifth largest city in South America, and it is continuously growing. Today it is one of the most modern cities on the continent, and Chile’s center of commerce. Life in Santiago could be overwhelming, as you will be sharing the city with more than five million inhabitants. The city is a central point of the region filled with attractive sites and activities. Both beach and adventure lovers will be satisfied: to the south are some of South America’s premier ski centers, while Pacific beaches unfurl to the northwest. In the city center, you can visit museums which house artifacts from during dictatorship.
Or, just stroll through the city and visit centuries old churches and buildings built during Spanish occupation. You can also visit parks and take a break during a busy day to chill, jog, or cycle. On Sundays, you can visit the flea market and find various things like used clothes, arts and crafts, and other souvenirs.
Living in Santiago can be expensive. As the capital city of Chile, Santiago is one of the priciest cities in South America. Taking public transport, shopping at local shops and eating where locals eat can help you cut costs during your stay. The best thing you can do is to look around and observe. Once you get to know the locals you will discover how to live cheaply in Santiago.
Accommodation & Visas
Finding a place to stay in Santiago won’t be a problem. Volunteers who intend to find accommodation independently can choose to live in a flat or a shared apartment. Your host organization will assist you in finding the right places to stay. Accommodation will vary according to the location, price, and amenities. There are places which are fully furnished and others that aren’t.
The location of the apartments while you’re volunteering in Santiago, Chile will have a significant impact on the price: nicer neighborhoods are generally more expensive, but also more secure and overall more pleasant to live in. Be mindful that the country has four seasons. It could be hot in the summer and very cold in the winter. There are apartments which do not have centralized air conditioning or heating units to keep you comfortable throughout your stay. So take note and check the apartment’s amenities thoroughly.
For volunteers who are staying long term, applying for the necessary visa is a top priority. There are some nationalities who do not require a visa when visiting the country for up to three months. Other nationalities can apply for a working holiday visa and stay in the country for up to 12 months. For information accurate to your nationality, it is best to check with the Chilean embassy nearest you.
Benefits & Challenges
Volunteering in Santiago could be rewarding and challenging at the same time. The major obstacle to volunteering is the language. Spanish is the main language of the country and most host organizations will require volunteers to have at least basic Spanish, since not all locals speaks English. This would be a great opportunity to learn Spanish if you don’t already speak it.
Volunteers will be able to take advantage of living in a highly urbanized, yet environmentally conscious city. Its highly efficient transportation system will take you all over Santiago, and to neighboring cities, without much hassle. Lastly, you will get to taste the Chilean cuisine from the countries best and most famous restaurants — the perfect end to a long day as a volunteer in Chile!
Anyone else feeling a little chilly? Grab your parka and head south. We’ll see you there!