Valparaiso, located halfway down Chile’s coastline, is arguably the country’s most frenzied city, featuring endless hills, thousands of staircases along absurdly-angled streets, eclectic architecture, and unique seafaring traditions. Yet this Jewel of the Pacific also possesses an unexpected charm that will make volunteers fall in love. Whether you want to lend a hand at environmental conservation or help out with community development, the colorful views and ocean backdrop create the perfect environment to volunteer abroad. What are you waiting for? Volunteer in Valparaiso and change someone’s life!
How to Volunteer in Valparaiso
Chile may be one of the most prosperous countries in South America, but that doesn’t mean its cities don’t need your help. Valparaiso is the land of a buena oda (good vibes), and its lovely people embrace volunteers with open arms. No matter how long you stay or how you choose to make a difference, you will be welcomed into a community that makes your feel immediately at home.
Popular Causes. Throughout Chile, all youth are encouraged to become fully bilingual, so English teachers are in hot demand. For that reason, teaching English in primary and secondary schools is the most common volunteer placement in Valparaiso. Although you will need to know some Spanish in order to volunteer in a local school, many programs offer Spanish lessons in exchange for teaching. Other popular placements include youth development, environmental conservation, and healthcare.
Summer and short-term programs. Not every volunteer can spend months or years in a placement. If you want to volunteer abroad for a short-term program, consider a placement in an orphanage or joining an effort to preserve this coastal city. Placements can be short as two weeks, although the longer you stay, the bigger an impact you’ll make.
Long-term stints. For long-term volunteers abroad, the most popular placement is teaching. Every elementary and secondary school in Valparaiso teaches English as a second language, but most requirement a commitment of at least one semester, if not longer. If you have the time, consider volunteering abroad in a school where you’ll see major progress in little ones’ language skills, while improving your own Spanish language skills.
Life in Valparaiso for Volunteers
Valparaiso has long been the center of attention for poets, painters, and philosophers, and soon you will fall for Chile’s most unusual city, too! Valparaiso is full of contrasts and unexpected charm. Walk up and down hilly streets and find crumbling mansions and chaotic stairways, next to some of the best street art in Latin America and romantic open air garden cafes. Give your legs a rest and ride the famous ascensores (cable cars), or seek artistic inspiration at Palacio Baburizza. The city offers something for every intern, from beautiful beaches and mouthwatering food, to stunning architecture and colorful museums.
Valparaiso may not be the cheapest destination for volunteering abroad, but it is much less expensive than Europe and the United States. Most programs provide food and housing with local homestays or volunteer lodging, and some even offer a small weekly stipend. If you stay long-term and want to explore on your own, there are ways to save money. Eat where the locals eat and stick to ascensores, instead of expensive buses. Avoid volunteering during the summer months (December to March), as prices often double for tourists.
GoAbroad Insider Tips
In this city where “anything goes,” volunteers will have to make adjustments to prepare themselves for the unpredictable nature of Valparaiso. The environment itself can be chaotic, with constant smog over the city, rip currents in the sea, volcano eruptions, and occasional earthquakes. Volunteers should do their research on seasonal climate, pay attention to the weather, and dress appropriately in order to avoid surprises while volunteering abroad.
As a volunteer abroad in Valparaiso, get ready to work those glutes! The city is surreal when it comes to the number of stairs throughout the city. No matter where you volunteer, you’re guaranteed to climb stairs on your route to and from your placement each day. It may take time to get used to, but it’s worth it for the good views and the good workout.
While volunteering abroad in Valparaiso, you’ll adopt a slower pace of life. The locals work slowly, are often late, and stores close at unexpected hours. While this can come as a culture shock to some, it is best to take it as an opportunity to slow down and go with the flow. There is no better place to live in the moment.
Pablo Neruda once said, “Valparaiso, how absurd you are… you haven’t combed your hair, you’ve never had time to get dressed, life has always surprised you.” As a volunteer abroad in Valparaiso, life will surprise you, too. You will fall in love with the chaos and charm, the welcoming locals and beautiful scenery. In no time at all, the beautiful mess of the city will feel like home.
Find more awesome info on how to volunteer abroad in Chile here.