While some people might be hard pressed to find Guyana on a map, that only makes this small South American country an even better option for a volunteer adventure. Situated just north of the equator and covered with untouched rainforest, Guyana is the perfect location to jump into a volunteer placement with both feet. Whether you’re helping an eco-lodge construct new sleeping quarters, conducting research on giant river otters, or teaching in a primary school deep in the rainforest, you’re guaranteed to be fully immersed in the Guyanese way of life.
Where to Volunteer Abroad in Guyana
Though it’s technically in South America, Guyana has a distinct culture all its own. As the only English-speaking country on the continent, it shares many cultural and economic ties with neighboring Caribbean islands. Its history has also created a diverse population, and you’ll find people with roots from as far away as India, Africa, and Asia living alongside indigenous groups. Whether you’re interested in a more urban experience or want to volunteer deep in the rainforest, Guyana has got you covered.
Georgetown. Though it’s the capital of Guyana, this city remains relatively small, with only about 118,000 inhabitants. Known as the “Garden City of the Caribbean”, it sits along the Atlantic coast, surrounded by sugar cane fields and marshes. All volunteers will spend at least a little time in Georgetown due to its proximity to the international airport and regional transport stations. Be sure to check out the busy Stabroek Market, which has sold everything from clothing to produce since its construction in 1881.
Rural Areas. This is where the majority of volunteer opportunities take place, and volunteers should be prepared to go off the grid, sometimes literally. Dense rainforest covers most of the country, and towns are few and far between, connected only by dirt roads and winding rivers. In the southwest corner of the country, the rainforest subsides into vast savannas, where cowboys raise cattle and eco-lodges are popping up to allow tourists to explore this biologically diverse region.
Popular Volunteer Projects in Guyana
Popular volunteer projects in Guyana are as diverse as the country itself, and you’ll be able to find a project regardless of your background. While some projects do require prior experience, many opportunities are open to anyone willing to learn new skills and put in the effort.
Eco-tourism. As the country recognizes the importance of environmental conservation, many locals are turning to eco-tourism to boost their income. As a volunteer, you may be involved in building and construction projects, teaching business skills like accounting or IT, or assisting with organic farming projects that help to feed locals and visitors alike.
Wildlife Research. Guyana is one of the most biologically rich areas on the planet, and opportunities to do biological research abound. Whether you’re tasked with spotting black caimans in the river, patrolling beaches where giant marine turtles lay their eggs, or doing other conservation tasks, Guyana is one of the best places to spot rare species and immerse yourself in remote natural surroundings.
Community Development. Whether you’re in Georgetown or a small village, volunteers can assist with a variety of community development projects, from teaching in local schools to monitoring wildlife for anti-poaching projects.
Costs of Volunteering in Guyana
It’s usually not free to volunteer in Guyana, but one thing to keep in mind is what exactly is included in your volunteer fee. Many programs include things like housing, meals, and transportation within the country, making the cost more reasonable. That said, expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 USD for four weeks to $2,600 USD for a two month stay. If that sounds pricey, you can help offset some of your costs by creating an account at FundMyTravel or checking out GoAbroad’s scholarship opportunities and advice. The cost to volunteer in Guyana is manageable for most individuals, as long as you do the research and start saving your pennies now!
Accommodations in Guyana
The majority of volunteer positions in Guyana include housing, and in most cases you’ll be living in the same location as your placement. Whether that means you’ll be sleeping at the ranch where you work or staying with a host family near your school, you’ll be fully immersed in the Guyanese lifestyle. Be prepared for rustic accommodations, intermittent electricity and running water, and no internet. (You’ll survive, promise!) It’s common for volunteers to sleep in hammocks in open-air buildings, and after experiencing the humidity, you’ll understand why this is the most popular option for locals, too.
Visas for Guyana
Not all travelers to Guyana will require a visa to enter, so it’s important to check out the Embassy Directory to determine your needs. Depending on where you are coming from, how long you plan to stay, and what activities you’ll be doing, you may not need a visa at all. However, some placements do require work permits. In these cases, your program should be able to assist you with obtaining the proper paperwork. Be sure to verify this information in advance to avoid complications on arrival.
GoAbroad Insider Tips
Volunteering in Guyana is not for the faint of heart, and the most successful volunteers are those who consider themselves relatively independent travelers. Most placements are in remote areas of the country with few amenities, little communication with the outside world, and weather-dependent transportation. You must be able to rely on yourself, your community, and the local environment during your volunteer experience. That said, the chance to disconnect from the world as you know it and jump into a totally new experience is one that will incite personal growth, awareness of the world around you, and the very real possibility of sighting a jaguar in the wild.