Guadalajara is a metropolitan area in Mexico that often goes unnoticed by travelers, but for those interested in volunteering abroad, it’s a city worth a great deal of attention. Known for being a cultural center for the western part of the country (Mariachi music anyone?), this modern city boasts familiar modern amenities while holding on to its historical authenticity, throughout its museums, food, music, and art scene. A place where the developed and developing worlds meet, there are many opportunities to volunteer abroad in Guadalajara to help improve the lives of those in need (animals included!).
Volunteering in Guadalajara
Numerous opportunities to volunteer in Guadalajara await you! Whether you want to work with animals or people, or entire communities, there will be a volunteer placement in Guadalajara that suits your goals for volunteering abroad!
Animal Welfare. If you love animals, there are opportunities to volunteer in Guadalajara with both wild and domestic animals. By volunteering in Guadalajara at local rescue centers, you can interact with animals who have been injured, mistreated, or abandoned. The majority of animal welfare placements are focused on supporting daily care of animals. In some instances, you will work to rehabilitate animals so they can be released back into the wild. Typically solely run by donations, these organizations and wildlife safe havens are in constant need of volunteers to continue their missions, especially since the centers are run on limited resources!
Medicine & Healthcare. Ranging from nursing to physical therapy to dentistry, there are numerous medical and healthcare volunteer opportunities in Guadalajara. Volunteering your time is a great way to gain experience for your future medical aspirations. While the level of required qualifications varies between placements, there are some volunteer placements in Guadalajara that require no prior experience in the field. For newbie medical professionals, a willingness to learn is vital, and duties can be as simple as helping with day to day patient intake or medical records.
Childcare. Working with children is a high need area of volunteering in Guadalajara. Sports-related volunteer placements are specifically a great way to interact with children, while informing them of the importance of physical activity and leading a healthy lifestyle. Orphanage volunteering in Guadalajara is also common, and allows volunteers to get to know individual children and work with them to improve their lives through education, interaction, and personal guidance.
Volunteer placements in Guadalajara can range from one week to three months to a full year. It is also quite popular for volunteer programs to take place during alternative spring breaks or summer vacations; overall, short term volunteering in Guadalajara is common.
Fluency in Spanish is not required to volunteer in Guadalajara, but basic Spanish language skills are recommended, and will be extremely helpful for volunteers in day to day interactions. Additionally, since homestays are a very common accommodation option when volunteering abroad in Guadalajara, being able to communicate with your host family will allow you to immerse yourself in the community on a deeper level.
Life in Guadalajara
Guadalajara is one of the most populated cities in Mexico. Although your tasks will vary based on the type of volunteer placement you choose, daily life as a volunteer in Guadalajara often involves shadowing a local professional in the field or supporting the operations of an organization or institution, followed by time engaging with locals and other volunteers.
After volunteer work. volunteers will have the chance to experiment with the local cuisine, go salsa dancing, or just go out and explore Guadalajara. Volunteers typically work Monday through Friday, which leaves plenty of time for weekend getaways and extra time to explore the city. Points of interest worth checking out in Guadalajara include Museo Regional de Guadalajara, the Guadalajara Cathedral, and the local futbol stadium and zoo, all of which will allow you to immerse yourself in the culture of the city. Cultural immersion through exploration, as well as interaction with your host family (if you have one) and other locals, is an integral part of volunteering in Guadalajara. Regardless of what you choose to spend your free time doing, volunteering in Guadalajara will surely give you an authentic Mexican experience.
Costs & Affordability
The cost of goods and services in Guadalajara are very similar to the United States. Since Guadalajara is one of the larger cities in Mexico, prices tend to be higher than in other more rural areas and small towns. For example, lunch in the city center will typically cost around $8, a pair of jeans around $45, and a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola is $1.30.
As far as volunteer program costs go, housing, orientation, placement arrangements, and some meals are usually included. Airport pick up and some daily transportation is typically included in program fees too, but flights to Mexico and out-of-country transportation is not. Just be sure to speak with your program provider so you know what is included and what isn’t.
If you are concerned about paying for a volunteer program in Guadalajara, crowd-sourced fundraising is a great way to make your volunteering dreams come true.
Accommodation & Visas
As mentioned, homestays are the standard accommodation across most volunteer programs in Guadalajara. Homestays provide volunteers with numerous opportunities to engage with locals and develop relationships in their host community. Keep in mind that it is common for volunteers to have roommates while staying with host families. Guest house accommodation is also commonly provided for volunteers; this type of arrangement gives volunteers more time to get to know each other.
A visa is not required to volunteer in Guadalajara, but volunteers must fill out a Forma Migratoria Multiple, or visitor’s permit, upon arrival to Mexico. The permit is valid for 180 days, which allows for six months of volunteer work, but it is important to note that you cannot be paid for any work under this permit. If your volunteer program in Guadalajara is expected to last longer than the 180 days, you will need to apply for the Residente Temporal visa, or leave Mexico and re-enter.
Benefits & Challenges
Guadalajara provides volunteers with the comforts of a modern city, while also giving them the opportunity to conduct volunteer work in less developed areas of the region. A city full of life, Guadalajara is also the perfect place to immerse yourself in a new place, by getting to know the local community members you are helping and interacting with locals daily. Many people experience Mexico by only staying at resorts in the most tourist heavy areas; on the other hand, volunteering in Guadalajara will inspire you to experience the less touristy side of the country.
See what makes Mexico great through the eyes of a volunteer, and locals, and help the city build a brighter future!