Like many Latin American countries, Venezuela has had a long history of political turmoil. One of the first South American colonies to declare independence in the 19th century, Venezuela has since endured over two centuries of regime changes and uprisings, and today is still plagued by high levels of corruption and inflation. All the while remaining a truly beautiful country with a vibrant and festive culture, volunteering in Venezuela will be an eye opening experience that will place you among often overlooked populations where you can make a real difference.
Venezuela is one of the most urbanized countries in South America and many of its 30 million inhabitants live in major cities across the nation.
Caracas is the political capital of the country and the largest city with nearly six million residents. Located in the coastal mountain ranges of the north near the Atlantic Ocean, Caracas is undoubtedly the center of cultural and economic activity in Venezuela. With many international businesses, museums, shopping malls and the like, Caracas offers international volunteers an authentic and bustling view of Venezuelan urban life.
Other cities, such as Maracaibo, Valencia, and Barquisimeto, have foundations in the 16th century colonization of the area and today remain important hubs of Venezuelan culture and commerce. Though respectably developed, life in these cities can be quite intense for foreign volunteers not accustomed to the urban environment of developing countries.
Over a quarter of Venezuelans live below the poverty line, and many of the noticeable effects of this phenomenon are concentrated in the nation’s bigger cities. The underperforming economy contributes to the great impact of volunteer programs in Venezuela.
Venezuela is also extremely biodiverse, residing at the northern tip of South America near the equator. Home to thousands of indigenous species and a dramatic terrain that ranges from the Andes Mountains in the West to the Amazon Basin in the South, this geographical wonderland is well worth travelling extensively after completing volunteer work. Many volunteering programs in Venezuela place volunteers in more rural, untamed areas, for example projects focused on environmental conservation or social issues of rural living.
Projects & Placements
Due to high poverty rates, individuals who decide to volunteer in Venezuela will find numerous opportunities to provide aid in the areas of social work and community building. Other popular volunteer placements in Venezuela include healthcare, childcare, education, and other placements which contribute to social and economic development. Volunteer programs which help provide necessary social services are extremely valuable to Venezuela’s poorest citizens, who have little to no access to such resources.
Environmental conservation and wildlife protection are also popular areas for volunteering in Venezuela. Since Venezuela is a biodiversity hotspot, volunteer programs offer ample opportunities for volunteers to gain on the ground experience, working on projects such as reforestation, environmental cleanup, and environmental education. Environmental conservation is not high on the nation’s priority list, as economic progress is more of an immediate concern, thus international volunteers can provide valuable resources and awareness-raising campaigns for locals.
Individuals can also choose to participate in volunteer work in Venezuela that is dedicated to peacekeeping and aiding social progress. In the past, Venezuela has often been plagued with turmoil and political violence, an unfortunate side effect of an unstable system. Volunteering in Venezuela to educate community leaders about peaceful strategies aimed at promoting social and political change or human rights can provide yet another valuable resource to local communities.
Costs & Affordability
Due to high price controls and a largely state-controlled economy, Venezuela is not as inexpensive as other countries which surround it in South America. Many of its goods, such as food and clothing, are imported, meaning that they will be somewhat more expensive than in other regions of the continent. The economy is quite unstable as well, as the country has been historically prone to high inflation and price fluctuations.
If you are volunteering abroad in Venezuela through a larger program provider, then it is likely that many of the costs of everyday living will be included in the upfront fees. If affordability is a concern then fundraising is a great way to cover the costs of any volunteer abroad trip too!
Accommodation & Visas
Most volunteer programs in Venezuela will help organize housing for you during your stay. Popular housing options in Venezuela are homestays, which are a great opportunity for intimate cultural exchange with a local Venezuelan host family, and group or individual apartment living. There are also some programs that allow students to move and volunteer around the country, in which case volunteers will likely stay in a variety of places.
Volunteers from most Western nations can volunteer in Venezuela for up to 90 days with only a valid passport. If you plan on volunteering in Venezuela for longer than three months then you will want to consult your program provider about which visa option will be best to cover your stay. You can also check out GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory to find out information from Venezuelan consulates near to you.
Benefits & Challenges
Venezuela often gets a bad rap in the Western world as a sort of rogue state, due to socialist tendencies and the controversial leadership of former president Hugo Chavez. However, those who volunteer abroad in Venezuela will find the country to be culturally vibrant and geographically beautiful, and they will find the local people are very appreciative of international volunteers.
If you are the adventurous type and are up for a challenge, then volunteering abroad in Venezuela can be an extremely influential and informative experience - one that will open your eyes to a very different and very fascinating country.