Gain practical work experience in education and sustainable development in the Mexican context. Work at an international charity organisation. Practice your conversational Spanish and develop your leadership capabilities.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
Online programs available
Online + Abroad
We now offer an online program so that you can make an impact from home. Complete only the online program or combine it with one of our programs abroad.
Travel to the Mexican Riviera Maya to develop your teaching and international development skill sets.
During the first phase of this internship, you will work at a local centre run by international non-profit, Save the Children. Here you will work with local staff members to run educational activities. These might include educational games to help facilitate literacy and numeracy skills or crafts and sports activities to assist children with reaching developmental milestones. Throughout this time you will develop your leadership capabilities, teaching techniques, and Spanish language skills.
If you aren’t fluent in Spanish be sure to speak to one of our enrolment managers about booking in-country Spanish language lessons. Those who are not fluent will require a minimum of 20 hours of lessons.
After successful completion of the training phase, interns will be assigned a work placement. Depending on the needs of our local partners at the time, interns might be placed at one of their facilities or work as a GVI staff member assisting with our community development projects in Mexico.
Gain experience in teaching and international development.
Learn how to raise funds are for non-profits.
Earn your GVI ILM Leadership Development certificate, a qualification recognised by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM).
Earn your ILM Endorsed Leadership Certificate.
Practice your conversational Spanish.
Experience the beaches, reefs, and culture of the Mexican Caribbean.
Live and work with other GVI participants from all around the world.
Live on the beach a few metres from the Puerto Morelos National Park Reef and a 15-minute drive from downtown Puerto Morelos. Situated in the stunning Puerto Morelos, the oldest porteño community in the Mexican Caribbean, this site allows for some fantastic diving. A typical day may involve diving, lab work, training on base, community days, and beach cleanups. Days are rounded off with evening debriefs, followed by dinner and time to relax, taking in a beautiful sunset and sharing stories with your fellow team members.
You will live in shared accommodation, along with the other volunteers. The accommodation features shared facilities such as a communal kitchen, work area, and living space. We aim to leave as small of a footprint as possible on the environment which means we keep facilities basic. There is bottled water available for cooking and drinking, and participants share base duties including cooking, cleaning, gear and equipment maintenance, and other chores. Curfew is at 11 pm all days.
Volunteers prepare breakfast in groups from our choice of cereals, pancakes, eggs and porridge. During work days lunch and dinner is prepared by a local cook, and on weekends, participants cook their own meals. Food is a very basic, mostly vegetarian diet, with meat available about once a week. Lunch is beans, vegetables, pasta, and a typical evening meal may include lentils, pasta, beans, rice and vegetables. Local restaurants are also an option at your own cost during weekends. Conveniently, restaurants and supermarkets are walking distance from base.
You will have limited access to long-distance communications whilst on the program, so make sure friends and family know how often they can expect to hear from you. Mobile phone reception is available on base, although it can be poor at times. It is possible to buy a Mexican SIM card and phone credit at the airport which can be used with your unlocked cellphone. Internet connection is available at base, but alternatively, you can purchase a pocket WIFI device which can then be topped up with mobile internet.
Puerto Morelos is on the Riviera Maya, known for its tropical climate. The ocean is rather warm, which make it perfect for swimming, paddle boarding, snorkeling, and diving. The temperature remains fairly constant throughout the year, roughly 26°C or 80°F.
What's It like?
If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.
We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.
Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.
Follow GVI Volunteer-In-Puerto-Morelos-Community's Facebook page for live updates straight from the field. Get an idea of the types of projects you might be involved in, meet our staff and participants, experience life on this GVI base, hear about free time activities, and learn about the local culture and environment.
When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from your initial contact with the GVI Family, all the way through your program, and even after, as you become part of the GVI Alumni Team.
As part of this promise, we will ensure, whenever possible, that one of our dedicated staff will be available to meet you at the airport. In most locations, we also set up a Whatsapp group to help with managing airport arrivals. We will arrange with you prior to your departure that, should you arrive in the agreed upon pick up window, a member of our staff will be there to welcome you, easily identifiable in a GVI t-shirt or holding a GVI sign and wearing a friendly smile. This means there will be someone there to greet you as you land, and from there you will be transported to your GVI base to start your adventure and meet the rest of your team.
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Meet the team - Senior Field Management
Deputy Program Manager
Introducing you to to Alejandros. He is the Program Manager of GVI’s Community Project in Puerto Morelo, Mexico. Alejandro's journey with GVI goes way back. He started in 2007 as part of GVI’s National Scholarship Program. After this, he went onto complete his Masters Degree.
Alejandros came back in 2013 to help run our community development base in Playa del Carmen, where he became the Program Manager. Before GVI Alejandros was an extreme sports guide. These sports include: whale watching, white water rafting, and rock climbing.
All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.
Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.
Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Puerto Morelos is the oldest port city in the Mexican Caribbean. The port has been used since the time of the Mayan empire, but its history as a modern port began in 1898. It was built to enable the exportation of gum from the gum tree and the wood of the dye tree, an activity that together with fishing were the main productive activities in the area.
The area has a unique diversity of ecosystems including low evergreen jungles, low swamp jungles, savannahs, coastal dunes, mangroves, cenotes, beaches, marine grass, and coral reefs. The reef of Puerto Morelos is part of the Mesoamerican Reef System, MBRS, considered the second largest reef barrier in the world and home to thousands of marine species.
Today, Puerto Morelos is part of the 120 kilometer tourist corridor, located between Cancun and Tulum. Tourism is the main economic activity of Puerto Morelos and continues to grow due to the development of large hotels as well as holiday housing along its coast. Local tour operators offer scuba, snorkelling, and free diving tours in the Caribbean Sea and reef lagoon, tours of or diving in cenotes close to the town, as well as sport fishing tours.
GVI also assists our partners in the local Mexican branch of the global charity organisation, Save the Children, with the manpower, logistical resources, and, in the case of the GVI Trust, finances. This is done to contribute to childhood development and education in the region.
English Language Lessons
Puerto Morelos is a popular tourist destination, and children and other community members can benefit from English lessons that help them gain the fluency in a language that assists with local employment at tourist hotspots. GVI participants also assist with English language learning.
Life Skills, Health, and Children’s Rights
Participants assist Save the Children with learning about their rights and mastering life skills.
They also assist the community by conducting environmental education programs. The town of Puerto Morelos was once a fishing village, but is now part of one of the largest Marine Parks in Mexico. Fishing is still an important food source in the community and a common means of earning an income. Sustainable fishing methods and other means of protecting the natural environment are vital to maintaining the marine abundance that makes both fishing and international tourism profitable. Teaching young people and tour operators the importance of protecting their marine resources and how this can be done is vital to ensuring the future health of the reef off the coast of Puerto Morelos.
Plastic Pollution Cleanup
We have weekly beach cleans where we collect the rubbish that washes up on our beach and classify it into different categories depending on their source. This information is recorded and sent to our partners for analysis.
All these initiatives allow us to offer support to the conservation work, the community and our local partners, and to address many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, such as #4 – Quality Education and #14 – Life Below Water.
Please note: Both conservation- and community-focused programs are offered at this location.
Our Partners In Puerto Morelos Community
GVI Puerto Morelos Community, Long-term Objectives
1. To improve the quality of education at the ludoteca, and in the local community.
2. Increase the quality of the educational resources at the ludoteca
3. Increase in-country capacity by providing training to our partners and local members of the community.
A GVI program is an investment in your career. No matter which you choose, you will be working toward improving your employability by mastering new social skills, gaining further technical expertise and earning qualifications in many cases. Most of our staff are, in fact, GVI Alumni, and we have helped many of our Alumni discover, move toward, and earn their own personal dream jobs. Each program includes introductory workshops, ongoing presentations, as well as on-the-ground professional support provided by our very own trained staff members. In addition, our training programs are critical for helping us to ensure the long-term impact of our sustainable development projects around the world.
For All GVI Participants
Introduction to GVI as a whole and the work in your specific location. Learn about the short, mid, and long-term objectives of the sustainable development projects at your base, which United Nations Development Goals they impact most directly, and which local partners we work with.
Health and Safety Training
Learn about the Emergency Action Plans in place at your base, the full Risk Assessment, and best practices for personal safety.
Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Training
Learn about the importance of child and vulnerable adult protection best practices and how to apply them while on project.
For All Participants at Puerto Morelos Community
Emergency First Response Training
Learn how to apply first aid protocols and carry out cardiopulmonary resuscitation, CPR.
This training introduces participants to teacher- and student-centred approaches, multiple learning styles, and classroom management.
Your Program Specific Training
GVI ILM Leadership Development training
This includes several presentations on leadership-related topics as well as practical applications of the topics, weekly one-on-one meetings with an assigned mentor, and a final leadership project.
GVI’s ILM Leadership Development Certificate
GVI’s Team Leadership Course supports participants to master theoretical concepts related to team-leading and put them into practice. The course includes a series of workshops, reflection sessions, and assignments as well as one-on-one sessions with a designated mentor. The course is recognised by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM), a research body consisting of over 30,000 leadership professionals. This course is included in program fees of all GVI internships. Participants who complete the course will receive a 12-month membership ILM which provides access to their knowledge bank of leadership development resources. Interns will also receive a Development Course certificate from ILM recognising their successful completion of the Team Leadership Course.
What’s theory without the practical experience to back it up? We know employers are looking for highly experienced candidates, which is why we offer work placements on all our long term internship programs. All GVI internships feature a 12 week training phase, but six month interns go on to complete a placement either on base as a temporary GVI staff member or at one of our partner organisations. Some of the partner organisations our interns have worked at in the past include local nature reserves, conservation research organisations, dive centres, and primary schools. Below we've listed several of the organisations where interns have recently completed the work placement portion of their GVI internship program.
Joining a program not only allows participants to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems but it also offers plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer.
Long term field staff are a great source of advice, and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. Many decide to travel before or after their experience (subject to immigration restrictions), solidifying the lifetime friendships established on program. Please note that the below suggestions are not included in the program fee, and are for the individual to organise at their own expense.
There are many Mayan ruins scattered throughout the Riviera Maya and the province in which Puerto Morelos is located, Quintana Roo, is no exception. One of the most popular sites is Tulum, a walled Mayan city built near the end of the empire located on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Visitors can climb the pyramid structure, the tallest in the complex and visit the wind god temple at the edge of the bay. There is also the nearby city of Chichen Itza, which was built at a much earlier date and is one of the largest in Mayan history. Here you will find the magnificent pyramid structure known as the Temple of Kukulcan. There is also a nearby ruin featuring residential buildings known as Coba. Exploring any of these sites will help visitors experience what Mayan culture was really like.
Eco Adventure Parks
A top destination for those visiting the Riviera Maya are eco adventure parks like Xcaret and Xel-ha. These are naturally beautiful areas of land featuring a rich biodiversity and Mayan ruins that have been turned into sustainable theme parks. The parks feature water activities like swimming, tubing, and snorkeling as there are also plenty of opportunities to spot and learn more about the unique flora and fauna of the region including orchids, mangroves, butterflies, monkeys, and manatees. Cultural activities are also offered include remodeled Maya villages and Mariachi performances.
Diving and Snorkeling
Diving and Snorkeling: Experience the stunning diversity of underwater life to be found among the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest coral reef in the world. While diving is a part of all our marine conservation projects in Puerto Morelos, any interns and volunteers, including those participating in community projects, can easily book a recreational dive. The stretch of ocean near Puerto Morelos is well-protected allowing divers and snorkelers to view Mexican marine life at its best. You can also travel to other top diving sites such as the island of Cozumel.
If you have never heard of a cenote, you are in for a treat. No, not a type of french pastry, but a kind of naturally occurring limestone cathedral, filled with deep blue water, and lit up by slants of tropical sunlight from above. Unique to the Yucatan Peninsula, cenotes were believed by the ancient and medieval cultures of the region to be sacred sites. There are plenty of cenotes close to Puerto Morelos where visitors can swim, snorkel, or dive while observing the dabbled light dancing along the cave walls. Visit the "Ruta de los Cenotes" or route of the cenotes, a 44 km road that joins Puerto Morelos town with Leona Vicario and is filled with dozens of cenotes. Like Las Mojarras, Verde Lucero, Siete Bocas, Kin Ha, Hells Bells, Boca de Puma, just to name a few.
Other Latin America countries
Mexico is the perfect destination from which to explore other Central and South American countries. Travel down to the jungles and volcanoes of Costa Rica and then further down to the Andes mountains and Incan structures of Peru.
Mexico City is the home of many iconic cultural sites including Frida Khalo’s blue house and the Palace of Fine Arts where the work of her husband, Digeo Rivera, and other artists, can be viewed. You can also visit the historic Zocalo plaza, parts of which date back to the Aztec era, and the National Archeological Museum where artifacts from Mayan culture can be viewed. Another Mexican locations famed for its cultural significance is Guadalajara, the birthplace of mariachi music.
Hiking and Rock Climbing
There are plenty of excellent hiking, trekking, and mountain climbing destinations available in Mexico. Pico de Orizaba is Mexico’s highest peak, followed by the active volcano Popocatepetl, and Iztaccihuatl, its twin, which is dormant. Some popular rock climbing destinations include El Potrero Chico.
On the other side of the Caribbean coast, Baja California is a peninsula bordered by the Pacific Ocean. One of the main reasons to visit this location is the annual visit of grey whales from Arctic regions. The best months for whale spotting are from January to March. There are, of course, many other reasons to visit Baja California such as surfing and to explore the natural rocky landscape.
Engaging intimately with a new context teaches not only global awareness but adaptability and critical thinking, skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and is also one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many activities you can get involved with in your free time, or before and after your program. On our community programs the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore diverse and eclectic topics like Theravada Buddhism in Laos or how plastic pollution and climate change affects Indian Ocean coral.
January: Christmas continues until the sixth of January in Mexico. On this day every year, the largely Catholic population celebrates el Día de Reyes, the Day of the Three Kings. Traditionally Christmastime presents are open on this day.
April: The traditionally Catholic holidays of Holy Week and Easter are honoured with parades through the streets, attending mass at the local cathedral, and quiet meals with family.
September: On the sixteenth of September, Mexico celebrates its independence day, Cinco de Mayo. Parades and feasts featuring national favourites like the Jarabe Tapatío dance and black bean tamales with mole sauce are popular.
November: The iconic Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated each year on the 2nd of November. While this is considered a Catholic holiday it incorporates indigenous customs that are much older.
December: As a mainly Catholic country, Christmas is celebrated with great fanfare throughout Mexico. For nine nights up until Christmas Day children travel door-to-door singly a traditional song. The activity and song is known as posadas and represents the story of the parents of the Christ asking for shelter. Nativity scenes are more popular than Christmas trees in Mexico.
Probably the most easily identifiable Mexican style of music is the Mariachi band, featuring guitars, violins and trumpets. This form of music is actually more unique to a specific region of Mexico, Guadalajara, and only evolved later in the 18th century. It is difficult to separate out the colonialist influences from the indigenous influences, but what is known is that Mayan cultures did have bands featuring among other instruments, drums, trumpets, and maracas. There are many usually opportunities to watch Mariachi bands perform during your time in Mexico.
The Jarabe Tapatío is the most well-known of all Mexican dances and is considered the country’s unofficial national dance. The dance is performed by a male and female partner. At one point during the dance, the male partner, drops his hat and the couple dances around the hat. This has earned the dance the name ‘the Mexican hat dance’ in English-speaking regions. Other Mexican dances include La Bamba and Polka Norteno. A popular dance in the Yucatan region is the Jarana. GVI programs in Mexico allow you can participate in dance classes in evenings or during weekends.
Possibly one of the most popular reasons to travel to Mexico is to sample authentic Mexican cuisine. Many of the world’s most widely used ingredients such as tomatoes, chillies, avocados, and cocoa beans, are indigenous Mexican crops that spread to other cultures as result of colonialism. By traveling to Mexico you can sample these flavours through the eyes of the cultures that first discovered them. Tacos, tamales, enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas —while these are household names and most of us have tried them before, both Mexican nationals and international visitors would agree, they are best enjoyed within the borders of Mexico itself.
Religion and Local Customs
Most of Mexico’s population ascribe to the Catholic religion, also due to colonialism. The country’s capital, Mexico City, is home to the most visited site of religious significance for Catholics around the world, the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe. Much of Mexican Catholicism is influenced by customs unique to the indigenous cultures that predate the colonialist era.
As a result of colonialism, Spanish is overwhelmingly the most commonly spoken language throughout Mexico. As the second-most widely spoken language in the world, visiting Mexico is a great opportunity for learning Spanish and you will have plenty of opportunities to learn Spanish on our community development programs. You can even book extra Spanish language lessons for an additional fee. The indigenous languages of Mexico number over five dozen, however, they are not widely spoken, and are considered ‘endangered languages.’
Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.
We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.
Our 10 Ethical Commitments
Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects
We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.
Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes
We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.
We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.
Working Against Dependency
We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.
Responsible Exit Strategies
For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.
Clear Roles & Specialized Training
We aim to ensure that ever participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.
Respect for all
In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.
We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.
Transitioning from the Orphanage Model
We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.
Child and Vulnerable adult policies
We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.
As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.
However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.
‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.
We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.
Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’
Parent Info Pack
Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:
Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office. Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios. Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page. Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.
Support & Safety
We won’t sugarcoat it — traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful, but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as the most highly respected volunteering organisations in the sector over the past two decades.
Once a participant books, they will be assigned a personal support coordinator who will oversee their pre-departure journey. The support coordinator helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. Your personal support coordinator will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.
Upon arrival at the airport, participants will be greeted by a GVI staff member. All GVI staff are our own and all our programs around the world are run by our staff. All GVI field staff are background checked, Emergency First Response and safety trained. The minimum staff to participant ratio on GVI’s programs is one to six, although on several bases we have a ratio of one to three. When finishing the experience, participants will provide feedback on all aspects of their program.
It takes courage to book a GVI program, get on a flight, and head off to somewhere new. Volunteering offers a level of cultural immersion that typical backpacking or holidays just can’t achieve. This is why thousands of people around the world participate in paid GVI programs.
As the saying goes: ‘Expect the best, plan for the worst’. Cliched or not, we take it to heart. This tenet is at the core of how GVI operates when it comes to promoting the health and safety of our participants, staff, and local community members at all of our 20+ bases around the world.
The weather isn’t just a topic for polite small-talk here at GVI. We have emergency action plans in place for all scenarios. So when the weather, or other natural forces, takes a nasty turn, we are prepared to respond to stormy situations.
Once GVI has matched a participant to a program that suits their passions and goals, our team aims to set the right expectations for them. In the event that false expectations around a program are created, the GVI team takes immediate action to ensure that the situation rectified.
24-hour emergency desk
24-hour in-country support
Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
All necessary project equipment and materials
All necessary project training by experienced staff
Confidential professional recommendation
Final evaulation from your mentor
Long term experienced staff
Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
Weekly one-on-one sessions with your mentor
Work placement (if successful during the first 12 weeks of the internship)
What's Not Included
Additional drinks and gratuities
Extra local excursions
Food during the placement portion of your internship