Travel to North America, and to the bustling and picturesque town of Playa del Carmen in Mexico, where you will spend your days volunteering in centres operated by our project partners Save the Children, Integral Care Centre, International Fund for Animal Welfare and Coco's Animal Welfare.
During your internship, you will be involved in three core community development projects, namely assisting in different therapies and activities with children who have special needs, empowering children to know and apply their rights and providing crucial assistance to local veterinarians in the neutering of domestic animals as well as raising awareness of pet care practises. All centres run by our partners have expert staff that will ensure your efforts are channelled in the correct ways for the community to benefit while also ensuring that you get the most out of your internship.
On successful completion of your initial training phase, you will proceed to your work placement site. This is a placement either within GVI or with one of our local partners (depending on the needs on the ground at the time), where you will learn to apply the leadership, teamwork, community development and organisational skills you have learnt in practical experiences. Qualification for possible GVI positions is at the sole discretion of Global Vision International.
All internships are geared at developing your leadership and role model skills, allowing you to develop a variety of key soft and hard skills that will put you a step ahead the rest of the pack. GVI have been running community development, education, and conservation projects since 1997 and our highly experienced field staff will help you gain and improve vital skill sets to improve your future job prospects.
This internship includes 40 hours of Spanish classes with a native speaker. Although you do not need to be fluent in Spanish to join this programme, your willingness to learn will greatly enhance your overall enjoyment of your experience. Please speak to your Country Expert for more information.
Living in the Caribbean; contributing your time to a worthwhile cause; supporting a widely known international organisation in Save The Children; meet other like-minded volunteers from all over the world; immerse yourself in the local culture; gain relevant experience on your work placement; in your free time, explore the beaches and jungles of the stunning Yucatan peninsula.
"I feel I need to share this with past, present and future volunteers. Children don’t just make small talk; they don’t make conversation just to fill the silence the way adults do. These kids ask because truly, each volunteer who have walked through those gates has made an impression. These kids are genuinely aware of our presence, and takes advantage of every opportunity they can to spend time with you- if you let them.
One rule of the Ludoteca is to leave all your problems and ailments outside the gates; I feel that this is true not just for the kids, but for every volunteer too. It’s impossible to feel miserable here."
What's Not Included
Life on the Internship
Your First 12 Weeks
During the first 12 weeks of your internship, you will be rotating between the projects three partners. As a result, your responsibilities will be extremely varied and you will be expected to get involved in all the aspects in the various centres,centres, according to the needs at any given time.
You may be involved in the overall running and operation of the , assisting in the management of shorter-term volunteers to the general maintenance of the to ensure a safe and suitable learning environment to ensure a safe and suitable learning environment.
At the Save the Children, you will be helping the children with their homework, playing games and preparing educational resources. . A lot of the work focuses on teaching the children how to stay safe, from being able to identify different forms of violence to delivering general health and safety measures and precautions, such as during severe weather.
When working with children who have special needs you will be assisting staff at The Equine Therapy Centre as well as in the physical and aqua therapy sessions held at different venues around Playa del Carmen. You will also have the opportunity to visit the local special needs school and gain experience assisting the local teachers.
On the animal care side, you can expect to be involved in the veterinarian surgeries; receiving and delivering cats and dogs; assisting in the refuge recovery area by playing and taking care of the animals, general grooming; doing surveys; implementing animal welfare workshops in the community or supporting and raising animal welfare awareness in the local communities through various initiatives.
Work placements will only be available to interns who have a successful 12-week expedition phase. Our interns typically receive work placements with either GVI or one of our local partners. During your work placement, you will have the opportunity to put into action the skills you have learnt, leadership scenarios and gain sought after career experience in a professional work environment.
Away from the programme, you will live with other volunteers in a house or apartment with shared facilities, with 2 days a week off to enjoy Mayan ruins at Tulum, Coba and Chichen Itza, snorkelling in cenotes, exploring the Yucatan’s impressive coral reefs or simply relaxing on the white sand beaches of Playa del Carmen.
What's Not Included
Alongside our project partners, we are fully committed to ensuring that children are safe and have an outlet for support, should they need it. Many parents work long hours, resulting in young children being left to fend for themselves for parts of the day. Others have been the victims of physical or verbal aggression and the centre provides a suitable environment in which to play and learn.
In Playa, the majority of disadvantaged communities are unsure how to look after their pets or are unable to afford the necessary neutering in order to keep the domestic population under control. Through our partnership with IFAW and Coco’s Cat Rescue, you will be able to contribute to supporting animal welfare through various initiatives during your stay as well as ensuring that the animals are able to receive the medical attention and care that they need.
The aim of The Equine Therapy Center, is to contribute to the integral development of children with special needs and ease the incorporation of normal day to day activities into their lives, so that one day they might have the chance to be able to contribute to society. Your time spent here will play a key role in reaching this goal as the centre is often understaffed.
*During holiday periods participants may do alternative activities such as lesson planning, preparing teaching resources, preparing workshops, creating training materials, assisting with holiday programs and/or assisting with the vet project.
Playa del Carmen's short, mid, and long-term objectives:
All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 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 visualize 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 fulfill our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Learn about the long-term objectives you will be contributing to in Playa del Carmen:
1. Improve the quality of education at the Ludoteca, Contando con un amigo and Corazones
2. Raise awareness on animal welfare
3. Increase in-country capacity by providing training to local members of the community
4. Minimize the environmental impact on the Playa base and projects, and raise awareness of environmental issues amongst volunteers and children in the projects
5. Increase the quality of the resources at the ludoteca, escuelita, Contando con un amigo, Corazones and Coco's
6. Improve the volunteer's experience in the projects.
How this project makes a difference:
In Mexico, cats and dogs face cruelty and are neglected for many reasons, mainly due to lack of knowledge. IFAW has conducted a survey to collect information on community attitudes and pet care practises, and found that residents agreed that one of their main problems is unwanted litters of puppies and kittens and not knowing what to do with the offspring once born.
Save The Children figures indicate that 95% of children suffer from some type of aggression, 70% in Quintana Roo suffer abandonment, 43% of children between 6 and 17 know a gang member, and 25% have seen drugs or know another child that sells them.
5.1% of the population suffer some type of disability and are often discriminated in schools and work placements. They require special attention and therapy in order to interact more comfortably with other people. This can be very expensive in private schools or clinics, and governmental authorities lack sufficient resources to provide adequate and long-term treatment to this sector of the population.
Your presence on this internship will touch numerous community development aspects and truly give you a well-rounded understanding and grasp of the daily problems and care affecting the children and animals of Playa del Carmen.
What's Not Included
Volunteering with GVI not only allows you to participate in programmes assisting disadvantaged communities or endangered ecosystems, but it also offers wonderful opportunities to travel in the local area in your downtime or further afield either before or after your programme. Many decide to travel after volunteering, solidifying the lifetime friendships established while on the programme.
Our long-term field staff are a great source of advice and are here to help you make the most of your time abroad. Remember to ask about discounts on local activities and side trips through your association with GVI. Our Yucatan field teams have helped us put together the following information on trips and travel options in Mexico!
Optional Side Trips
As a large and vibrant country, Mexico can seem daunting at first, but here are a few ideas to get you going in the Yucatan Peninsula on your weekends off:
In this region, you are spoilt for choice in the number of opportunities to explore a stunning underwater world. You could start with snorkelling with turtles of all sizes in Akumal Bay, where they are protected and come to feed; dive or snorkel within the unique cenotes (the underwater river systems); dive Cozumel, where the wall dives along the island have been voted as part of the world’s best top ten diving locations; or, for a full weekend, try Isla Holbox, a small island off the north of the peninsula. It’s a beautiful, tranquil place, great for a quiet weekend away. Whale sharks (the world’s largest fish) migrate up near the island from June to September and snorkelling alongside them while they filter feed is a truly breathtaking experience!
Alternatively, if you are looking for a break from the water, make your way to Río Lagartos where flamingos flock and river crocodiles abound; visit Bacalar – known as the lake of seven colours due to the various shades of blue; or visit prime breeding areas for the hawksbill, loggerhead, leatherback, and green turtle (May to October).
Immerse yourself in the surviving Mayan culture of the area and visit remote and untouched Mayan archaeological sites, such as the famous and easily accessible sites of Tulum and Coba, or visit the beautiful and majestic Mayan ruins of Palenque in the Chiapas region. And finally, the colonial city of Mérida is the peninsula’s cultural capital and the local artisans of Izamal will be sure to offer you some souvenirs of your trip.
Further Travel Opportunities
If you want to travel throughout the rest of Mexico either before or after your time with us, there is more than your fair share of interesting places that are well worth a visit. Take a trip to the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and experience lowland tropical forests and have an opportunity to try and seek out threatened species; the island of Espíritu Santo offers kayaking with whale sharks (seasonal) and sea lions; if you are keen to try surfing, Puerto Escondido is rated as one of the world’s best surfing spots.
Oaxaca is a beautiful city to visit on the Pacific Coast, a colonial city with some of the nation’s most magnificent architecture, also offering several archaeological sites including the Zapotec ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Further south, San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, is definitely worth a visit. Colourful buildings, historical architecture, and impressive nearby ecological sites with fun activities will easily keep you entertained for days.
Neighbouring countries to the south, Guatemala and Belize offer something different yet again. In Belize, island hop all the way down the coast, stopping to dive the Blue Hole, another world-class dive site. Guatemala can be reached easily by bus and offers everything from the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Antigua, to volcanoes, the beautiful Lake Atitlan, adventure sports such as mountain biking, and the majestic Mayan ruins of Tikal.
If you do decide to spend time travelling, make sure to allow yourself time to take it all in, because this region will pull you in and not let go!
Meet Daniela, our awesome base manager in Playa del Carmen. She is passionate about working with kids and being involved in education in Mexico, her home country. Daniela has a degree in psychology and obtained her Masters in psychoanalysis, which facilitates her with the interaction with kids and volunteers.
Her volunteering journey started out when she joined GVI on our National Scholarship Program and now she has returned to the field to continue making a difference. Daniela worked as a therapist with adolescents with addictions and as a teacher of a special need school and being with other human beings is her speciality. She has travelled to many places abroad and she also used to be a professional dancer for a few years of her life to pay for some of her studies. "I trained in a circus, from acrobats to juggling, I wasn’t really good but the family you get to know there is amazing."
Meet Olivia, our fantastic community officer in Playa, Mexico. She was a volunteer in a Animal Shelter in San Antonio, Texas. She then started working as a Intake Coordinator for the City.
She loves traveling, learning new things, being on the move and meeting new people. Her favourite part about working with GVI is helping others, making a difference in the world, meeting new people and the opportunity of traveling to another countries.
Meet Friso, our sensational science officer in Pez Maya, Mexico. He has backpacked through Australia for 6 months, travelled in South-East Asia for a total of about 3 months. He's spent 5 months on Curacao, Dutch Antilles, and 3 months in Indonesia (Sulawesi and Borneo) for research projects. He Lived and studied in New-Zealand for 6 months and spent another month as a volunteer in a resort in Nha Trang, Vietnam.
He has a Bachelor degree in Earth Sciences and Master degree Limnology & Oceanography at the University of Amsterdam. He is also a PADI Divemaster and thus member of PADI Pro’s.
What he loves the most about GVI is firstly, the people, who he works with at the moment and secondly, practically living on a beach and having an amazing coral reef right on his doorstep is pretty great!
Director of Programs
Meet Shayle, our innovative and driven director for all our projects around the world. She has two honours degrees, one in Industrial and Organisational Psycology, and another in Developmental and Education Psycology. Shayle also has over 10 years experience in setting up, managing and evaluating environmental and community programs across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.
She is well-practiced in facilitating meaningful and effective intercultural engagement and this makes her the perfect person for overseeing our operations in the multicultural country of South Africa.
When not attending meetings or planning her next endeavour, Shayle can be found spending time with her family or taking part in some or other exciting outdoors activity!
Community Field Staff
Meet Kopa, our Kenyan born Community Field Staff Member in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. This ambitious African studied Community Health and Development at the African Institute of Research and Development studies. It was GVI’s objectives and sustainable projects that first attracted him to join our team.
Kopa joined GVI in 2012 as a valued staff member in Kenya. Here he put his skills and knowledge to work and managed to upgrade a new health project to a standing one. Kopa, or Doctor as his friends call him, also worked with PSI (Population Services International) for 15 months and with the Kenyan Ministry of Public Health for 4 years.
Kopa is crazy about Zanzibar’s golden beaches and apparently he is quite the multitasker - he can make sounds from his mouth and whistle at the same time! Living in Mexico, he is having the time of his life, meeting different people with different cultures from all parts of the world!
Meet Kerry, our IDC Staff Instructor in Pez Maya, Mexico! Kerry's diving adventure began in 2008 in Coffs Harbour, Australia, where she managed a hostel with an onsite dive shop. After attempting a 9-5 lifestyle, Kerry decided the ocean was calling and joined our Divemaster Internship in Mexico. She completed her work placement at XTC, which led onto her completing her Instructor Development Course as well!
Kerry went on to use her qualifications to work as an instructor at a PADI Career Development Centre in Vietnam, where she progressed to an IDC Staff Instructor whilst managing two of their dive centres.
Since leaving GVI it was always Kerry's aim to return as a staff member and we are thrilled to have her back! "I am excited to see many new Divemasters and Instructors as a result of these internships and see them on the road towards an exciting and rewarding career path."
Meet James, a certified Dive master, EFR Instructor and a graduate in Environmental Science. James is our base manager and a very skilled boat driver, teacher and maintenance guy at our Marine conservation program in Pez Maya, Mexico!
Before joining GVI James worked with various NGO’s around the World and has even lived in Madagascar! “It’s such a massive country! There’s so much to do and see and the biodiversity on land and in the ocean is incredible!”
What’s James’s favourite aspect of his job? “The point when volunteers have been here for a few weeks and start to remember the names of things in the sea, seeing that extra bit of excitement when they see something and can name it – that’s when I know I’m doing my job right.” The most interesting discovery up to date was when he found an anchor which they have lost a few months previously, with a fairly large octopus attached underneath.
Random fact about our James, he can sing All The Countries of The World by the Animaniacs! Make sure you request a rendition when you visit our Pez Maya hub!
Meet Alejandro, our logistics coordinator in Playa del Carmen. He started out with GVI as one of our National Scholarship Program participants in 2007. With a degree in Tourism Management and a passionate commitment to improving our world, we just had to keep him!
Alejandro’s favourite aspect of his job? Our Partners. “The opportunity to partner with organisations that share our goal to make the world better is amazing, also seeing the way volunteers connect with the children and the huge effect they have on their development, even over a short period of time. They’re a great resource for the children’s education.”
When he’s not working, Alejandro likes to explore the local area, visiting the Mayan ruins and national parks, or relaxing at the beach.
Meet Lluvia, our Country Director for Mexico. With a history in environmental education, she initially joined GVI as a participant in our National Scholarship Programme, and we just couldn’t let her go!
Lluvia is a qualified Dive Master and Biologist, who she spent 3 years working as field staff and base manager in Pez Maya.
Her favourite experience since she joined GVI? Diving with dolphins. ”We were on our way to a dive site when a pod of dolphins came along and started jumping in and out of the water alongside the boat. They stayed with us for the entyre dive, getting really close and were looking at us. It was of course, my best dive ever!”
What does Lluvia think volunteers contribute to the projects? “The work that the volunteers do is extremely important; if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be able to run the projects. The different activities they do like collecting data on the reef, delivering environmental education lessons, helping out running the toy libraries, all help our partners to achieve their goals.”