Travel to Central America, and live and volunteer in the lively Caribbean town of Playa del Carmen. You will provide important assistance to local veterinarians in the neutering and spaying of cats and dogs, and raising awareness of pet care practices.
This programme provides you with an opportunity to provide hands-on assistance in a range of different scenarios – assisting in the preparation for daily neutering and spaying surgeries (always lead by local vets), and assisting in the animals’ recovery at their Spay and Neuter clinic facilities; supporting animal welfare awareness and humanitarian treatment in hotels and local communities; helping out in different fundraising activities; or increasing awareness of population control in disadvantaged communities.
You will be provided all the necessary training prior to carrying out any activities on the programme. Your activity on the programme at any time is dependent on the need and requirements in the field. If you do have skills relevant to this programme, please let us know on the application so we can make the most of them on the ground. Also, while the ability to speak Spanish is not essential to join this project, a level of understanding will increase your involvement with the community and further your overall enjoyment. If you opt for staying more than 8 weeks, you have an option of doing an extra 80 or 120 hours of Spanish lesson. Speak to your Country Expert about arranging Spanish lessons.
Immerse yourself in a stunning region of the world; experience a different and fascinating country, culture and way of life; take the opportunity to learn a second language; go scuba diving or snorkelling in your spare time, and chance upon mega-fauna such as dolphins and sharks in the crystal clear waters; enjoy levels of local community interaction beyond the regular tourist trail; raise awareness throughout local communities of the work we do; feel safe in the knowledge you will be making a serious and measurable impact in-country; use your time volunteering as the perfect introduction to Latin America and as a base for further travel in this incredible region.
"I returned from the GVI Mexico Yucatan volunteer trip two weeks ago, but I’m still full of emotions from the experience I got there, from beautiful people I met, to everything that happened to me during this unforgettable month. One part of my heart has remained in Mexico forever and this was a first time in my life when I didn’t want to go back home...
My month there consisted of helping at the animal protection organisation "Coco’s Animal Welfare Playa del Carmen” which is a low cost spay & neuter clinic for cats and dogs. They have programmes available for feral cats and dogs known as TNR (trap-neuter-release), rescued kitten programme, rescued dog and puppy programme, the cat café programme and also a wildlife programme. Coco’s works not only with animals but also with their owners, visiting poor communities and creating awareness about the importance of spaying and neutering and giving them advice about how to best care for their pets and bring their pets in for free sterilization. Coco’s gives help not only for animals but also for poor people, organising events, during which free medical consultations are provided to children and adults, as well as donated clothes and toys for children are handed out.
Everywhere I met beautiful, warm-hearted people – knowledgeable and highly professional GVI staff, passionate Coco’s team, other volunteers and many others, who became my friends. This is important, amazing, awesome and incredibly work which they are doing with passion, determination and perseverance, and I was proud to be part of this team"
What's Not Included
So what does Life on the Project actually involve? See below for an idea of what to expect on a day to day basis…
You will work on the project five days a week, spending the majority of this time fully immersed in project life.
Tasks and activities on the project are wide-ranging and depend on the needs at any time and any specific skills you might be able to bring.
You should always be prepared for a certain degree of change in the field such is the dynamic nature of our projects, but roles could include: assisting in the preparation for daily neutering and spaying surgeries (always lead by local vets), receiving and delivering dogs and cats; assisting in the clinic's recovery area by taking care of the animals, cutting their nails, cleaning their ears and removing ticks; doing surveys or implementing animal welfare workshops in the community; supporting animal welfare awareness and humanitarian treatment in hotels and local communities; helping out in different fundraising activities; or, increasing awareness of cat and dog population control in different areas focusing on disadvantaged communities.You will be always welcome to play with the adoptable kittens, this is very important in their socialising process.
Working with animals can be physically and emotionally demanding, however, it is a very rewarding role. The time schedule varies, but there is a good balance between work and downtime, with opportunities to study Spanish and enjoy the surrounding area.
You will have two days off each week, which will vary according to activities on the ground, but these days are yours to spend as you wish. You could snorkel in hidden cenotes, visit some of the local unspoiled Mayan ruins or relax on Playa del Carmen’s white sand beaches. For more information on your time off the project, see the Free Time section above.
Your accommodation will be in a house or apartment with your fellow volunteers, with shared rooms and living areas, all with access to hot running water and electricity.
If you would prefer to stay in private accommodation while on this project, this location does offer upgrades. Contact us for more information, or mention to your Country Expert who will be able to assist you.
What's Not Included
You will be assisting the International fund of animal welfare (IFAW) and Coco's Animal Welfare staff with assistance of veterinary tasks and general community support.
The International Fund of Animal Welfare (IFAW) works with various local organisations all over the Yucatan Peninsula supporting animal welfare as well as contributing to public health. They work closely with communities to understand their needs and develop tailored solutions to problems with dogs and cats, particularly when the community’s perception is that the problem is simply that they have “too many”.
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.
As a result, IFAW and Coco's Animal Welfare have increased the number of sterilisations they perform, and they continue to have a spay and neuter service for the whole community in exchange for a donation fee of whatever people can afford. While some pet owners are able to donate, the majority simply can´t afford to give any money but still they receive the service and spread the word to their relatives and neighbours to help improve animal welfare in their community in other ways.
*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 fulfil 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:
- Improve the quality of education at the Ludoteca, Contando con un amigo and Corazones
- Raise awareness on animal welfare
- Increase in-country capacity by providing training to local members of the community
- Minimize the environmental impact on the Playa base and projects, and raise awareness of environmental issues amongst volunteers and children in the projects
- Increase the quality of the resources at the ludoteca, escuelita, Contando con un amigo, Corazones and Coco's
- Improve the volunteer's experience in the projects.
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 during 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 try out different dive sites. 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 through Central America, 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.”