Want to volunteer, but don’t want to pay high “voluntourism” fees? This week we uncover a great opportunity to volunteer in Chile, with a government-backed project to put native- and proficient-English speakers into Chilean classrooms. You can travel Chile in 2012, and you’ll only have to pay for the plane tickets (and beer).

To listen, hit play below or find episode 221 in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud:

English Opens Doors

La Programa Inglés Abre Puertas, or English Opens Doors is a government-run program in Chile, South America. It’s a mid-length volunteer program, with volunteers signing up for one or more school terms. Talking with Dave, and hearing his story, was an opportunity to see how well it fits for the Indie Travel Podcast Community.

Dave with campers at English camp

You work as a classroom assistant in a Chilean classroom, and in return for your assistance in planning and in the classroom, you get:

  • Health insurance
  • A one week orientation
  • Transport from Santiago de Chile to your placement
  • A homestay family
  • An online Spanish course
  • 60,000 CHP a month stipend (about US$115 or UK£75)

Get more information or sign up for the next intake

Dave’s story

After travelling Europe, Dave wondered what was next. Looking online for volunteer opportunities outside of the USA, he found English Opens Doors through Idealist.org. A few months later he was flying into Lima, then overlanding down to Santiago… And no idea what he was getting himself into.

Panguipulli - with Dave and a friend

Getting off that bus in Panguipulli was the start of something amazing. He made such connections in the small town of Panguipulli that he’s heading back for Christmas this year!

The work itself involved planning, then “a lot of conversation, a lot of singing, a lot of dancing, a lot of fun”. Working with a local teacher certainly helps with a lot of the classroom management issues faced by people teaching English abroad.

Check out our Chile travel advice, or discover how to volunteer in Argentina with Cloudhead. To listen, hit play above or check in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud.

Your thoughts on "Volunteer in Chile with English Opens Doors podcast"

  • you should of asked if he ended up gaining fluency in Spanish by the end of his placement!!!

    on December 20, 2011 at 10:46 pm Reply
    • Good question, Fiona! Maybe Dave will come and answer in the comments...

      on December 21, 2011 at 9:21 pm Reply
  • Hi Fiona, I arrived to Chile with pretty much no Spanish, so the first couple of months were difficult. I spent a lot of time listening and trying to figure out what the words I was hearing meant. BUT, after you start to build up a base it gets really fun and you begin to be able to communicate. So, I guess if you come with some level of Spanish the fun starts right away! The nature of the program makes it easier because you are fully immersed in the culture, and thusfore, the language. If everyone just came to Santiago it would be different, but because people go all over the country you are able to integrate into the communities much more easily. But, to answer your specific question, I consider myself to be conversationally fluent. Fluency is an ever evolving aspect of language and changes depending on your level. However I am able to live a comfortable life in Chile now with Spanish being my language of operation, in which I have friends, work, date, etc. You know, live! So, the long and short of it. If you come to Chile with the desire to learn Spanish, you can and will.

    on December 22, 2011 at 7:36 am Reply
    • that's awesome to hear. thank you for coming back and replying. i'm keen on doing the program in 2014 so it's great to hear that you had a really positive experience... do you feel that the program is producing results in communities? especially in the south.

      on December 23, 2011 at 12:26 am Reply
      • No problem Fiona, it's great to hear that you're going to keep the program in mind. Subjectively I can say that the program is definitely increasing the English language ability of students, as well as exposing them to cultures they might never have seen otherwise. That's one of the best parts about teaching. It's not always about the subject, it's always about the students and helping them grow as individuals. Objectively speaking, we are in the midst of accumulating data from national test scores and comparing the results over the past 3 years of schools who had volunteers and schools who did not. Should be interesting to see the data!

        on December 23, 2011 at 7:49 am
  • HI Dave! Like Fiona, I'm considering the programme, but maybe in 2014....at this point, I need to save some money in order to pay for the ticket, etc! Can I email/msg you again, to find out more about your experience? I'm currently debating whether to apply to this programme, or to JET (teaching in Japan). I'm really passionate about Spanish though, so I'd prefer to go to Chile first. Anyway, it's great to read about your story! All the best in your future travels!

    on May 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm Reply
  • DO NOT DO THIS PROGRAM! It is horribly run, they treat you like you are no better then cattle and you will be taken advantage of. If you have any problems you will be told it is your fault and they will not offer any support. It was one of the worst experiences of my life and I am still fighting with EOD. I am currently stuck in Chile because the program failed to file the proper paper work for my visa. I now have to pay a large fine to leave and no one at EOD will answer my calls or respond to emails in order for me to get the proper paperwork. The drop out rate is extremely high (in my region it was 7 out of 13 when I left) and though you are able to request where you are placed, it would seem that none of your requests are taken into consideration. While some people are enjoying their experience, there are many more that are not. Google "Free volunteer South America" and you will easily find better options.

    on June 28, 2012 at 5:19 am Reply
    • Hi Anonymous H, It seems there are positive stories alongside negative ones for every program on the planet -- Sorry to hear about your problems with this program, and paperwork with EOD. I hope you can get things sorted soon.

      on June 28, 2012 at 5:39 am Reply
  • Dear H, We were quite surprised by your comment, because we have not received any calls, emails, or reports from a Regional Representative about this issue. Please send us an email (english.opens.doors.chile@gmail.com) to let us know who you are, and we'll do what we can to sort out your visa information. Thanks! Stephanie

    on June 29, 2012 at 8:23 am Reply
    • Thanks Stephanie; I've emailed H, so hopefully s/he'll be able to get in touch with you.

      on June 29, 2012 at 3:26 pm Reply
      • Cancel that. The email address s/he left here bounced back, so that's quite strange. Not unheard of, as some people like their privacy, but certainly not conducive to you helping out.

        on June 29, 2012 at 4:46 pm
      • Thanks for the follow-up, Craig and Linda - and for hosting Dave's podcast on your site!!

        on July 3, 2012 at 11:52 am

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