We are a small school in a big town in rural Casanare, Colombia.
We are positively transforming the lives of over a hundred Colombians and Venezuelan migrants through quality education. Students learn at a rural campus where we have a special focus on preventing drug abuse, xenophobic and racist behaviors.
We hope you can come to help us. We need you.
Generally, we ask volunteers to stay for at least 1 month. It takes a couple of weeks just to get to know the students, so the real impact happens in the later weeks of your stay. If you speak Mandarin, we will likely make an exception for you if necessary - we don't get many mandarin speaking volunteers.
Villanueva is a town southeast of Bogotá. We are at the north border of the Amazon region (really, within the Orinoco/eastern plains region). We have a huge variety of mammals, fish, and reptiles. Volunteers also come to enjoy the amazing landscapes. Like every region in Colombia, the Easter Plains have their own authentic food, music, and dance.
Since our town is in the middle of a migrant route, there are a lot of refugees in our town. There is no significant government or NGO presence in our town, and we try to do something for these refugees. We have provided temporary food and housing to many families, helped them find work, and run other programs. In April 2022 we set up a new location where young Venezuelan kids can attend classes from 8AM to 5PM and get free breakfast and lunch. With this program, we hope to develop relationships with their families, and eventually move them into our full-time classes if they stay in Villanueva for more than a few months. Our goal is to help them to get accepted to and graduate from university in 10-15 years, and in that way change their future.
The staff consists of 10 people in total, including the 4 founding teachers who are all members of the same family (a couple and their children, who both learned English to a C1 level here in Casanare). There is 1 secretary and there are currently 6 full-time teachers at the school, all of whom were trained here at the school.
If you're interested in learning about llanero (plains) culture while teaching a foreign language, you found the right place!
Our school is focused on providing high-quality education to students in all subjects, with a special focus on foreign language education. For over 6 years, we've been hosting foreign teachers and travelers for informal exchanges.
All of our classes have a maximum of 8 students per teacher, and we have about 200 students in total.
The school is organized by a group of parents, with one family, in particular, leading the school. It is a type of informal education, with most students supplementing their learning at home with their parents.
There is also a rural campus, 7km away from the campus in the town, where the primary school is located, which has about 40 students. If you'd like, you can teach on this campus as well, and we can organize transportation to the school for you.
Many students pay a fee to participate in this school, but students who are unable to afford the fee are not required to pay it. We run several programs as mentioned above, with about 30% of the full-time students on a full scholarship (including all the Venezuelan students), and maybe 80% part-time students on a full scholarship. We finance the scholarships by charging a higher rate to the students whose parents are more well off, whether they are doctors, lawyers, large landowners, successful farmers, or otherwise.
NOTE: Professionalism for volunteers is essential. Almost all foreigners in our town who are not from Venezuela are assumed by the public to be a teacher here, so all behavior by volunteers even outside the school will impact the students, staff, and the community. In the past, we have had issues with volunteers who don't have healthy, professional boundaries with students. Both within and outside the school, especially for male volunteers and staff, behavior is closely scrutinized by the parents of the students and the community more widely.
We also must add that smoking marijuana in Villanueva is explicitly prohibited by our policies, both inside and outside the school. This is both for your own good (avoiding the problems that come with the illegal drug trade) and for the image of the school. We have also had to face volunteers being frequently drunk in public, often in front of the families of our students (partying until the sun comes up in the neighborhood where the school is located). As a result, we almost closed the volunteer program, so these are issues that are really important to us.
We're ready to accept you into our tight-knit community with open arms!
Help with Eco Projects
Travelers will get to know a small town in the Eastern Plains region of Colombia, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Flora and fauna here are similar to the Amazon region, especially near rivers and streams. There is a large river 15 minutes from the school, and once a week we go to a location in the countryside with our students to teach them in another atmosphere.
Note that on the weekends, you may be more or less on your own. Sometimes you may be invited to have lunch with students' families or we will organize trips outside of Villanueva, but it's not guaranteed to happen.
As a foreigner, you will be welcomed with open arms and lots of interest from locals. You can also get to know Llanero (plains) culture, like the typical music, dance and food of the region. This is a big town (around 40,000 people) so there's a lot to do here if you like to explore, and there are other places nearby that you can travel to cheaply by bus.
This project could involve children. For more information see our guidelines and tips here.
Mandarin Chinese teachers, English teachers, Maths, and Science teachers are all in need for this school. We need someone who will teach around 23 hours of classes per week. We're flexible with scheduling, but if you could teach in the morning that would be ideal.
To volunteer at the place, you don't need to have any teaching experience. We're most interested in the stories and the opportunities for cultural exchange you'll provide.
Chinese (Mandarin): Beginner
This host offers a language exchange
This host has indicated that they are interested in sharing their own language or learning a new language.
You can contact them directly for more information.
There are 2 bedrooms with a bathroom inside the school that can be shared by 2 volunteers each. We want all volunteers to be comfortable, safe, and feel at home. Be aware also that you may be alone and that we can't guarantee there will be other volunteers. There is a kitchen in the school as well (gas stove, large fridge with a freezer) and wifi internet (10mbps connection).
If the room in the school is full, we can find you another bedroom elsewhere in the town. We can't guarantee what that will be like, or if that will have internet, but you can always come to the school at any time if you'd like the use the internet, kitchen, or any other amenities there.
Lunch and breakfast is provided during the week by the school. The local grocery store has a free delivery service and there is a small store 5 blocks away that sells essentials (fruits and vegetables, milk, butter, rice, spices, etc).
In your time off, we can provide you with a bicycle if you request it, and there are several exercise groups nearby that you can participate in.
There are a lot of beautiful trails near rivers and wide open spaces that you can walk or bike on.
One fun thing that you can do in April/May is to hunt for ants - in this season, baby queen ants from a species here leave their nests to try to establish new colonies, with hundreds of new ants coming from each nest. People from this region of Colombia pick up these ants and then later fry or grill them to eat.
If you like meat, this area is known in the country for its cattle and beef production. We're also super vegetarian friendly, having hosted vegetarians and vegans in the past.
The below details are moved from the main description because they are less important for our project than the rest of the information:
An ecological project is led by one of the tutors and a group of students. They have planted over 1000 trees in the last two years. Every Saturday morning they go together either to clean parks and rivers or to take care of the trees already planted.
The area of the school is about 3 hectares, on which we've planted over 100 different types of plants, primarily Eucalyptus trees, "Flor Amarillo" trees, yucca, corn, lime trees, and a wide variety of fruit plants such as mango, jackfruit, plantain, rose apple, avocado, achiote, passion fruit, guava, and many other varieties of plants, most of which are still only 1-2 years old. We have planted almost 3 thousand trees in the past 3 years, both on the rural campus and in some areas of the town as well. There are also a few farm animals: currently we have two sheep, 2 dogs, one rabbit, and about 10 chickens.
2022 transportation update:
The bus from Bogotá should take 7-8 hours, but can vary greatly depending on the traffic leaving Bogotá (rush hour traffic is really bad). Make sure to ask for a big bus (bus grande) - small buses stop in a lot more small towns and are much less comfortable. The bus can also be chilly due to the AC. It's a good idea to wear a sweatshirt or jacket.
In June 2022, the vaccination rate in Colombia is very high, but people don't use masks too strictly. All non-Colombian travelers to the country must be vaccinated, although a COVID test is not necessary to enter the country. (That could change at any time.)
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Can host families
The school has two 10mbps fiber optic internet connections. Especially during school hours the internet connection is limited, but with a data plan it's usually sufficient as backup. A volunteer helping with the project worked remotely as a software developer for over 2 years, so if you need to do some work, the infrastructure here should be fine. Power outages occasionally happen (1-2 hours per week on average in 2020, and there are planned power outages for a day three or four times a year, with several days notice before the outage). Mobile data is relatively cheap (in 2020, it is about 4 dollars for 1gb of mobile data on a prepaid Claro plan - in 2022 it is a bit cheaper).
You can park on our rural campus' property, or we can find another place to park if you need to be closer to the town (for teaching the older kids).
We'll need to discuss this, but we're open to accepting people with pets.
More than two
Maximum 5 hours a day, 5 days a week (only weekdays)
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