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Volunteer in Nicaragua

English for Community Tourism

In January 2002 a voluntary project to teach English for community ecotourism started in Nicaragua. The Project began with UCA Miraflor, a union of small agricultural cooperatives whose members farm on the Miraflor Nature Reserve near Esteli. Their aim is to follow farming practices compatible with the maintenance and improvement of the environment. Alter five years they now have a group of English speakers and the Project is moving into exciting new phases.

Rural community tourism is a way for small farmers to diversify and increase their income. It is growing rapidly in Nicaragua and to communicate with non-Spanish speakers the guides, host families and community members need to speak English. In these rural areas very few young people can attend secondary school so the Project wants to offer English for community tourism classes to several more communities, especially in the beautiful coffee growing regions near Matagalpa and Jinotega.

Volunteers should speak Spanish, as no one in the community will speak English. It’s great if volunteers have a TEFL qualification or teaching experience; they must definitely be good communicators, flexible and creative, and hopefully can teach for at least six months, although if you only have time for three to four months the communities will still welcome you.

The host families contribute to the project by providing accommodation and meals at cost, so long-term volunteers only pay approximately $30 a week. A further $25 a week covers local transportation, photocopying materials, Internet café use, and social activities. Additional expenses include weekend trips and renewal of the 3-month entry visa.

The NEST Trust has produced a students’ and teacher’s manual with a CD rom for you to use in the classes. Volunteers often also get involved in other community-led projects and many maintain contact with their family and return.

When volunteers are not working, there is plenty to explore. The mountains are home to hundreds of species of birds and orchids. There are waterfalls with pools for swimming, horseback riding, and fine hiking. The local towns off cafes, restaurants, live music bars, and weekend discos. Further away are the cities of Leon, Granada, and Masaya, and plenty of volcanoes to climb. Long-stay volunteers can hop over the border to Costa Rica to renew their visas.

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