If you have an organization, an NGO (Non Profit or Non Govermental Organization) or a volunteer project in Boquete, the Archipelago of Bocas del Toro, or in the provinces of Chiriqui or in the province of Bocas del Toro, and would like to have it listed on this page please contact us! We are always recruiting volunteers and looking for new places where they can work at. If you would like to learn more about learning Spanish and volunteering in Panama please click here. Help us make Panama a better place for everyone!
Volunteers can choose from many different projects in Boquete and Bocas del Toro, Panama. You can help at orphanages, public schools, wildlife rescue centers, environmental organizations, elderly homes, or you can work with handicapped children and adults, literacy projects, you can teach English and so much more! Most of the volunteer projects are based in Boquete and Bocas del Toro, but some take place in David and its surrounding areas.
Volunteers can choose to work in any of the following areas:
Spanish students can volunteer during half of the day (when they are not having Spanish classes), while non students can decide to join part time (1 to 4 hours) or help out in full day volunteer projects.
We are determined to place each volunteer in a position of interest and passion where you can best use your knowledge, skills and talents. The sooner you fill out your Volunteering Interview, the sooner we will be able to place you as a volunteer. If you would like to volunteer in Panama, but do not see a perfect fit with the projects below, we encourage you to contact us because there is always someone who needs your help! With that being said, we are also extremely grateful for the volunteers who are able to perform the volunteer positions and duties that are currently needed. Each project can only have a limited amount of volunteers at any given time.
In every country of Latin America (and Panama is no exception) there are unfortunately many children who have been abandoned to their own luck, born in homes with no love, abused, or suffer poverty and sickness. These children need a loving heart, attention, education and friends who can help them find a better life full of opportunities, be successful and most importantly: happy!
Volunteers' tasks within the Childrens' Programs may include:
- working in orphanages assisting with daily activities such as laundry duties or cooking meals, and childcare duties such as feeding or bathing the children
- working with teenage mothers and their newborn children
- helping kids from public schools with their homework
- running sports' lessons, giving computer instruction, and music, dance and singing classes
- helping to prepare meals and secure funding for schools' dining rooms
- playing with children during their breaks
- assisting health professionals to take care of ill children
- teaching English or other subjects in a classroom
- being a mentor for a group of children once per week
For certain volunteer projects, materials are not provided and each volunteer is encouraged to purchase them before arriving to Boquete or Bocas del Toro, Panama. Many volunteers organize fund raisers before flying to Panama.
Childrens' projects include:
- Por Los Niños
- Amigos de Boquete
- Music Program
- Casa Esperanza
- Youth Development Sports Project
- Había una vez... Reading Program
- Public Schools in Bocas del Toro and Boquete, Panama
Por Los Niños main goal is to increase the overall wellbeing of the children at Casa Hogar Trisker. Some children at Trisker are orphans and others use to live in socially challenging conditions and that is why they are taken to Hogar Trisker.
A team of volunteers go to the center twice per week to spend quality one-on-one time with the babies, giving them the love and attention they need at such a crucial time in their lives. Other volunteers can teach skills to the older children (up to 18 years old) or work with children who have autism or other handicap conditions.
This is a part-time program and operates year-round (excluding public holidays). It is suitable for those who have previous experience caring for children. The primary volunteer responsibility is organizing fun activities for the children. Basic Spanish is useful, but English speakers are welcome.
Casa Hogar Trisker also accepts full time volunteers if they can commit for at least 1 month.
Amigos de Boquete is a charitable foundation formed by a group of Panamanians and non-Panamanians to assist the school children of Chiriqui Province. The Boquete area has a large, generally poor, indigenous population in which malnutrition is a problem. Amigos has found that when food is provided to a school, attendance often grows by over 30%.
The first two schools to which Amigos provided food were Palo Alto and Jaramillo Arriba. By 2006, the number of schools served by Amigos had increased to five with the addition of Estrella Ballis, Alto Quiel, and Jaramillo Abajo. In 2007, Volcancito and Palmira Arriba were added for a total of seven schools. In addition, during 2007 Amigos began providing food to the Medalla Milagrosa and Hogar Trisker orphanages, to Casa Esperanza, and to Buenos Vecinos which aids Boquete residents who are elderly or infirm. In the school year beginning March 2008, Amigos began supporting five additional schools: El Frances Abajo, El Frances Arriba, Pueblo Nuevo, Pueblo Caldera, and Alto Boquete, bringing the total to 12 schools serviced by Amigos. Amigos is now feeding over 1,100 children each school day. In 2008 and 2009, Amigos donated $10,000 to Buenos Vecinos de Boquete to assist it in achieving economic stability as it works to feed over 50 families in great need.
Through this music program we empower youth through music, arts and by connecting to their cultural traditions. Music is a powerful tool for children's self-esteem, healing, learning skills, positive development, fine motor skills, and creates a healthy happier community. This music program is currently held at Casa Esperanza in Boquete, Panama.
We are currently seeking skilled musicians to teach the children participating in the project. The project currently has access to a basic keyboard, child guitar, violin, bongos, plastic recorders, tambourines, and some miscellaneous percussion, electric keyboard, adult sized guitar, accordions, drum kit, xylophones, and finger cymbals. The project days and times are flexible pending on volunteers schedule. Spanish conversational speaking skills are needed to effectively communicate with the children. This program operates year round, excluding National Holidays. It is available for volunteers with a commitment of 2 weeks or longer.
Casa Esperanza is one of Panama's most important NGOs (Non Govermental Organization) when it comes to fighting against child labour in Panama. In the urban areas like Panama City they work to keep kids off the streets and in rural areas like Boquete they give their parents alternatives so that they do not have to take their children to the farms where they work at.
Each year more than 3,500 children and 1,500 parents benefit from Casa Esperanza's projects.
The children of those parents who are contracted and cannot afford childcare are referred to the Casa Esperanza Center through the employers at their worksite.
Of seven integral services centers one is in Boquete (the rest are in David, Coclé and the other four are in the province of Panama). At these centers multidisciplinary teams provide children and teenagers with academic support, primary healthcare, nutrition, personal and social development, sports, culture and recreational activities. As a volunteer you can assist these teams in their daily tasks such as teaching the kids, playing with them, helping them with their homework, taking care of them when they visit places outside of the center and organizing birthday parties amongst other things.
Casa Esperanza works with children and teenagers in extreme poverty conditions with a focus on those who must work to contribute to their family incomes. They provide children and teens with academic support, primary healthcare, nutrition, personal and social development, sports, culture and recreational activities. Child laborers are referred to the Casa Esperanza Center where there are educational alternatives aimed at reducing their participation in the work force.
Casa Esperanza is currently in need of volunteers to help with homework, sporting activities, food preparation, life skills, literacy, etc. Long term volunteers may also assist the organizational staff to come up with creative solutions and ideas for the challenges being faced by the organization and participants.
The center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and offers special activities on Saturdays.
This is a full time placement, available for volunteers with a 2 week or longer stay only. Conversational Spanish is required. This program operates year-round, except the months of January, February and all National Holidays.
The Youth Development Sports Project helps children develop team building and social skills, promotes hard work and improves the kid's self esteem, leads them towards a healthier lifestyle, and obviously gives them a wonderful chance to play, laugh and have fun, just like all kids should do... kids should only have two jobs: study and play! When a child can run around with freedom all his troubles seem to float away...
Volunteers can assist at public schools, day care centers or at orphanages. Volunteers can expect to practice and teach soccer, gymnastics, baseball, basketball, kickball and many other sports.
This program is part-time and will need to be combined with other projects to make up a full-time schedule. If you like to play, run around, and let that inner child in you loose, then this project is for you!
This program is held both in Boquete and in Bocas del Toro, Panama.
Había una vez... (Once upon a time...), our local reading and book-lending program, began recently with the involvment of the Club Activo 20 - 30 branch of Boquete, (a Panamanian non profit organization). The original idea started back in December of 2008 with fomer local expat Richel Brown and her "Loco por Leer" program at the library in Palmira Centro, and has now expanded to other places within our community.
Literacy levels are very low within the indigenous communities of Panama, and those who do learn to read, aren't overly enthusiastic about books. Había una vez... promotes the joy of reading and provides many children with the opportunity to spend quality time with someone who gives them love and respect.
Every Saturday morning, Había una vez... offers a program of reading in small groups: exploring topics through writing exercises, information organization and creative activities. Each session ends with the children choosing a book to check out and take home for one week. Había una vez... owns a library of childrens' books in Spanish donated by Books for a Better World, the Boquete Rotary Club, the Active 20 - 30 Club of Boquete and many other generous individuals.
The Había una vez group is always in need of advanced level Spanish speaking volunteers to read with the kids on Saturdays and project leaders whom wish to start their own Había una vez group. Book donations are always happily received.
Volunteers can help at several public schools in Boquete and Bocas del Toro such as the Escuela Josefa Montero de Vásquez, Escuela de Alto Boquete and Escuela República de Nicaragua.
Volunteers can work supporting English teachers, kindergarten teachers, sport teachers and the Multiple Challenges classroom where there are kids with special needs.
Public schools are open en Panama from March to December and kids attend schools either in the mornings or afternoons.
Each program is unique and has its own needs. Some projects have many children, others have a few. Some have plenty of resources available yet others have almost none. In some organizations you will receive abundant help and you will have specific tasks and duties and other projects require self-motivated individuals that can lead their own way. As schools close from December to March, certain projects don't run all year long.
Habla Ya is extremely passionate about collaborating with local based organizations who day and night work hard to build a better community for every single Panamanian. Volunteers have the opportunity to work with the disabled, animal and wildlife programs, nutrition and empowerment projects, and community recycling. As some of the projects are not full-time, volunteers may take part in a flexible schedule, which includes a combination of projects.
- Sea Turtle Conservation Project
- Paradise Gardens Panama
- REAL Boquete Recycling Center
- Healthcare and Medical Volunteering Programs
- Fundación Pro-Integración: Boquete Handicap Foundation
- Elderly Home Care Center in Bocas del Toro
Being able to watch a giant sea turtle lay its eggs on a sandy beach during full moon is certainly one of nature's most magical and humling experiences. Four species of marine turtles are known to be in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago. These include the Green Turtle, Loggerhead, Leatherback and the Hawksbill Sea Turtles (of which mostly the Leatherback and Hawksbill nest in Bocas). Nesting season, from March to July, is the only time the females ever return to land during their lifetimes, and they will always return to the same beach where they emerged from their eggs as tiny hatchlings, and crawled into the sea for the first time.
Bluff Beach on Isla Colón, Playa Larga within the Bastimentos National Marine Park, the beaches of Cayo Zapatillas, and on the mainland at San San Pond Sak Wetlands, are Bocas del Toro's most important nesting grounds.
As a volunteer studying Spanish at Habla Ya you will most likely support the efforts at Bluff Beach on Isla Colón, although during the weekends you can also head out to other places. Volunteers at Bluff Beach cover their transportation costs each evening back and from Bluff Beach to Bocas town ($25 per round-trip for a full taxi). Many students also end their program by going to Playa Larga or Playa Soropta on the main land, where facilities exist to accommodate the volunteers. In this case $195 per week is collected to cover the costs of meals, accommodation and transportation, in addition to one payment of $10 to cover the National Park Entrance Fee (paid one, only for Playa Larga in Bastimentos).
Most of the work in this region is coordinated by the Sea Turtle Conservancy. As a volunteer you will patrol the beaches at night, and you will have to cover 6 to 12 kms per night. Normally shifts take 4 hours long but it will depend on the amount of volunteers. When you or your team spot a turtle, you will tag and measure the turtle and wait until it lays its eggs. Depending on where the eggs were laid, you might also be required to relocated the eggs to a safer location.
Volunteer work starts in late February preparing everything for nesting season and goes throughout September when the last turtles hatch. The peak of turtle activity generally takes place in June and July. Volunteers are required to commit to at least 7 full nights of work and 2 days of training. Spots available to volunteer are limited so to ensure placement sign up and commit in advance.
If you can't commit to this amount of time, but would still like to see the turtles nest (or hatch), this can also be arranged upon arrival to our Spanish school in Bocas del Toro.
Turtles don't have any natural predators, but coastal development puts in danger their existence. Artificial lights can disorient the nesting females and hatchlings, not allowing them to return safetly to sea. Sea turtles are also hunted for their eggs, meat and their shells. Conservation efforts are necessary to protect these endagered species.
Please note that Paradise Gardens has changed ownership and unfortunately is currently not accepting volunteers.
Paradise Gardens is a Wildlife Rescue Center where animals are accepted when the creature's life is in danger, or that its quality of life can and will be greatly improved by its removal from its current living conditions.
Paradise Gardens provides suitable and appropriate care and/or medical treatment until such time as the animal is healthy and ready for release back into the wild. Sometimes this can be as long as 12 months or even up to 2 years. There are cases however, as for example with a Margay and a Capuchin Monkey, where Paradise Garden realises that it cannot release them back into the wild for they would never be able to manage their reintegration and so Paradise Gardens keeps providing the very best care and accommodation that it can and work very hard to make them as happy as possible.
Paradise Gardens is not a zoo and does not purchase animals for the purpose of putting them on public display. Paradise Gardens hosts sloths, monkeys (tamarins, capuchins, howlers), kinkajous, margays, ocelots, jaguarundis, anteaters, cockatoos, macaws, parrots, owls, toucans, and many other species. If you are visiting Boquete, Paradise Gardens is definitively a place that you should visit.
Volunteers can come from a variety of sources and places and currently Paradise Gardens has helpers who give their time during a week or an extended stay or even, some who come specifically from abroad to help and gain much needed experience. Paradise Gardens continually needs help from people to give guided tours to visitors, cleaning out and feeding the animals, socialising with the animals and providing translations into other languages.
REAL (" Reciclaje, Ambiente y Limpieza de Boquete" ), a non-profit ecological organization founded in 2001, has set itself the goal to educate the community of Boquete about the importance of protecting our environment.
REAL started as a small but commited group of Boquete residents who saw how the garbage in our community was alarmingly increasing. This group decided to start recycling. First of all they secured buyers (mostly in David) for several materials such as plastic, glass, aluminium, paper and cardboard, and afterwards they presented a plan to Panama's Ministry of Education in which the children of several public schools would be responsible of sorting out and classifying the materials that REAL would collect (REAL has a drop off point in the center of Boquete). In this way Boquete's youth would learn and be educated about waste and about recycling, and the funds obtained from recycling would go back to each school and each school would decide how to use the funds in their own school (something really needed in our Public Schools).
As of now, REAL Boquete works with five local schools and the last Saturdays of each month are known as recycling day in Boquete.
REAL is continually looking for volunteers. Volunteers can give speeches about recycling at local schools, train teachers so that they can then educate their students about recycling, organize the sale and weighing of materials to be recycled, monitor the recycling programs at each school, classify and receive materials at the recycling center, transport the materials to David, help with sales and marketing about recycling, management tasks, translations, promote recycling in Boquete and Panama in general, to seek more efficient ways to run the recycling center and to expand their operations.
For those doctors, medical students or healthcare practitioners in general, who would like to volunteer with Floating Doctors or have an internship (practicum) at a hospital or health clinic in Panama, it can be arranged as long as we receive your volunteering interview, complete résumé and a transcript of the highest or current level of medical education completed and/or a scanned copy of your medical license.
Many patients in Bocas del Toro, Panama can't "just go to the hospital" . Oceans, mountains, jungles, politics, economics, and bigotry separate our patients from their basic human right of ACCESS to care, so we come to our patients' communities and to their homes, traveling by boat, by foot, by dugout canoe, horse, and rescue panga.
Volunteering with Floating Doctors provides experienced clinicians and students alike with the unique opportunity to see advanced and unusual disease cases, hone their clinical diagnostic skills, and challenge their ability to provide the best outcome possible for a patient, even with limited resources (and to practice their Medical Spanish!). More importantly, however, is the opportunity to practice medicine from the heart—to treat each patient with dignity and compassion and care. This experience, along with increased diagnostic skills and clinical confidence, is the gift that Floating Doctors intends our volunteers to carry back to their practice in the developed world, and one that will benefit clinicians and patients well beyond the locations we visit.
As a volunteer with Floating Doctors you will have the opportunity to join our:
- Mobile Clinics
- Multi-Day Mobile Clinics
In Bocas del Toro, our Mobile Clinics take place every Tuesday and Thursdays on Isla Colón in the storage units by the airport. The mobile clinic is the backbone of the Floating Doctor's program and not only acts as acute treatment and long-term patient management, but also forms the basis of the community acceptance that make the Floating Doctor's activities possible, and most of our other projects evolve from situations encountered during mobile clinics. As a volunteer you are asked to make a $10 donation to Floating Doctors for each day you take part in their Mobile Clinic.
The Multi-Day Mobile Clinic functions the same way as our day long mobile clinic but leaves us in the community for 3 - 4 days living, working and sleeping with the patients that we are serving. This provides a unique opportunity to get to know the people whom you are serving on a level that is much deeper than a day long clinic provides. You can be sure to treat a lot of patients, be introduced to amazing cultures, and make a lot of friends along the way! A $100 donation to Floating Doctors will help to cover your costs of travel, lodging and food when you volunteer to join the Multi-Day Clinic. Setting up your volunteering program with Floating Doctors has a $50 setup fee ($75 for non Habla Ya students).
The following video gives you a good idea about what Mobile Clinics are like.
Volunteering at Public Hospitals and Clinics in Panama
Depending on the length of your internship you might be a volunteer at a MINSA (Panama's Ministry of Health) rural clinic in Bocas del Toro or Boquete, Panama, the Caja de Seguro Social in Boquete, or at one of the public hospitals in David. Your responsibilities will depend on your medical education, experience, level of proficiency in the Spanish language (YOU NEED TO AT LEAST HAVE A BASIC CONVERSATIONAL LEVEL OF SPANISH) and on what your supervisor decides.
Some participants will be allowed to shadow doctors, others will be asked to contribute with administrative tasks and yet other will be able to have a more hands on role. Remember, you are here to practice your Medical Spanish and help in anyway that's needed. Don't forget to bring your own white lab coat!
The Handicap Foundation of Boquete, founded in 1989 is one of many chapters of the main office in Panama City. It is a non-profit organization established in 1983 with funds from the 20-30 Teletons.
All chapters such as ours are volunteers (including handicap family members) interested in helping the handicap community (especially the most economically depressed) improve their life style. We are able to supply wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, canes, occasionally hearing aids, and funds for children to attend special education classes, physical therapy, doctor's appointments and medications.
There are no dues and the only requirement for membership is a desire to be of assistance to the handicapped community. This can be offered through professional skills such as teachers, medical personnel, physical therapists, or personal time in reading to children, playing games, doing handcrafts, or anything that would interest the specific needs of each handicapped child or adult.
Our funds are raised through projects such as the sale of prepared food or used clothing, raffles and auctions as well as donations from community members.
The new facilities are located in Alto Boquete on the east side of the Boquete to David road approximately 500m south of the Guadalupano School. It is a blue building with a red roof and surrounded by a cyclone fence.
The facilities at our local home care center aren't the best but keeping company, providing conversation and entertaining our elderly will definitively be very much appreciated.
Space available in certain projects is limited. The amount of hours to volunteer on some projects is fixed, hence, if you would like to volunteer for a certain amount of hours per week your choice for projects might be limited and/or you might be required to work on several projects. Volunteers can work beyond their commitment. It is vital that you are flexible and willing to adapt to situations as they arise. Once you complete our Volunteering Interview we will be able to discuss your Volunteer Project Placement(s).
The ability to speak and understand spoken English, and to read and write, has always been vital for many Panamanians since an important part of our economy is based on services to foreign countries. And nowadays, with the growth of the tourism industry, English is becoming even more and more important. Not knowing English, limits ones opportunities considerably.
Knowing the importance of English as a second language, Habla Ya Spanish Schools lends its premises after office hours to the English Volunteering Program in Boquete and Bocas del Toro, Panama... and the match turns out to be perfect because those who really want to learn English normally have a job and are only available at the end of the afternoons.
A teaching qualification is not necessary but patience and leadership are. Volunteers can teach children or adults, either in a group setting or through private lessons.
Many years ago, Habla Ya also had an English Program (for profit) and the English Volunteering Program has benefited from that initial syllabus, course contents and materials. Nowadays, we always need English teachers to volunteer so there is not setup fee or daily fee as there is for the rest of our volunteer projects.
If you are going to study Spanish at Habla Ya Spanish Schools and would like to teach English in Bocas del Toro or Boquete, Panama, just let us know. Or if you don't plan to learn Spanish and would just like to teach English, please pay us a visit once you're in town.
The days and times vary. It generally runs Monday - Friday, but for some students, on Saturday's also. A minimum 3-week commitment is required for this program. Please note, Childrens' English Classes are on break January - March. The Adult Program operates year round, and observes National Holidays.
Habla Ya's role is essential because most NGO's (Non Profit or Non Govermental Organizations) in Panama do not have the ability to place and manage volunteers by themselves. Setting up your volunteer project with us ensures a meaningful placement in which your skills and talents will be fully exploited.
There are two fees associated with volunteering in Boquete and/or Bocas del Toro, Panama: Daily Donation Fee ($5 per day for students, $15 per day for non students) and Placement Fee* ($50 for students, $75 for non students). 100% of students' daily donation is given directly to the NGO where you will be working at (75% of non students daily fee is donated as well).
Volunteers are encouraged to give an additional donation to the project where they will be working at. At the end of the day, it's not about you feeling good or special. In such a short period of time its difficult to make a significant impact: a monetary contribution will really make the difference in these places!
Children who volunteer under the supervision of their parents, volunteer for FREE!
Placement fee covers: airport or bus station pickup in David, organization, orientation session, training, volunteer goal setting session and lodging setup (but not lodging itself - click here for lodging options - and for those doing a home stay, no additional home stay setup fee has to be paid). The Daily Volunteering Fee also covers on-going support from the partner organizations, permanent contact with Habla Ya's Volunteer Director either at the school or by email and telephone and access to Habla Ya's staff on every day of the week from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Also included in your volunteering fees: extra activities such as opportunities to attend weekly salsa lessons, wifi access, regular social gatherings and a certificate of completion.
Volunteering Fees for Habla Ya Students
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Volunteering Fees for Non Students
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* Student's volunteering fees apply when you sign up for at least 10 hours of Private Lessons or for 20 hours of Group Lessons. The only exception to these fees is when you volunteer for 5 days or less in which case there is no placement fee: only a $10 per day (students) or $30 per day (non students) fee. In this case 50% of the daily fee goes to the volunteer organization where you will be working at and these daily fees do not cover the home stay setup fee if students decide to live with a local host family.
Volunteer orientation sessions take place whenever a volunteer arrives to Boquete, Panama and volunteer placements can start on any day of the year. Volunteers are encouraged to arrive on the Friday before their placement to have the weekend to explore the area and gain comfort with the culture. You may stay for one week to twelve weeks. Your stay can be extended beyond twelve weeks on a case-by-case basis (depending upon visa requirements). Fees can be paid upon arrival. Your program fee does not cover your accommodation nor the transportion from your accommodation to your volunteer project each day.