Volunteer in Panama: Projects, Internships & Work Abroad

Spanish student volunteering in Panama

Those Who Can, Do. Those Who Can Do More, Volunteer. ~ Author Unknown

Volunteer Opportunities in Panama City, Bocas del Toro and Boquete. Think global and act local!

  • Childrens' Programs: reading, music, nutritional, sports, academic, chess and social development.
  • Community Outreach Programs: community centers, animal rescue, medical and healthcare related volunteering programs, recycling, handicap support. Help local NGO's!
  • English Programs: guide others to learn a new language and have access to more opportunities.
  • Volunteering Fees: daily donation ($5 students, $15 non students), and program setup fee ($75).
🚨 In 2020 we declared a CLIMATE AND ECOLOGICAL EMERGENCY because 🌎 🌍 🌏 It's CODE RED FOR HUMANITY!!! ❌ ❌ ❌

We need a Safe Landing, or even better: to Stay Grounded!

🌀 In 2022 Habla Ya transitions to 100% Online Spanish Lessons so it's your last chance to learn Spanish in Panama with us: get 25% - 50% OFF when you book by Monday August 1, Afrikan Emancipation Day:



We're all part of this social evolution: you can affect positive change (incremental or by quantic leaps), take the skills back home (or wherever you're headed to), and we can all carry on consciously making the world a better place... TOGETHER, but each in our own FREE way. Businesses and NGO's (Non Profit or Non Governmental Organizations): if you're up to something good, list your Volunteer Project HERE! GET IN TOUCH AND TELL US MORE ABOUT THOSE AMAZING THINGS YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS ARE UP TO...

Learn Spanish and Volunteer with Habla Ya!
See for yourself!

Volunteering in Panama

Amigos de Boquete Nutrition Program

Volunteers can help from many different projects in Panama City, Boquete and Bocas del Toro, Panama. You can help at orphanages, public schools, animal rescue centers, environmental organizations 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, Panama City 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 better we'll be able to place you as a volunteer upon arrival. 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.
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Childrens' Volunteering Projects

Are you a good fit to volunteer? Maybe. Your daily life is your best chance to make the world a better place. If you don't see how, an opportunity to volunteer abroad might be the transformational vacation you need to find your path. Giving back is about acknowledging your privilege and finding ways to effectively make the difference (not just a feel good experience with no real impact). Real success is about doing good to the most amount of people in your life.

Help a Kid Have a Better Future

Everywhere in the world (and Panama is no exception) there are children who have been abandoned to their own luck, born in homes with no love, abused, or who 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, and most importantly: purpose and happiness!

Volunteers' tasks within the Childrens' Programs may include:

  • working with teenage mothers and their newborn children
  • helping kids from public schools with their homework
  • running sports' lessons, playing chess, 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
Posted by JOY Bocas Chess on Sunday, January 20, 2019

For certain volunteer projects, materials are not provided and each volunteer is encouraged to purchase them before arriving to Panama, or upon arrival. Many volunteers organize fund raisers before flying to Panama.

Childrens' projects include:

Give and Surf | Bocas del Toro
Children at Give and Surf Community Center

Give and Surf serves a population of over one thousand indigenous and Panamanian students living on four islands of the Bocas del Toro Archipelago. The area severely lacks government funding for grades 1st - 6th, which is why a sponsorship program has been developed and two schools in Bahia Honda and Bahia Roja have been constructed as well as libraries, playgrounds, cafeterias, bathrooms, septic tanks, community centers and teachers' homes.

Give and Surf manages community centers in Bocas Town by Istmito Beach, in Old Bank (Bastimentos), Bahia Honda and San Cristobal Island, where daily education opportunities are provided.

Volunteering in Bocas del Toro

Part Time Volunteers - $5 per day donation

While taking Spanish classes at Habla Ya, you can volunteer in the afternoons up to twice per week (2 pm - 5 pm or 3 pm - 6 pm) at the Istmito Beach (10 minute walk from Habla Ya) and Old Bank Community Centers (10 minute boat ride from town and $6 return boat ride). A minimum 1 month commitment is required to ensure continuity for the kids' education (shorter periods may be possible during our slow months September - December). Volunteers will work side-by-side with the local staff and help with the after-school programs and extracurricular activities for children aged 5 - 12 assisting with sports, arts & crafts, science projects, and more! A great opportunity to practice your Spanish and make a difference.

Full Time Volunteers: $1000 USD - 1 week, $1500 USD - 2 weeks, $1800 USD - 3 weeks, $2000 USD - 1 month

If you'd like a full volunteering immersion experience after your Spanish program, you can spend Monday - Fridays assisting Give and Surf's educational classes and recreational programs. Your exact role as a volunteer will be determined by your passions/interests, experience working with kids, level of Spanish, and length of stay. Whether it's helping teachers lead an activity or designing a new program to serve an unmet community need, your help will improve the lives of many children and their families.

You'll be housed in Give and Surf's "jungle house" on the island of Bastimentos. Lodging here allows volunteers to enjoy the serene beauty and peacefulness of the jungle and islands while still remaining just a short water-taxi ride away from Bocas Town.

Twice p/week during 1 month (Part Time Volunteer) $40
1 Week (Full Time Volunteer) $1000
2 Weeks (Full Time Volunteer) $1500
3 Weeks (Full Time Volunteer) $1,800
Per Month (Full Time Volunteer) $2,000

* Note: fees are in US Dollars. Full time volunteers pay $300 non-refundable deposit via PayPal to info@giveandsurf.org. Volunteer fees are vital to the organization as they provide the majority of the funds necessary to run the educational programs offered to more than 150 students. Volunteers can join for any length of time but the communities benefit most from longer stays and for this reason volunteer fees encourage you to stay as long as possible. The fees will be prorated accordingly to the length of stay. What's included? Pre-trip and project preparations, communications, and all email/phone support, ocean front accommodations, breakfast, lunch in the community Monday through Friday, transportation to community, town, and nearby beaches, volunteer coordinator assisting with program orientation and guides with local knowledge, coordination and facilitation of volunteer projects, use of snorkel equipment, surfboards, and stand up paddle boards, surf trips to Carenero Point and Black Rock, one surf lesson by Mono Loco Surf School.

Youth Development Sports Project | Boquete - $5 per day donation
Sports Volunteering Project

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 or community centers. 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 your inner child loose, then this project is for you!

This program is held both in Boquete, Panama.

Public Schools (March - December) | Boquete - $5 per day donation
Volunteering at a Public School in Panama

Volunteers can help at several public schools in Boquete.

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'll receive abundant help and you'll 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.
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Community Outreach Programs

Let's Make the World a Better Place

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 medical, animal, nutritional and empowerment projects. As some of the projects are not full-time, volunteers may take part in a flexible schedule, which includes a combination of projects.

Projects include:

Boquete Dog Camp | Boquete - $5 per day donation

If you are a dog lover and wish to help our abandoned canine friends, you can come work at the Boquete Dog Camp. You will help feed the dogs, and generally care for them and spend time with them. They also have cats on some occasions.

Posted by DOG CAMP Boquete on Monday, October 15, 2018

This center relies on donations to subsist, so volunteering there also guarantees that your daily fee is donated towards food and medical needs.

Volunteer with the Floating Doctors | Bocas del Toro - $750 USD - 1 week, $1400 USD - 2 weeks, $1950 USD - 3 weeks, $650 USD - each extra week
Every child's smile is worth the world

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 medical 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.

Floating Doctors organize Day Long and Multi-Day Clinics. The Multi-Day Mobile Clinics function in the same way as our Day Long Mobile Clinics 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're 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!

Every opportunity to help and cure is also a learning opportunity

Volunteering with Floating Doctors is a full time experience and thus can be arranged AFTER your Spanish program.

Floating Doctors ask volunteers to commit for a minimum of 1 week with them, and volunteers should plan to join their Sunday 5:00 p.m. boat to base for an orientation session.

As a Floating Doctor's volunteer, you will have access to a 10% discount off your Spanish lessons with Habla Ya.

For those doctors, medical students or healthcare practitioners in general, who would like to volunteer with Floating Doctors, please send your, complete résumé and a transcript of the highest or current level of medical education completed and/or a scanned copy of your medical license.

1 Week $750
2 Weeks $1400
3 Weeks $1950

* Floating Doctors' $100 USD Application Fee is waived for Habla Ya students. Volunteers and staff stay at the Floating Doctors base on Isla San Cristobal, a 10-minute boat ride from the town of Bocas del Toro on Isla Colon. Fees include accommodation and meals from Sunday to Friday night. Our headquarters is an off-the-grid remote facility located on a mangrove island, relying on solar power, rain catchment and filtration, and biotreatment of waste. Participants sleep in our 9-room bunkhouse dormitory or in small casitas, and deploy from our base to our target communities. Cooking facilities are available for volunteers and staff staying on base for a quiet weekend to prepare their own food; often volunteers and staff stay at hostels in Bocas town Friday and/or Saturday night to enjoy Bocas' night life). There is access to Wi-Fi, showers and other basic amenities. All program-related transportation is provided, as well as regular scheduled water shuttle service twice daily between Bocas town on Isla Colon and the Floating Doctors headquarters.

Fundación Pro-Integración: Boquete Handicap Foundation | $5 donation per day
Fundación Pro-Integración, Boquete Handicap Foundation

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.

Fundación Pro-Integración, Boquete Handicap Foundation

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.

Albergue Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe | Boquete - $5 per day donation

This is a resource provided by a local Coffee Farm for their employees' kids. They provide a part time teacher that helps approximately 20 indigenous children (ages 1 to 12) with an after-school program. Our volunteers interact with the children, play with them, help them with their homework and support the work of the teacher. The Albergue is located in Alto Lino. A 10 min bus-ride is necessary to get there. Experience working with young children is beneficial. An intermediate Spanish level is needed. Volunteers are welcome to bring any materials for the children to play and learn.

Casa Esperanza | Boquete - $5 per day donation

Casa Esperanza supports local families by providing an after-school program for children in need. Their aim is to stop child labour and to prevent these children from dropping from school. They receive over 250 children every school day, divided in age groups, from 5 to 15 years old. Our volunteers interact with the children, play with them, help them with their homework and support the work of the teachers.

Casa Esperanza is located at 10 min walking distance from Habla Ya. Experience working with young children is beneficial. An intermediate Spanish level is needed. This program is available from January through November, according to the panamanian school year.

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're 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).
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English Program - FREE OF CHARGE

The Gift of Opening Doors to a Better Future for Others
English Teaching Volunteer Program

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 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 and there is not setup fee or daily fee as there is for the rest of our volunteer projects.

If you're going to study Spanish at Habla Ya Spanish Schools and would like to teach English in Bocas del Toro, 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 4-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.
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Volunteering Fees

Are you a good fit to Volunteer? Maybe. Please have a proper meditated read about Why Permaculture is at the heart of our volunteering efforts, and you will know if you're ready or not. If you want to volunteer, please read and find out a little bit about what you're getting yourself into. Otherwise, you're not good to go.

50% of Daily Volunteer Fees go directly as a donation to each NGO

Habla Ya's role is essential because most NGO's (Non Profit or Non governmental 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, Bocas del Toro and/or Panama City, Panama: Daily Donation Fee ($5 USD per day for students, $15 USD per day for non students) and Placement Fee* ($75). 100% of students' daily donation is given directly to the NGO where you'll 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'll 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 it's sometimes difficult to make a significant and lasting impact: a monetary contribution will really make the difference in these places!

Click here for more information about why you should pay to volunteer...

Children who volunteer under the supervision of their parents, volunteer for FREE!

Placement fee covers: airport or bus station pickup at volunteering location (volunteer placements in Boquete and Bocas del Toro do not include transfer from Panama City nor pickup in Panama City, but pickup can be arranged for $45 extra, and transfer by bus or plane can be arranged at your cost as well), transfer to home stay (home stays in Boquete include pickup in David and transfer to Boquete), 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
Amount of weeks more weeks means lower rate per/week...
Days per Week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Each Extra Week
1 $10 $20 $30 $40 $50 $105 $110 $115 $120 $125 $130 $135 FREE!
2 $20 $40 $80 $115 $125 $135 $145 $155 $165 $175 $185 $195 FREE!
3 $30 $105 $120 $135 $150 $165 $180 $195 $210 $225 $240 $255 FREE!
4 $40 $115 $135 $155 $175 $195 $215 $235 $255 $275 $295 $315 FREE!
5 $50 $125 $150 $175 $200 $225 $250 $275 $300 $325 $350 $375 FREE!

Donations are in US Dollars.

Volunteering Fees for Non Students
Amount of weeks more weeks means lower rate per/week...
Days per Week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Each Extra Week
1 $30 $60 $90 $120 $150 $165 $180 $195 $210 $225 $240 $255 FREE!
2 $60 $120 $165 $195 $225 $255 $285 $315 $345 $375 $405 $435 FREE!
3 $90 $165 $210 $255 $300 $345 $390 $435 $480 $525 $570 $615 FREE!
4 $120 $195 $255 $315 $375 $435 $495 $555 $615 $675 $735 $795 FREE!
5 $150 $225 $300 $375 $450 $525 $600 $675 $750 $825 $900 $975 FREE!

Rates are in US Dollars.


* 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 USD per day (students) or $30 USD per day (non students) fee. In this case 50% of the daily fee goes to the volunteer organization where you'll 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 City or Bocas del Toro, 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.

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