Volunteer Service

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Volunteer Service May Include:
  • Migration / Displaced Persons (forced internal migration and conflicts)

  • Peace and Reconciliation

  • Animal Welfare

  • Social Services

  • Home Building

  • Education

  • The Elderly


Ethical Service in Colombia

Many of the service-learning placements in Colombia are connected with organizations that are working in areas of peace and justice, reconciliation, conflict resolution, urban planning, and in education. The city of Medellín is the ideal place to explore issues relating to the North/South Divide, urban development that includes social justice, and access to education - all in a city that is developing quickly and uniquely - as evidenced by their winning the WORLD CITY PRIZE in 2016

Service-Learning™ versus Internship/Practicum

IPSL service-learning placements are determined, in part, by student interests and skills (and, in some cases, language abilities), but primarily by community needs. Central to the philosophy of service-learning is the notion of service. Service-learning is not the same as an internship or practicum although it may look very similar. The service in service-learning may or may not be career-related. An internship is designed mostly so that the student will benefit by learning about his/ her future profession. In contrast, in service-learning, the outcome of the student's work - that is, the service – is as important as the student’s learning. There are — or should be — identifiable benefits to those served. Thus, reciprocity is a key component in international service-learning.

IPSL Service Placements


IPSL's service-learning placements are in agencies that have sprung up from the grassroots, where locals have identified a need, and where the change effort is owned by them. What they need is additional assistance of all kinds from the outside. So, IPSL participants should remember that they are stepping into a moving stream of initiatives and efforts that began long ago, and that will continue after the participant departs. Your work is important, but your individual contributions may not be visible for many years. Change takes time. In the meantime, you are fulfilling a need, and the need is huge.

A single agency may need hands-on assistance from IPSL participants (direct service) or assistance in the background building capacity (indirect service) so that the agency can one day experience more stability in the delivery of its services. Either way, both direct and indirect service are needed to accomplish the goals. Each is valuable. In actuality, because nearly all non-profits experience resource scarcity, IPSL participants do a little bit of everything. And this is as it should be. Nothing says "I'm a partner in your community" more than a willingness on the part of a service-learning participant not only to do higher tasks, but also occasionally to pick up a broom and sweep the floor so that the setting is clean and presentable. Such actions serve to break down stereotypes about Americans, and build relationships based on equality. That is why many of the service agencies with which we work have been our partners for years.

Volunteer Service that Addresses Real Human Needs

As an IPSL service-learning participant in Medellin, Colombia, you will have the opportunity to do volunteer work in one of several local agencies. We do our best to match your skills and interests to the placement, but please remember that the notion of service is, first and foremost, to respond to the needs of others. You will play a role not only by actively participating with a determined role among the team members, but also by enriching the projects and programs with your knowledge, experience, and hard work.  Therefore, each project or program is improved and enriched with your participation. Your impact on other people's lives will be powerful and sustainable, even if you don't see the results right away.​

MEDELLÍN Opportunities

Nutritional Health and Education

This organization works to improve nutrition to individuals and communities through a variety of programs:

Food access to vulnerable communities through the provision of a biweekly food package and other goods for human use. The program addresses food security, nutritional education and mental health.


Diet, nutrition and food security for students

Programs focus on developing a strong social fabric where young people of limited resources have equal opportunities in terms of food access. The program also includes the promotion of positive changes in dietary habits and the nutritional status of the student population.


Food gleaning and farmer support

This project, in partnership with government agencies seeks to "rescue" surplus discarded food within rural areas. The goal is to improve the quality of life and economic stability of rural individuals and communities involved in the Farmer Trucks, an exchange of food from producer to homes..


Nutritional Food Supplement Distribution

This program supports vulnerable populations by conducting nutritional screening programs, distributing a nutritional supplement and providing nutritional education.


Nutritional Support for Adolescent Mothers

This government sponsored program aims to improve the nutritional status of low-weight pregnant mothers as well as new mothers and infants, prioritizing those who are adolescents.  They provide a food package monthly delivery, educational meetings, home visits and nutritional follow-up care.

Childhood Development

This is  a 54 year old non-profit private foundation that for 54 years working to assist vulnerable communities and families through early childhood programs. . Children are given early childhood education, a lunch program and families are provided parent education programs.

Social Service Organization: This organization works on a variety of fronts to better the lives of vulnerable Colombians through multiple projects to strengthen and service families. It's principal concern is to enable individuals, families and communities to become knowledgeable of and participate in reflection about human development and family relations for the promotion of peace. Research and education is at the forefront and they have projects ranging from:

  • street worker literacy

  • domestic worker's rights

  • family education for parenting and communication skills, etc. and more

Community Development: This organization works in communities that are facing extreme vulnerabilities. They offer education services as a fundamental pillar of the intervention mode, accompanied by nutrition, health and income generation programs. They focus on training in values and motivating its members to be active community participants. 

Social Inclusion: This non-profit organization carries out social projects, training volunteers, and researching social issues in the city of Medellín. All our programs and projects are designed based on an Integral Methodological Scheme for Social Inclusion. This establishes research as the main tool to get to an integral understanding of a social phenomenon, which in turn allows us to structure activities that have a high positive impact in the populations we work with.

Displaced Children and Families: This is a a Colombian foundation supporting displaced children and families with food, clothing and medical support. They operate a Community Center where children and families can visit, play games, do sports, learn English, math and computer literacy free of charge while interacting with Volunteers from all over the world.

CARTAGENA Opportunities

Disadvantaged Families: This organization offers educational opportunities to the children of disadvantaged families displaced by violence. The objectives are to support the growth of children, giving them new knowledge and teaching them about new cultures.Their five programs are, Kindergarten, community canteen, parent school, supervised homework and study subsidy. 

They slo support grassroots training of teachers. 

Poverty Relief and Job Training: This organization  provides support and tools for Colombians to lift themselves out of poverty and acquire a living wage and a promising future. The Foundation has created an innovative and scalable model of comprehensive recovery for vulnerable people and communities. The  programs are a public/private partnership. The urban agriculture or “productive patios” program was born as a food security initiative for vulnerable communities. The organic products are also sold in restaurants and is  additional income for families. 

Community development for Afro-Caribbean communities: This NGO, located in the Neighborhood of La Boquilla, has developed programs and projects that respond to the needs of the population using strategies for improving social inclusion, strengthening values, engaging in the productive use of free time and building cultural pride and community solidarity. Job training and community income generating programs are part of the mission.

Community Development through Housing: This Latin American non-profit organization led by young people from different Latin American and Caribbean countries is dedicated to promoting awareness among youth about how important it is that all people have access to a housing. It works in disadvantaged communities to improve their quality of life and implements other social empowerment programs to improve job skills, personal empowerment and community solidarity. The community (supported by volunteers) is an integral part of the constructing emergency housing.

This organization seeks to eradicate poverty in Cartagena and the surrounding settlements.Their work is primarily focussed on building safe, secure housing for people living in extreme poverty. The organization focuses on involving youth volunteers in the building projects to help raise awareness and foster social inclusion with dignity. They are also seek to provide educational and social service programs. An offshoot of their active assistance with housing is to publicly denounce human rights violations present in these settlements in order to raise awareness and prioritize the needs of this population within the political and public agenda.

People with Disabilities: Non-profit that offers therapeutic care to children, young people and adults with cognitive and multiple disabilities. With expertise from specialists from Switzerland and Colombia, the organization works to change the social stigma of people with disabilities. Their philosophy is pedagogical and is based on respect for the person with cognitive disabilities, defending their dignity and their right to enjoy a full life.