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Where Can I Do Charity and Volunteer Work in Panama?


 Blending travel and charity work are one of the best ways to explore and enjoy Panama. Also known as Voluntourism, vacation travel can be an ideal way to travel and see the world while at the same time doing something meaningful and fulfilling in our lives like building communities, helping children, conserving nature and meeting and bonding with other people.

There are numerous avenues for engaging in charitable or volunteer work while traveling and experiencing Panama's wonders simultaneously. One option is to directly engage with various local and international foundations or non-governmental organizations, offering your services as a volunteer. Alternatively, you can seek out private organizations that tailor volunteer programs to your specific interests, lifestyle, or causes you're passionate about. Additionally, immersing yourself in Spanish language studies in Panama can open up additional volunteer opportunities.

In this article, we'll delve into several opportunities and sectors where you can contribute through charity and volunteer work in Panama. By embarking on these endeavors, you not only get to explore the country but also experience the deeply rewarding opportunity to positively impact individuals and communities.


Join Volunteer Programs or Foundations 

Engaging directly with volunteer programs or foundations conducting charitable work in Panama represents one of the most straightforward ways to contribute. These non-governmental organizations encompass a wide range of advocacies, including education, environmental conservation, feeding programs, medical rescue, and health promotion, among others. Below are some volunteer programs you can consider joining:

Workway: This Panama-based NGO emphasizes establishing sustainable methods for indigenous tribes and visitors to collaborate and learn from each other. They achieve this through cooperative resource sharing, promoting art, and preserving cultural identity.


Amigos de las Americas. Founded in 1965 on the principle that young people can change the world, this NGO is engaged in health promotion and education of families living in remote areas of Panama and other Latin American countries.


Surf For Life. Ideal for surfers and beach lovers, this NGO focuses on providing education, health promotion, nature conservation, and other works especially in local coastal communities in Panama and throughout Central America.


Proyecto Mosaico. A Germany-based non-profit organization founded in 1998, it focuses on environmental education and aquatic resource conservation in tropical countries such as Panama in partnership with other local organizations.


International Service Learning (ISL). This volunteer organization promotes health, education and community building across the world. It promotes cultural awareness, service-based learning, and sustainable development.


Movement Exchange (Move-Ex). This non-profit organization promotes cultural exchange and individual empowerment through the art of dancing. Ideally, for people who love dancing, it primarily provides dance instructions or classes to different communities, especially for at-risk youth.


Idol Hands. Perfect for art lovers and artistic volunteers like painters, Idol Hands promotes, celebrates and conserves cultural identities through art. It involves programs like undertaking collaborative mural art projects and similar art events that unite communities and awaken the artistic talents of people.

CEIBA Leaf. This is the implementing arm of GeoParadise, which focuses on indigenous outreach programs and poverty relief endeavors in rural areas in Panama.


Outward Bound Costa Rica. Created in 1992 and specially designed for students, this non-profit organization focuses on adventure-based learning and experiential education in the tropical rain forests of Panama and Costa Rica.


Join Volunteer Placement Organizations

An alternative way to charity and volunteer work in Panama or other countries is by joining private organizations that arrange volunteering programs. These organizations act as volunteer placement agencies that assign you to your preferred place and preferred work of volunteer.

Among the advantages of joining these organizations is it provides you a plethora of volunteer opportunities you can choose from. You can easily and quickly jump one volunteer program to another if you wish to. They also simplify the process of joining the different programs.

Finally, you can also get tax deductions from your expenses when you use volunteer placement. Here are some volunteer placement organizations that can arrange volunteer works for you.

Volunteer in Latin America. This UK-based organization primarily focuses on engaging in different wildlife and nature conservation in Central America in partnership with other organizations and the local government. Volunteers will be deployed in different countries in Latin America to perform different charity programs such as helping children from indigenous communities, volunteering in dive center to ensure marine preservation, doing other wildlife conservation (e.g. leatherback turtles, sloths, albatross, etc.)


Go Overseas. Acting as your travel buddy to make a world of difference, Go Overseas aims to empower human connection through perspective-changing travel. This volunteer placement organization provides a wide range of volunteer and charity work opportunities that you can choose from based on preferences such as location, travel experience, strengths or skills, and others. It can provide you the right program for the type of travel adventure you wish to have.


Go Abroad. Conceptualized in 1997 by travel and volunteer enthusiasts, this organization was basically designed to bridge the gap between traveling volunteers and volunteer opportunities/ organizations. It has a broad selection of volunteer opportunities and resources that will provide meaningful travel for people. It aims to provide international travel opportunities for people who want to make a difference.


Volunteer World. Touted as the “AirBnB” for volunteer abroad opportunities, Volunteer World provides the opportunity for travelers to connect to different volunteer opportunities in Panama thereby making their stay more productive and meaningful. Having deployed over 80,000 volunteers, most of the social programs it provides are engaged in English teaching, medical and healthcare as well as animal and wildlife conservation.


Study Spanish in Panama

Studying Spanish in Panama can also be an opportunity to do volunteer and charity works. Many Spanish language schools in Panama provide opportunities for volunteer works through internships, community outreach programs, and children programs. Here are some of the Spanish language schools in which volunteer work is integral in their curriculum.

Habla Ya. One of the most popular Spanish language centers in Panama for foreigners, Habla Ya integrates fun, travel, experience and learning of Spanish in its curriculum. It has Spanish immersion programs which include volunteer programs whereby students can experience cultural and language exchange with the locals.


Casco Antiguo Spanish School. This school integrates its Spanish language classes with fun and adventure through travel as well as volunteer programs. These activities allow students to explore Panama and directly interact with the locals and get involved in a more immersive and productive learning experience in Panama.


Spanish at Locations. This Spanish Language institute incorporates travel adventures with learning. Students will learn Spanish in their chosen location where they are also given the opportunity to explore the area, immerse themselves in the local culture and contribute to society and the environment through volunteer works.


Can I do volunteer work in Panama?

Volunteering in Panama is open to individuals of all ages, including students, adults, mature travelers, expatriates, and retirees. It offers a unique opportunity to explore the country while making a meaningful impact. While specific skills may be beneficial for certain volunteer programs, the most essential qualities are passion for helping others and the financial resources to support your volunteer efforts and travel expenses.

Typically, volunteers receive a brief orientation before beginning their work, outlining their responsibilities and objectives. Common volunteer activities in Panama include teaching and youth support, environmental initiatives like clean-up drives and tree planting, as well as assisting marginalized communities such as the elderly, indigenous groups, impoverished areas, or individuals with disabilities.

Certain volunteer programs may require specialized skills, such as computer proficiency for teaching technology, musical abilities for teaching music and dance, or knowledge of wildlife and marine conservation for related projects. Volunteers often choose opportunities based on their interests, inclinations, and existing skills.

While volunteering is unpaid, it is considered a privilege and a sacrifice of time and skills for the benefit of others. Volunteers are typically responsible for covering their own expenses, including airfare, accommodations, and meals. This financial commitment ensures that volunteers can support themselves while contributing to meaningful causes in Panama. While some hosts or communities may provide assistance with food and lodging in certain situations, it's important for volunteers to budget and be prepared to cover their basic needs during their volunteer experience.


You can do charity and volunteer work in Panama by directly joining local and international non-government organizations doing volunteer works in Panama, joining volunteer placement organizations that will arrange volunteer programs for you or by simply studying Spanish in Panama.

It's important to differentiate between voluntourism, which combines travel with volunteering, and traditional leisure travel in Panama. While leisure travel is primarily focused on relaxation and enjoyment, voluntourism involves a mindset that prioritizes learning and sacrifice alongside the desire to help others.

In voluntourism, the concept of fun encompasses not only leisure activities but also the fulfillment derived from making a positive impact through volunteering. Unlike leisure travel, where individuals have the freedom to spend their time and money purely for enjoyment, voluntourism places an emphasis on prioritizing assistance to communities or causes before personal leisure and enjoyment.

Therefore, when embarking on a voluntourism experience in Panama, it's essential to approach it with a mindset that places helping others at the forefront, recognizing that the fulfillment derived from making a difference often outweighs traditional leisure pursuits.

It is like a job in which you commit some of your time and resources to help people. You will not spend for your own convenience but spend time and money for the enjoyment of others. In traveling to do volunteer work, you travel not for your pleasure but to help and make a difference in the lives of other people.