The Impact of the Coronavirus Outbreak on Voluntary Organizations

The Impact of the Coronavirus Outbreak on Voluntary Organizations

During this challenging time, we extend our sincere wishes for the health and well-being of Latin America’s people. The situation is dire for millions of people and sadly the suffering seems far from over. Many of those living in extreme poverty are understandably more concerned about staying afloat than the coronavirus. It's very difficult to follow government instructions to hunker down if you've got no money and food. What an impossible choice for poor Latin Americans: stay at home or provide food for their families. Some people simply have to work or their families will starve. Some people's income has evaporated altogether where the coronavirus lockdown is being more strictly enforced.

Historical times like these require all of us to come together, in the spirit of humanity, for our common health and good. This means that we need to be especially supportive, patient, and kind to each other right now. We are particularly thinking of our partner organizations in Central and South America during these difficult times. The current situation is also extremely delicate for people wanting to travel and volunteer. We fully understand the frustration of international travellers and prospective volunteers during this crisis and our advice to them is to adopt a wait-and-see approach until government restrictions are lifted and tourism businesses and voluntary organizations recover from major disruptions to their operations. The tourism and volunteer sector has been deeply affected by this unprecedented event.

In the last weeks, we have spoken with many voluntary organizations throughout the region about their response to the coronavirus outbreak. Specifically, we asked each organization what impact the coronavirus outbreak has had on them and when they envisage their volunteer project will start running again (e.g. resume accepting international volunteers and interns). Moreover, their general observations and concerns in their province and countrywide. We aim to give you a clear-sighted grasp of the reality on the ground for voluntary organizations. Here are some of the responses we received from managers and project coordinators (in no particular order).

“Thank you for reaching out. We have been reduced to zero income overnight - but we are keeping the project running with just key staff. If we were not be patrol the beach, then almost 100% of the turtle nests would be poached or predated - we simply cannot shut down the project. We have been fundraising to try to raise money to pay the salaries of the local community members, and keep the staff fed. As soon as travel restrictions are lifted we will be receiving volunteers and interns again to assist us.” Nicki Wheeler - LAST

“Hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. Thanks for reaching out. Most people are very much focused on themselves and their immediate surroundings at the moment. Peru and Cusco are in complete lockdown since March 16th. There is no transport, borders are closed and everybody has to stay at home. Only markets and supermarkets, drugstores and banks are open. You are allowed to buy food and drugs but on your own and you have to wear a mask. There's lots of police and military in the streets to make sure everybody stays within the limits. The lockdown was first announced as a 2 week thing but has since been prolonged with 2 weeks at a time and the present date is set for April 26th. Peru started with 10 infected people in March and is at 14,000 at the moment with about 300 deaths. In Cusco however there's a way bigger drama happening. About 24% of the population (30,000 families) lives in extreme poverty and survives day to day. These people can't work for the past 5 weeks and have a really hard time surviving. Long term problem is that all of Cusco lives of tourism (directly or indirectly). The pre-season is April and May, high season is June, July and August and the after season is September and October. Expectations are that the complete lockdown will last till the end of May and will be built down in steps. As it is now, in September life would be more or less back to normal. This means that tourism will not happen this year, leaving a city of more than 400.000 inhabitants without income for a whole year. There's quite some uncertainties but our project had to close in March and I am not sure when we will be allowed to re-open and have 30 people in one place. So far the government said that groups of more than 8 people will be forbidden for the entire year. The big issue with that are schools that were all closed down before they opened (school year runs from mid March till mid December) so it looks like students will loose this year entirely. Stay safe.” John - Fair Services

“We are still accepting applications, and plan to resume data collection and environmental education as soon as the border closures and driving restrictions have lifted in Costa Rica. It’s not clear when that will happen, but we’re hoping that by mid-summer we can resume, as Costa  Rica seems to be handling COVID very well.” Susan Perry - UCLA (Dept. of Anthropology)

“Thanks for your thoughtful message, we are still not sure when we will resume our activities, we must stay home until the end of May as recommended by our government. If all goes well, we hope to be able to accept volunteers in July. I will let you know if there are some changes.” Angélica Pech - Centro Ecologico Akumal Communications

“Our reserve is currently still running, as we have licenses for wildlife management. We are the last people to get shut down along with food markets and medical workers but obviously money is an issue right now so we are reducing all our costs to try to just survive this. Many volunteers left early in fear of borders closing, some stayed on a bit longer but now we do not have any volunteers. We have not been receiving new volunteers either and have asked those who have had their flights cancelled to re-book for another time. Luckily, we are in a very isolated area (deep in the forest) so social distancing is just a fact of life here making the situation better here. The worry here is not coronavirus; it is the economic impact in a small town which is already economically vulnerable and relies on tourism as a source of income primarily (which is also important for the environment as until tourism came around people largely lived of hunting, the illegal trade of wildlife and illegal logging). I am still taking applications and am still doing interviews but making it clear that we will not confirm their placement until COVID-19 crisis is over.” Imran Barath Viroomal - IPBio

“I hope when you receive this email you are well, thank you so much for your interest in our organization. Unfortunately due to the global COVID-19 impacts on health and travel, we have put all current in-person volunteer activities are on hold until the global situation improves, restrictions are lifted, and general health and safety can be ensured. We have encouraged everyone to consider their role in preventing further spread and practice social distancing. Within our possibilities, we’ve been created a few remote volunteer opportunities. We need support primarily in development/fundraising and communications, but also have opportunities for those with a higher Spanish level (B2+) to work directly with program directors on ongoing program improvement and M&E initiatives. These and the next few months will be challenging for us as a non-profit clinic with limited resources without volunteer support due to they provide us the 35% of our fundraising efforts, however, we are positive that the people that give us support in the past will not hesitate to do it during this situation.” Maria Jose Chajon - Primeros Pasos

“Thank you very much for your wishes. We hope that you and your family and friends are doing well too. As we cannot leave the locals without access to emergency medical help, both our clinics continue working but with changing their regular regime in order to follow all safety rules during the pandemia. Our doctors work only with emergency cases. Considering that usually our volunteers need some time for preparation we continue accepting new applications. And as soon as the quarantine and travelling restrictions are over, we will be ready to accept new volunteers.” Maria Kun - Health & Help

“Thanks a lot for your email. Please note that CasaSito has been supporting its scholar families during the last months with basic food packages, water filters for drinking water, medicine and recharges for their cell phones so they can attend online classes. For the time being we don't have any positive COVID-19 cases among our scholars and their families. The few volunteers that have been here already left in March and as the borders are closed we don't know when we will have volunteers again. It will depend on the development of the virus during the coming weeks.” Silke Wahl - Asociación CasaSito

“Thanks for the enquiry regarding the impact of coronavirus on our organization and the internship programs that we offer. At the moment Paraguay is in lockdown and the school where the project takes place is also closed as students are studying via virtual platforms online and so we do not have accommodation to host an intern at the moment. Only essential services and businesses are allowed to run at the moment and so any direct engagement with the communities would not be possible in person. There are also restrictions on travel within the country and so it is difficult to define a timetable as to when we will be able to offer these opportunities. Based on the updates from the local news the earliest commencement date would be around early September; however, this will become clearer nearer the time. At the moment there have been enquiries regarding online internships and this is something that we can potentially offer. This would offer experience with a Latin American organization albeit at a distance. Hope that you and your family are well.” Henry Eduardo Renshaw - Fundación Paraguaya

“We are on the field between January and April. We will start again next year 2021.” Joëlle De Weerdt - ELI-Scientific

"Thanks for your thoughtful message, we hope you are staying safe and well too. We are shutting down our activities for 3 months starting now in May and we'll be back in August. This is a harsh decision for us but necessary so we can keep our staff employed and be able to plan through these months. So our volunteer and intern programs would be safe to say that they will reopen next year since the activities will return to normal in 4 phases in Peru with international travelling probably opening on one of the later phases.  Unless someone agrees and feels safe to come from September to November. Take care!" Ligia Gómez - Threads of Peru

“As of right now, we cannot put an exact date on when we will accept volunteers again as there is a lot of uncertainty on when regulations will change and we want to be certain that volunteers coming will be safe. However, we are still receiving applications and communicating with volunteers that wish to join us in the future and everyone is on “stand-by” to see when they will be able to travel here. Luckily, we have a few volunteers lined up who will be coming to our farm as soon as they are safely able to travel. Some volunteers who were programmed to arrive around this time have also rescheduled to come in 2021. Additionally, one of our volunteers, Marcelo from the USA, has stayed on with us “indefinitely” and is happily living and working with us in this beautiful, remote location.” The Ride Andes Team

“I hope this email finds you well and safe in these difficult times. I'm afraid we don't have a clear answer on when our volunteer programs will be resuming as usual, but I can share some information in case it is useful. A month ago, after declaring a state of emergency due to the pandemic, the state of Rio de Janeiro shut all non-essential activity and encouraged people to stay in their homes, and entry of foreigners on international flights was restricted. As an NGO that works with many foreigners in the favelas in close proximity with residents, Community in Action needed to minimize the risk to our volunteers, local team, and the communities we work in. For this reason, we paused our in-field involvement in all the communities in order to do our part in slowing the transmission. As the Operations Manager, I liaised with the volunteers who were with us in Rio at the time, supporting them in their return to their countries of residence. They were offered a refund and received a credit for the weeks of placement they were unable to complete. We have been monitoring the situation closely and are reaching out to volunteers who were programmed to arrive in this time to make necessary adjustments to their plans. We are in touch with our local partners to see how best we can support them as they respond to the virus. We are running a fundraising campaign to contribute to their relief initiatives in the communities (which ultimately is raising just a drop in the ocean compared to what's needed). I hope this information is of use; please let me know if I can help further... and if from your end you have any opportunity to share the campaign, we would be very grateful. We understand that this outbreak also affects your activities; we wish you and your team strength and health during this unprecedented time. As the scenario evolves, please feel free to reach out at any time with questions.” Laura Ramos - Community in Action

“Thank you for your mail. The Peruvian government has been changing the regulations frequently and the current state is that they prohibited all incoming and outgoing international flights until September 2020, meaning we cannot accept any applicants up to this point of time. We from Intiwawa decided to wait until mid of May to give further notice and to continue with the application process of international volunteers and interns. Anyway, we try to restart our projects as soon as possible in Peru with the help of Peruvian volunteers from Intiwawa. At the moment, there is a complete lockdown in Peru, so it seems that it will take us some weeks to restart our projects”. Felix Mohr - IntiWawa

“Thanks for your e-mail. We were in a pretty scary position a last month, losing 10 of our volunteers in three days (university, parental and governmental recalls), and with a low level of supplies on the storage shelves. Thankfully six of our international interns / volunteers (one Canadian, two Brits, a Brazilian, a Costa Rican and an Australian) chose to stay on. That, along with fantastic support from past volunteers and other donors - enabling us to stock up on non-perishable supplies, has really turned the situation round a lot, thankfully!  We’re also relieved to be classified as essential services so that our local staff is able to continue coming to work – ensuring that the wildlife rehabilitation work is not impacted by the current state of affairs is certainly keeping our smaller team very busy! Apart from the significant extra workload for everyone as we operate on a skeleton crew, we are inevitably experiencing a significant financial hit as a result of the national and international lockdowns. Were it not for generous donations from past volunteers and donors, we would have been in a nightmare situation of having a large number of animals not yet ready for release but without the financial resources to maintain them. Belize currently has its borders closed in its efforts to contain the coronavirus – this status is scheduled to remain in place till late June. We hope that international travel and border restrictions may be easing at the end of June so that volunteers may resume coming to Belize in July, but there’s no certainty of that yet. For new applications, that we’ve approved we are therefore giving provisional placement offers in the hope they will be able to go ahead on schedule – but can be rescheduled to a later date otherwise. For volunteers whose placements have been blocked by international travel restrictions (so far those who were scheduled to come in April, May or June), we are offering the opportunity to re-schedule placements for up to 12 months after travel restrictions are eased. We’re extremely thankful for having a really great, strong team of volunteers who chose to stay on – great people with whom we are happy to live together for an indefinite period of lockdown. We’re similarly enormously thankful for the faithful support of many past volunteers who are unable to be here to help in person but who’ve made donations that are helping maintain feed supplies and ensure that we can give the wildlife in our rehabilitative care the best possible outcomes. We’re also very fortunate to be in lockdown in a stunning location with ample space – I cannot imagine what it must be like for people who are restricted to small apartments. I hope that you and your team stay safe, and we look forward to more volunteers as restrictions are eased!” Paul Walker - Manatee & Primate Rehabilitation Centre

“I have no thoughts one way or the other on what going to happen here in Mexico. I think we may have to stop our program this year.” Frank D. Smith - Grupo Ecológico de la Costa Verde

“Thank you so much for your concern. We also hope you and your loved ones are healthy and safe. As you may know already schools are closed, and due to the living conditions of the communities, is really hard for the teachers to carry away the classes via internet, most of the families don't have internet or a computer. We are trying to find ways to help them to stay in touch with the kids and keep teaching. The slogan is to "Stay at Home", but most of the families live at the day, they need to get out and sell their products; luckily we have received some donations and we are trying to give food kits to that need them most. For now we are working in new protocols, so we can keep everyone safe, in case schools open on September 2020.” Mona Cortés - Cielo Azul

“We closed our hotel and restaurant due to concerns about COVID-19 as of March 17, 2020. At this point, we don't know when we might be able to re-open because of the continuing travel restrictions. We have retained a few volunteers who are assisting now with renovations and maintenance, but I don't expect that we will be open to any new volunteers until the travel situation changes.  In any other year we would now be heading into our slow season with business picking up again closer to November. At this point, we will have to simply wait and see.” Briana - La Iguana Perdida

“Due to the coronavirus (covid-19) and the increase in cases in Bolivia, a health emergency was declared, establishing a total quarantine from March 22 to May 10. Currently, as of April 29, there are 1,014 cases with 57 deaths. We are at the beginning of the epidemic, but much information is lacking on how the health system is prepared to face the coming weeks. We do not know much about the availability of spaces in intensive care, nor about the training of health personnel. There is a lot of uncertainty that causes a climate of anxiety. People are authorized to go shopping for half a day per week, according to their identity card number. Controls are being carried out at the places of purchase. Since March 16, the Educational Units and all educational establishments are closed. Many factories stopped production, companies and microenterprises are closed. In this sense, the impact of the virus is not only evident in health aspects; but in economic, labour and psychosocial aspects. Receive my warmest and most grateful greetings to think of us in these so difficult for humanity and that involves responding to many challenges, but that also gives us opportunities to change and adapt to this new situation. Thank you very much for your kindness and forgive me for not having responded before, it is because I am overworked. Once normal returns, you will continue to receive national and international volunteers and interns. The possibility of having virtual volunteering is being considered, in case the situation does not improve in the short term (2 to 3 months).” Dr. Edgar Valdez - Institute for Human Development

“At the moment and as a consequence of the pandemic, the borders of many countries are closed. Our country I have not seen so affected by the action of our government, particularly in the Caribbean region of Costa Rica. We will start working with foreigners at the moment they can enter our country. At this moment the situation of the project is very critical and we totally depend on donations to continue our work, we hope you and your families are well. Thanks and greetings from Parismina.” Macko - Save the Turtles of Parismina (ASTOP)

“Project Ix-canaan closed down on Friday, 13th March. We have been very lucky here in our area... the Guatemalan president has been proactive in dealing with Covid-19 and the country has had few cases … our area has not had any. The difficulty, like most countries, is in the fact that people are not working, therefore, not bringing in money.  We still have no idea when the country will reopen for business.  And it is also difficult to imagine what changes will come about for travel, tourism and volunteering.  We will be ready to start up again as soon as the country reopens.” Anne Lossing - Project Ix-canaan

“Thank you for reaching out to us. We are doing well and hope the same for you. Our organization is definitely being challenged right now since we have had to close our tours and our volunteer program, but are still receiving many animals to rehabilitate. We rely on the tours and the help of the volunteers to keep the place running, financially and continuing to provide a high quality of care to the wildlife in our sanctuary and rescue center. We are uncertain when we will be able to welcome volunteers and visitors on our tours since the borders are still closed and while they are due to open May 15th, this can change as it has before. We are hoping to open our doors soon, but are also putting the health of our staff, and the few volunteers that did stay, before anything as we must be healthy to continue giving the care to the animals and return them to the wild. We are eager to welcome new volunteers as soon as possible!” Tiffany Schroeder - Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary

“It's good to hear from you all at Volunteer Latin America, we are still waiting to see what happens currently with the Covid-19 management and the border control in Belize (currently the boarders are still closed limiting the travel of people into the country) and so we are closed but hope to be in the position by July to take Volunteers and Interns again, is our site actively been re-posted now? I may log in and edit it, there is a chance we may open back before July but until we can better understand how things in Latin America will proceed were setting that rough date.” Dianna - Toucan Ridge Ecology and Education Society (TREES)

“Thank you for reaching out. Maya Traditions has been unfortunately affected in many areas. We cancelled tours, classes, workshops, volunteer positions, and decreased our textile production, and are uncertain as to when we will open everything back up again. It will all be evaluated in the coming months. On a positive note, we are raising funds to purchase food and hygiene items for our artisans and their families, since their income has struggled the most. We've also begun producing masks and can thankfully send them nationally and internationally. Thank you so much for reaching out and checking in.” Misty Lopez - Maya Traditions

“We have been in total lock-down for over 45 days. Still have one volunteer that got stuck here, and we keep trying to work on basic chores every day. It looks like this will not get better until at least October 2020. And even by them things will be very different.” Antal Borcsok - Tela Marine Research Center (TMRC)

“At the moment we do not have any set dates to receive people again. We are waiting to see the situation in the world and then will decide how we receive people again and how to do it in the new world. Thank you for your letter.” Eshana - PachaMama Eco Community

“We hope that you, your loved ones and your collaborators are in good health during these uncertain and worrying times. We are sure that when this entire contingency ends, we will work together on strategies that allow us to return much stronger and more solid to receive tourists again. We wish them the best, even at this difficult stage we consider that we can learn many things and value what we have. We will keep you informed about the situation in Solferino and its surroundings and please contact us through our social networks and telephone numbers written below if you have any questions or concerns. Let's get out of this.” Jairo Ancona Ramirez - Reserva Nativa

“Thank you for reaching out. I really appreciate the opportunity to share a bit more of our experience here during this time of crisis. We're working with volunteers and had 5 volunteers before Covid-19 hit the country. Only one is still here, everybody else has left. Borders here were quickly shut down and flights were cancelled. Most governments around the world organized rescue flights to bring their citizens back home, which is how our volunteers were able to leave. Only one volunteer decided to stay. We still provide our volunteers with free housing, food, a stipend and medical attendance and make sure that they are taken care of. They have nothing to worry about as long as they are staying with us. We teach from Kindergarten all the way through 9th grade at Garden School and it has been a challenge to keep out student’s education up and running. New information from the Secretaria de Educación comes daily. They oblige all schools to find a way to teach remotely but that is difficult, seeing as most students don't have continuous internet access. A lot of families don't have wifi at home, but will charge their phone with data as needed. Almost nobody has access to a laptop. We have been creating whatsapp groups and are sending videos and exercises out every week. The kids work on it and send it back. But between those families that don't have a phone. Don't have whatsapp, or don't have money to put data on their phones we are actually reaching less than half of all kids. We will start teaching on zoom next week, but again, I assume less than half of our students will be able to participate. The longer the lockdown goes the more the gap between those students who are working and advancing and those that aren't will widen. On top of that a lot of families now are confronted with housing and food insecurity. The lockdown here is pretty strong, public transport has been completely shut down, as have all businesses that are not essential. That means most people have lost their jobs. People here earn low wages, whatever they make they spend on food and housing, so going even a few weeks without an income puts them in danger of not being able to afford to eat. Let me know if I can provide you with further information and stay safe during this difficult time.” Garden School Victoria

“So, our services are stopped until some official pronouncement about the return of operation. We believe that we will return to work soon. We usually receive foreign volunteers from August / September. And the process for these volunteers has been done normally. But those who have been with us since last year had to return to their countries of origin, because of the pandemic. We are currently without foreign volunteers.” Pedro Medeiros - Associação Comunitária Monte Azul

“As of right now, our volunteer programs are suspended until January 2021.” Stephanie - Olancho Aid

“Amidst the global situation regarding COVID-19 and the current travelling restrictions in Costa Rica and other countries, we are not processing any applications until June when we might have an idea of what will happen with our staff and conservation program. Over the years, we have developed our nesting and community projects thanks to the joint work of the Turtle Trax / CREMA team, volunteers and extremely hard-working and inspiring people, who provide us with the services of lodging, cooking, maintenance, cleaning, patrol, and transportation in the communities around our projects. We are deeply grateful to everyone (friends and families) that year after year work alongside us. For us, the health of our work team and the families that collaborate with us is essential. Therefore, in the face of the national and international emergency due to COVID-19, we prepare ourselves for the possible scenario of not being able to receive volunteers, who provide us with the help and financial support necessary for our projects, during the upcoming 2020 sea turtle nesting season (from June 2020 – January 2021). Our team is working with the highest commitment in finding any solutions to this possible scenario, which we will communicate (via e-mail and social media) once consolidated. We know that these are moments of indefinite periods of uncertainty, but also of gratitude and positivism. At the moment, we are organizing a fundraising campaign in order to support some of our local collaborators and in hopes to keep the program running this year. We wish you peace, mental and physical health, beautiful moments while staying home with your families, and a lot of strength.” Ninive Espinoza-Rodriguez - The Rescue Center for Endangered Marine Species (CREMA)

“I am currently stateside, but the ACES crew is quarantined on San Pedro Island in Belize. They have their hands full with responding to all wildlife calls. Funds are dangerously low. ACES rely heavily on tourists and interns for self-sustainability. Stay healthy!” Cherie Chenot-Rose - ACES (American Crocodile Education Sanctuary)

“Thank you very much for your message. Our Teams and our families are all safe and well. We are here in Costa Rica in our sixth week with the borders closed down which has been hard on our organization and the projects involved. The official curve remains with under 700 confirmed cases, quite low in comparison to other countries in Latin America, Costa Rica has made brave and quick decisions and people are well educated, mostly aware and following with quarantine, alcohol ban and social distancing. Our main station is here in Puerto Viejo, Limon where I live with my family. Here we stay at home (a volunteer accommodation with 10 empty rooms and a pool), the region remains without any cases. Our other main location is in Carate on the Osa Peninsula where our team currently lives quite isolated but healthy, safe and breathing pure amazing nature. In both locations we keep working and offer our volunteer programs (, research courses and study programs as well as responsible travel itineraries for individuals and groups throughout the country. We are ready to receive interested volunteers as soon as the borders reopen. We would be very happy to have helping hands for our environmental education programs, wildlife investigation and environmental protection are the main focus. Our team on the Osa Peninsula is working to build up a research station and documentation center, preparing this year's Sea Turtle Conservation season, which will be starting again at the end of June. We hope that the borders will reopen soon so that we can receive helping hands and we can offer interesting discounts for volunteers booking between 1st of May to the 30th of June with travel dates within 2020. Looking forward to hearing from you again soon.” Beate Heycke - Planet Conservation

“Thanks for contacting us, we appreciate it. At the moment, our facilities are closed, but we are teaching online. The quarantine here ends the 15th of May according to the government. Though the Colombians borders are shut down, we are expecting that the government will open them soon as the virus is not as bad here as in other countries. As soon as the Colombians airports open, we will start receiving volunteers taking the right precautions of course. We will keep you inform if any important changes occur.” Alex Charry - Connections, English Institute

“We don´t accept volunteers during these cold and rainy months. Finally our last two volunteers were able to make it back to their countries (Uruguay and Brasil). Hope by spring the quarantine will be lifted to be able to receive volunteers again.” Rosa Demchick - Chacra El Cielo

“Thank you very much for your email. PBI Guatemala is still working. We have a team of 8 volunteers in the field. However, we have changed our way of working. We are monitoring the situation of Human Rights Defenders remotely. Due to the airport in Guatemala is closed we cannot accept at the moment new volunteers, but we hope we can do again as soon as possible.” Laura - PBI Guatemala

“Our field research at Palenque National Park on southeast Mexico has been suspended for the time being and until the government implemented quarantine is lifted. If all goes well, the quarantine will be lifted at the end of May. However, there is a degree of uncertainty about this due to the unpredictable course of the pandemic and a risk of resurgence after restrictions are lifted. For now, our students and volunteers are back home, but continue to work with the data they gathered and we are in regular online contact to oversee progress with data integration and the writing of thesis and of other reports. All the best and stay safe!” Alejandro Estrada - Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM)

“The situation going forward is still a little unclear, but in Costa Rica they are currently planning to open borders to tourists again mid-May (I think this is quite unlikely to happen). Our sea turtle nesting season is set to start at the beginning of June, but will be pushed back as necessary depending on travel info and recommendations. We are fortunate enough to be in a very remote and low risk location for the time being, so until things are safe again we are focusing on saving money to be able to cover the loss of volunteer manpower by paying local staff to monitor the beaches. This is much more costly, however ultimately aligns much better with our sustainable development goals which is a huge bonus!! I am optimistically thinking that we would be able to take overseas help again from the beginning of July.” Laura Exley - COPROT

“Here at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve, we have been financially impacted by the coronavirus, and we are well aware that we are not alone in this situation. Thankfully, a severe reduction of our income is practically the only impact we have had, as we are all healthy and staying safe on the Reserve. We have a great group of researchers who have decided to stay on the Reserve for the duration, so most of our Research Programs are able to continue throughout. In Costa Rica, the travel restrictions will currently be lifted on the 15th of May, though of course we are aware that this could change. As of that date, we are happy to receive international interns and volunteers, with the caveat that they will need to observe two weeks of social distancing protocols with the other interns, before being integrated into the group. However, we do have the facilities to house them separately, at no extra charge, and much of the work on the reserve is outdoors, so it is possible to easily observe these protocols. We appreciate you checking in with us here at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve. I hope that you and your families are healthy and well, and will remain so through this difficult time.” Casey Ella McConnell - Cloudbridge Nature Reserve

“Thank you for writing to us. We are re-opening late May and assuming operations again for our volunteers in June. Please let us know if you need further information. We look forward to hearing from you and working with you again soon.” Bernal Lizano - Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center

“Thanks for getting in touch. We are currently not receiving new volunteers due to the situation in Ecuador and because the village we are situated in is not letting outsiders in. I imagine this will remain this way until mid May or June.” Helen Bicknell - Comuna de Rhiannon

“I hope you and your family are well and the COVID-19 is not affecting you. At the moment we are still preparing for the new season, in Costa Rica the pandemic does not affect too much, but there are few restrictions, not like Europe or the USA. From us, we would like to start the project as we expect, in July, but most all the volunteers are from around the world and we don't know if they can fly, also our coordinator that she is from Barcelona, but we cross fingers and they can be with us. That is the only news that I can tell you. If you need more information from us just let me know.” Aida Corcovado Foundation

“We normally have a July volunteer intake. This is likely to be postponed and I'm not sure at this stage what the date will be. It depends a lot on the evolving global situation and ability to travel as well. A very hard time for a lot of people, especially Latin Americans. The support of volunteers will be very much needed once this crisis is over, and it's safe for volunteers to return.” Loren O'Sullivan - NPH New Zealand

“Hello, thanks for contacting us. We still don’t have a date for restarting our programs, probably this quarantine here will be 1 more month but yes we will keep working.” William Jondec - Peru Vivential

“Thanks for your email. For the time being Apu Lodge is closed. We don’t know when we will open again, as the quarantine has been extended until 26th April but may be extended longer. We have no reservations for guests for April and expect the rest of the year to be very quiet. We won’t be needing new volunteers until at least September or October.” Louise Norton - Apu Lodge

“At least we are all healthy, but without money, no therapy, no riding classes! Our German Association is helping! As soon as it is possible, we need volunteers again, counting on you! Keep healthy!” Heidi Paliz - Fundacion Am-En

“Thank you for your email. Here in the Galapagos we have few, if any tourists and people are struggling because they have lost their jobs and/or have no tourists in their homes. We are collecting money on their behalf and hope to deliver goods and/or medicine to their homes next week. We have another fundraising link in the UK.” William Puga - Projects Galapagos

“Our program will not be able to reopen until Peru reopens its border, there is currently no timeframe but we think it might be by the end of the year at the earliest. Thanks for checking in and hope you and your family are safe as well.” Julio Cesar Tello - Karikuy

“We have a big impact in the community we work at and with. There's a lot of unemployment due to Covid-19. Also, we migrated our program to a virtual one. Our volunteer project will start again, hopefully, on September/October, but I think that it’s better if we wait till January 2021.” Lifting Hands

“Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, we have been affected like everyone else around the globe; we decided to cancel our volunteer's program for next summer 2020 and are planning probably to go back to the field not until October or November depending on the national and international recommendations. This is a hard time for us in terms of donations income for summer but we absolutely understand the situation and we aim always first for our community and manta team health, once all this passes we will be able to recover! Hope you and your beloved ones are also well!” Karen Fuentes - Manta Trust

“Thank you for your e-mail and staying alert as to your “clients” and friends! For the time being all staff and family members are fine, dearly hoping it stays that way and no additional havoc comes our way. Our tourism destination has stalled completely, no guests/bookings since February and presumably until August, only the basic staff remains at our visitors centre, all investment projects are on halt – we are looking into a grim future, not even being completely certain if the Reserva Natural Palmari will still exist as a tourism destination in 2021 and presently we are just aiming to get to the 31st. of December 2020 hoping that these 8 months give us a bit more clarity to being able to make long-term decisions. Yes, we still have 3 volunteers (One Colombian girl, one French girl and one Belgium lad) at our visitors centre, all three are very happy to be there as it might be the safest place “on the planet” right now, all three are “grounded” as the borders are closed and no flights arrive/leave, hence and at least until the end of May that will stay as it is, but at least they are very happy to being able to stay there with our basic staff and feeling like tourism clients as not much work aside of clean-ups, keep order, fix minor details are required, so they have 99% of free time, help us by fishing and creating 2 new “chagras” (crop fields) so we can also lower a bit the expenses regarding their and our staff´s food supply, further relaxing, hammocking, walking the surrounding forests, enjoying the natural pools, kayaking with dolphins and probably having the best of times and not desiring to switch position with anybody else. On the other hand we face a scenario after May if in June flights are resumed and the borders open, as all three will most certainly leave (even though we have informed them that they can stay as long as they want/need…) and we would like/must very much to fill the gap of no volunteers we have presently for the months of June & July, as having people present at our visitors centre aside of our basic staff improves security and strengthens the team being present – if you could help us in any which way as to finding “on short notice” interested volunteers, this would be very much appreciated. Of course, we depend on the decisions to be taken by the government in respect to flights, which, for the time being might be resumed only in June. Hoping to have given you a more or less good “diagonal” view into our present - pretty lousy status - we remain in expectancy of your further questions and thoughts, always here for you and also wishing you, your family and your staff all the best and good health.” Axel H. Antoine - Reserva Natural Palmari

“Our volunteer program has not stopped running in the states of Mexico where we operate (i.e. Jalisco and Nayarit). Our free mobile clinic for spay/neuter is considered an ‘essential service.’” Gretchen DeWitt - Peace Animals

“With likely 14 day quarantine on entering country once borders open, nothing can be casual. 14 days is a huge commitment for volunteer and I am nervous about making commitments to traveller’s sight unseen. It would have to be long term, but what if they did not work out? It becomes more like an employment contract and I am not sure that is viable. Casual travel has gone for over a year.” Emily Haworth - Boquete Bees

“Many thanks for your message and my sincere apologies for not replying sooner, I have had IT problems here at home. Here is an update from Up Close Bolivia. We facilitated the return of our volunteers before the borders were closed and 2 left later on evacuation flights afterwards. None of the projects we support are running but we are in close contact with all of them and have been supporting them with online English classes etc. We are still active on instagram and FB trying to keep our profile alive. We will be unable to receive volunteers until the projects restart and the borders are opened and international flights resumed. Bolivia has a very severe lockdown sine 20th march. No transport allowed, only one person allowed out once a week according to the number on their ID card to do shopping between 7am and 12 midday - strong enforcement by police and military. Today there will be a review of whether the quarantine will be extended, relaxed etc. We are waiting for a government declaration. Currently 1053 confirmed cases with 55 dead. However, probably under reporting due to very few tests being done. I will be sure to keep you informed now my computer and wifi is back up and running. Keep safe and let’s hope we can ride out this storm together.” Emma - Upclose Bolivia

“How would we know? How would anyone know if and when they can take volunteers again? The process of the disease, according political decisions and rules, closed or open borders, travel restrictions, as well as the business situation of each host is and will still be totally unpredictable for quite a long time. As we work in tourism, the hardest hit industry world-wide, we won't be able to reopen again before the very end of the pandemic. When will this be? No one knows. I also don't think it is the right time to try to encourage young people to start travelling again at this point. Hope we all get through this difficult time alright and may learn some important lessons for the future.” Astrid Müller - The Green Horse Ranch

“Thank you for the message. In the Galapagos Islands we are very impacted by COVID. I don't know when people will have the confidence to travel again. Flights are closed now. I believe that the flights will start to normalize in June. I think we can start receiving volunteers in June – July.” Carlos Zapata Erazo - FUNDAR Galapagos

“At the moment with the Corina Virus problem everything is paralyzed, there is no work and we all stay at home. Yes we are accepting the volunteers in our hotel. We hope that the COVID-19 will end soon to return to normal.” Eric Albino – Peru Expeditions

“Thanks for contacting me. Here in Southern Peru in the heart of the Amazon Basin, we are stuck at home. Our Peruvian Government has determined removability and thus has shut down airports and bus stations till April the 23rd. It is a tough situation and this pushes us to reinvent ourselves into a more innovative and virtual scheme. This means that we have to recreate our eco experiences to be followed online. This will also mean we frequently broadcast live about our eco reserve to show the world how enjoyable and unique it is. Anyway we want to welcome volunteers as soon as this COVID-19 passes or gets under control beyond reasonable doubt. We assume that this could be by June the first. Thanks again for writing us and please stay in touch to share any update on how this current situation evolves.” Dr. Carlo Aguilar Pérez - Explorer's Inn

“We are accepting volunteers even now; that is, people who got stuck here upon the lockdown, and we are offering a free workshop in bio-construction, feeling that moving forward with building resilience is important!” Zia Parker - Vida Verde Permaculture & Biodynamic Farm

“Hoping you are coping and staying safe and well. Life Net Nature may well go extinct with this situation. We have cancelled our summer programs, but plan to run in December.” Dusti Becker - Life Net Nature

“We care for animals that are victims of the traffic. Usually, visitors pay the entrance for visit the place and volunteers come to us for helping. At this moment, the shelter survives with private donations and all the volunteers returned to their home. We always receive volunteers. We nearly don't have risk at our place because the shelter is in the forest and we don't have contacts with other persons. So, volunteers can come when the border will be open. Thank you for caring at us and we hope to receive many volunteers soon as possible.” Yvan - Los Monos Paseo Ecologico

“Thank you for checking in with us. Our volunteers who were serving in Guyana came back to the United States as soon as it was announced that the border would be closing indefinitely. We are planning to continue our next start date in August in hopes that we will be able to have volunteers back in Guyana. We continue to monitor the CDC and WHO guidelines and adjust as needed.” Andrea Haller - Mercy Volunteers

“Unfortunately we are not accepting volunteers till further notice. At the moment Galapagos is in lockdown (no one enters Galapagos at the moment) and we do not know for how long this situation will last.” Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF)

“Thank you for your message. Colombia has been in a stay at home order for the past month. Currently, all foreigners are restricted from entering indigenous villages, so our program is not accepting people. The country-wide order is being lifted on April 27.  After that time we will see what happens with the village restrictions. The virus is in our part of the Amazon, but it is not yet widespread. We are very close to the border of Brazil, where the problem is worse. (The president of Brazil is not encouraging social distancing). I believe that the virus will become widespread and the local health care system will be overwhelmed, probably within the next month. I am thankful that I am not in a high-risk group for dying from the virus. I am now living in Leticia. If you have more questions, please send me an email. I will send an update about our program when I know more. Stay safe.” Ben Angulo - Selva Tours Gustavo

“Thanks for writing us. In Perú the things are difficult as in many countries we have 400 dead and 15628 people with COVID 19. In our organization we are working and adapting to the new conditions. In fact we are preparing new activities for working with volunteers online until the can come to our country.” Agata Zumaeta - La Casa de Panchita

“Our activities are completely stopped for now and we don't see any improvement in the actual situation for the next 4 or 5 months, but hopefully I am wrong and we can start seeing new visitors already in June, but all depends on when the airlines are open for regular flights to our country and such things, and whether people will be willing to fly anytime these upcoming months. However, as soon as the world sends green light for international travelling, we will be open for business!” Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge

“This information is current, from our location in Easteron Bolivia. Bolivia is experiencing a full quarantine lockdown. No one is allowed outside of their home, except for one family member age 18 and over, from 7am-noon, on weekdays. Permission is granted based on the last digit of the national ID card. Numbers ending in 1 or 2 are allowed outside for 5 hours on Monday, 3 and 4 on Tuesday, etc. The quarantine began on March 20 and is planned through April 30. It will likely be extended beyond that. All transportation except for goods arriving to market, and emergency vehicles, is forbidden. Strict fines are in place (a month’s wage, and capture of the vehicle). Although people wear masks when they go to the market in town, they do not wear gloves and are not practicing social distancing. Water is readily available in most communities, except for some remote villages. At Tekoati, our Community Transformation Center, we are a community of 8 people on 96 acres. We do not leave the property, except for two people who leave once a week each, to purchase food 6 miles away in the town of Buena Vista. That person wears a face mask and rubber gloves, keeps 2 meters away from others (market vendors, customers) and finishes the purchases quickly, to return to our worksite. Upon entering the market, each person is fumigated by a soldier in a hazmat suit. The soldier says that the fumigation liquid is laundry detergent mixed with rubbing alcohol and water. The person is fumigated each time he or she enters the market street. On site, we practice vigorous hand washing, with soap, frequently. Schools were closed in Bolivia in March. Most people wear masks in public places. No one is wearing gloves, except for our team at Etta Projects. People understand the use of hand gel and hand washing, but do not practice it frequently. At our site, we do this meticulously. Social distancing is not practiced in the towns, except for our team. Etta Projects has trained groups of community health promoters on the signs and symptoms of COVID, measures for prevention, and healthy habits to strengthen the immune system. We also work with the local health centers to spread educational information on these topics. There are no supplies in Bolivia to prevent COVID. People are making their own masks. There is little testing available. At Tekoati, our worksite, we have limited access. In the communities, people with smart phones can access the internet. The biggest changes are economic. Many local people live in poverty and rely on day labour to earn income to feed their families. Transportation is forbidden under the national quarantine, thus people cannot ride their motorbikes to the work site (construction, restaurants, home help, etc) and thus have no work and no income. The government issues monthly bonuses for people over 65, which helps. A new bonus for each school age child (US$75 per month) was issued on April 15. And a new bonus for families that receive no other bonus (US$75) was also issued on April 15. The government issued “food baskets” worth US$60 this month to families living in poverty. These measures will help families in need, to get through this quarantine. It will not be easy. Harvesting food crops and getting them to market is also challenging due to transportation restrictions. Families are home together, in intense circumstances. Bolivia is #2 in the Western hemisphere for domestic violence, and #1 for femicide. The cases of both have spiked during the past month, as people cannot leave their homes. Communities continue to have access to electricity and water (except for those that didn’t have these to begin with). Health centers in villages, towns, and cities remain open. The quarantine has kept the virus to a minimum; since the first reported case 5 weeks ago, there are currently only 360 confirmed cases in Bolivia, and 28 deaths. This is a flattened curve, compared to many other countries. Health education campaigns with practical measures for prevention and detecting symptoms are needed. There is much false information and fear. No one is talking about people who already have the virus, and what they should expect, how to respond, and what the possible outcomes are. In summary, Bolivia reacted very quickly, putting a full quarantine enforced by the military, in place. Bolivia stopped all flights to and from Europe after the first case was detected in Bolivia, and quickly stopped all flights, and then all transportation everywhere in the country except for emergency and food vehicles. Bolivia does not have the capacity needed to handle a pandemic, thus prevention is absolutely necessary. There are not enough medical personnel or hospital beds, nor respirators or PPE to handle huge numbers of COVID patients. The strict enforcement and punishment measures (fines, detaining vehicles, 2 year prison sentence for breaking quarantine, etc.) are having the desired impact.” Amanda Martin - Etta Projects

“We are out of business until the coronavirus is over, and we don't think Ecuador will open its borders again even if they get it under control here, because they will not want to let it back in if it is still raging all over the world. We are definitely closed for the summer, we believe, maybe even the fall. It's devastating. We are completely out of business and shut down now. No positions will be possible as the borders are completely shut down.” Gaia Sagrada

“My name is Bárbara Gouvêa and I’m the communications manager of Eco Caminhos, a bio construction and Permaculture farm in Brazil. We invite people from all over the world to work and learn about bio construction, agroforestry, and organic farming. We’ve not been accepting any new volunteers during this quarantine thus far, but, after having a long discussion over the corona situation, we’ve decided to reopen and accept new volunteers beginning in early May. We have a group of 10 people working and living here at the moment. The main concern for the group is health and solidarity for those with health issues in the community. Hence, why for the past 2 months we’ve lived in quarantine on the farm. One person does all our shopping and, except for interacting with our neighbours, we do not leave the rural community. It does not make sense to bring in people without taking precautions. At the same time, we all believe that Corona will stay with us for quite a while and we need to find ways to make this work. At the moment, we are considering putting any new volunteers in a separate house in quarantine for 15 days and, only after then, we will introduce them to the eco farm. We are also considering asking any new coming volunteers to take the corona test before coming to Brazil, as an extra precaution. How we accept and integrate new volunteers into our ongoing project is a matter that shall be decided upon by all of us here at Eco Caminhos, as a group.” Bárbara Gouvêa - Eco Caminhos

"Luckily, my colleagues and I were able to finish our fieldwork before the COVID appeared. In addition, since the published project involved helping for two PhD projects, which are now finished, it will take some time until we make an opening for volunteers. It is important to highlight that situation here is, at least, delicate. The government has established a full quarantine on March 20 and this situation continues nowadays. According to what I've read, this seems to be the most appropriate political decision to face COVID-19. Nevertheless, mainstream media and many politics not aligned with the National policies are pressuring in several ways, for example, requesting the quarantine annulment. In addition, there are logical claims that the government is trying to attend. Full quarantine has nearly stopped the economic activity, which may be problematic for several people. This attention the government is providing spans from economic help for people with scarce resources, credits at a very low rate for companies to pay their employees, etc. As for our project and research line, we remain active and are working on some papers (home office). Hope you are doing OK!” Adrian Jauregui - Universidad Nacional de La Plata

“Right now we are working behind closed doors, no need for volunteers since a month ago. The quarantine here is supposed to be until the end of April, but we are pretty sure it will extend at least for another 15 days. We depend on that to have accurate information.” Andrea Benavente - Inti Wara Yassi

“We have been running the project the whole time but off-course with safety first for our self and volunteers. The project is open and we receive volunteers.” David - Volunteer Rio

“We are in quarantine and planning to receive volunteers and new residents starting in august, or as recommended by omc. Till then we hope to see clearer.” Ecovillage El Nagual

“The San Blas islands territory has been closed indefinitely due to COVID-19 (Corona virus). We have no indication of when the territory will open so at the moment we are not accepting reservations for the rest of March or April. We have cancelled all trips and refunded all payments made by guests for the months of March and April. We are currently completely shut down and are only responding the emails and requests on Mondays.” Team Cacique Cruiser

“Greetings from Peru and hoping that everyone is well!! Once again I am writing to inform you about the current moment in Peru and our Aldea Yanapay project. As you know, in Peru the state of emergency began on March 16 and from that day the people who reside in this country are obliged to remain isolated in our homes except to ensure our sanitary or supply needs. At the moment we have reached 20,000 cases of contagion and we continue to rise even though all these measures are being applied. Regarding what concerns us most as a project, I inform you that since April 22 all the borders of Peru are closed until new order, so the entry of people from outside this country is complicated. On the other hand, although at first it was considered as an option to open schools on May 4, it has been considered that this decision is not adequate, so the opening of schools has also been postponed indefinitely. Although Aldea Yanapay does not manage such a high number of students as an official school, we would be talking about a large group of people, so we understand that we must apply the rules that apply to any other school, abiding by what is valued from the Ministry of Education and from the Ministry of Health. Finally, yesterday, April 23, the extension of the state of emergency has been carried out, forcing us to be locked in our houses until May 10 as the next date. So given this information, today we must inform you that the school is still closed and that for now it is impossible for us to accept volunteers for the following weeks (May). Our idea continues to be to open as soon as the competent authorities allow and at that moment to start working as we have always done, but today it is totally impossible for us to confirm the opening date of our project. We hope in June to be able to get going, but it won't be known until the days go by!! Thank you very much for your patience and interest and we will continue to inform you of what is happening here with the intention of giving you the possibility of participating in our project as soon as possible! A hug and health to everyone.” Oihane - Aldea Yanapay

"We are all healthy and safe, hopefully all of you are doing fine as well! We have three volunteers at the moment from the Philippines, Turkey and Argentina. All three are stuck here and cannot leave. We only charge them the minimum fee to cover the weekly costs for food (for both them and the animals) which makes us play even. Although the coronavirus does impact us as a organization it could have been much worse and we are making the best of the situation! At the moment it is not possible to bring new volunteers to the center, but as soon as the ban on leaving the house has been lifted we will accept new volunteers again." Sacha Yacu

"Thank you for your message and sorry for our delayed reply. I hope you too are doing well and staying safe during these difficult times around the world. To date, Peru continues in total social isolation nationwide since March 16th and all the borders have been closed since then. Regarding our volunteer program, all external activities are suspended and we are now just working online, since we can go out. Despite this, our program is still open and we continue to receive applications for online positions and on-site volunteers applying for 2021 and the 2nd semester of 2020. For the volunteers applying for 2020, we have continued with the regular process until the applicants acceptance into our program but holding on to any travel arrangements until we know further measures from the Peruvian government. They have extended the total isolation every 2 weeks and informing the population about the new measures as the situation develops. The situation is unpredictable to date, but we hope that at least for the last trimester of this year, the Peruvian borders will be open again and we would be able to continue receiving international volunteers normally. We'll just have to wait and see how the COVID-19 crisis develops in our country and the new measures of our government." Jessica Sánchez Vargas - Asociación Civil MiPequeñaAyuda

"Because of the health emergency the world is facing we are with our workshops closed, Bolivia is in a lockdown until 31 May. We had to put on hold all our programs because of this emergency to safeguard the safety of children and youth, such as the performing Life team workers. Until the Bolivian Government does not allow us to continue with the classes we cannot activate anything yet, for the moment we are only supporting with groceries to the most needy families, trying to help in any way we can, we hope soon to return and continue collaborating with You and the volunteers, thank you very much!" Lourdes Avila - Performing Life Bolivia

"Thank you so much for sending us this email and also thank you for your wishes and I hope the same for you and for anyone who works in Volunteer Latin America, my best regards. As you may know, Latin America has been hardly struck by the virus and it is pretty hard for the moment to predict when things will start to be normal again. Casa Guatemala closed the school since March the 12th and all the kids went back home, because these were the government orders since the very beginning of the pandemic. At the beginning, we had a group of 10 volunteers from all over the world, but as the time passed by, each of them decided to go back to their countries, because the government launched an announcement that they will be closing all the borders and airports, and we remained with only 4 volunteers in our place. The situation where Casa Guatemala is located, is not as bad as Guatemala city, because when the virus started to spread out, the government closed all the states and the citizens were not able anymore from place to place, and that really helped in order to not spread out the virus. The precautionary measures are still up and even though some places in Guatemala are starting to be opened again, of course step by step, the measures somehow are getting stronger, but nonetheless, these places that are re open again, are factories and the fields. Social distancing has been applied in every place and people have to wear masks. At Casa Guatemala, since our main job with the kids relies on international volunteers, right now it has been an issue because we do not have any kids to work with, but when things are getting normal again, our main idea is to slowly re open the opportunity for volunteers to come and work with us. We have not decided yet which immediate plan we will take, but it will depend on how this virus evolves. We have been receiving applications through our email, and when we reply to the emails, we explain to the applicants that we have stopped receiving volunteers until further news. For right now, we do not have too many activities, and we are just waiting for the government measures, we basically depend on that. Again, thank you so much for sending your email and I hope you can find this information really useful, and if you need more information do not hesitate to contact me." Julio Cesar Palacios - Casa Guatemala

"Thanks for your concern and for taking note on us. Quetzaltrekkers Leon temporarily closed office around the 21st of march 2020, when the first corona cases got revealed in Nicaragua. Since then we have maintained closed, but started a gofundme campaign in order to maintain our Scholarship fund for the kids and families of Leon we strive to support. We hope we can reopen by the end of this year, also hoping that international volunteers will come back by that time. Cheers for your help, stay safe." Verena - Quetzaltrekkers Leon

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