At a glance
Provide volunteer support as a migrant and refugee worker at an aid shelter in Guadalajara, Mexico. Around 25,000 migrants and refugees are driven from their countries every year by economic decline, adverse living conditions and violent conflict. You’ll provide vital support to those seeking a new life in Mexico, or those simply passing through with the intention of reaching the United States of America.
Their journey is often a difficult one and the shelter provides them with safe space to rest and recover. As a volunteer, you'll work alongside social workers, lawyers and other volunteers to provide the necessary support and ensure a smoother transition between their travels. You'll provide them with clothing and warm meals, and help maintain a cleanly living area. You can even assist with the collection of data for demographic purposes. There is an important role for everyone, regardless of your abilities and experience.
When you aren’t working at the shelter, you can explore the rest of Guadalajara. Don’t forget to explore the plentiful cathedrals, crystal blue lakes and sample the abundance of Mexican food.
18 or over
Is working with migrants and refugees in Mexico right for me?
If you're empathetic and pro-active, then volunteering at a refugee and migrant shelter is something you should consider. They're arguably one of the most vulnerable points in their lives with many fleeing from violence in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The majority travel in a caravan to Mexico and choose the longer western route through Guadalajara because it is safer than the Central and Gulf routes.
Since Mexico is a Spanish speaking country, it’s recommended that you speak basic conversational Spanish. This will make conversing with the refugees easier and it’ll make their transition smoother. Although not required, we encourage volunteers with humanitarian work experience to join.
To ensure the best possible environments for the refugees and migrants, you’ll receive sufficient training from professionals. You'll get to work in an energising and fulfilling work environment, knowing that you're contributing to the better treatment of refugees and migrants abroad.
This project runs all year round so you can join throughout the year. You can join for a minimum of two weeks but we recommend staying longer to have an even greater impact.
What will I do on the Migrant and Refugee Project in Mexico?
Throughout your time on the project, you’ll support vulnerable refugees and migrants. You'll make a valued contribution to the ongoing operation at the shelter through the following activities:
Run the clothing bank at the shelter
In desperate situations, many refugees and migrants leave home with just the clothes on their back. The shelter has a clothes bank, supported by donations from the community, where they can find the necessary clothing and toiletries.
A simple shower and fresh clothing has a profound impact and often lifts their spirits during a turbulent time. You’ll be involved in the handing out of these items. You'll need to make sure they're the right size. We also place importance on whether they like the items they're getting. This makes their journey that much more comfortable.
Knowing basic Spanish will help as you'll be able to find what they need faster.
Prepare meals and assist with kitchen duties
While at the shelter, migrants and refugees are given three hot nutritious meals a day. You'll lend a hand in the kitchen whether it be cooking, cleaning or serving. This is a great way to learn how to prepare traditional Mexican dishes. You can even try to cook a meal of your own if you have experience preparing large amounts of food.
Where in Mexico will I work?
You’ll live and work in the western city of Guadalajara, the second-largest city in Mexico. Famed for its mariachi style music and its tequila, Mexico is a country rich in culture and geography.
When you’re not working at the center, you can venture into the historic town filled with tree-lined plazas, stunning cathedrals and busy markets. Don’t forget to stop by at the exceptional restaurants where you can try the local cuisine of tortas ahogadas.
A typical day working at a refugee camp in Mexico
You’ll start the day with a nutritious breakfast before heading off to the center. Our local staff will show you how to get to the center and introduce you to the people you’ll work with.
The center is run 24/7 but the morning shift starts at 8.30 am where you'll discuss your daily tasks with the shift manager. You’ll generally work Monday to Friday with your weekends free to explore Guadalajara and the surrounding areas.
You’ll have your lunch with other volunteers, migrants and refugees in the kitchen. This is a great opportunity to learn more about where they come from and the reasoning behind their move. This will give you a deeper understanding of the challenges they face.
Once you are done for the day, you can relax at your host family or head out into town and enjoy one of the many fantastic restaurants.
What are the aims and impact of this project?
This project aims to provide much-needed support to the migrant and refugee center and to sensitise the community to the refugee and migrant situation. It's often surrounded by misconceptions and prejudgment.
With growing instability in the nations south of Mexico, the number of refugee and migrant caravans in Mexico is expected to rise year after year. Therefore, the center needs volunteer support to cope with the increasing demand for their services.
Assist with care and support, and help smooth the transition for migrants and refugees traveling through Mexico.
We set out the aims and objectives of our projects in documents called Management Plans. We use them to properly plan the work you’ll do. They also help us measure and evaluate our achievements and impact each year.
Ultimately, our Management Plans help us make our projects better. This in turn means you get to be part of something that makes a real impact where it’s needed. Read more about our Management Plans.
Measuring our impact
Our projects work towards clear long-term goals, with specific annual objectives. Every volunteer and intern we send to these projects helps us work towards these goals, no matter how long they spend on our projects.
Every year we take a step back and look at how much progress we've made towards these goals. We put together a Global Impact Report, which documents our achievements. Find out more about the impact our global community of volunteers, interns and staff make, and read the latest report.
Food and accommodation
You'll stay with a host family in Guadalajara. They'll welcome you into their home, eager to share their customs and learn about yours. This is the best way to immerse yourself in the culture of Mexico and have a unique experience.
We'll try to ensure you live with other Projects Abroad volunteers or interns at the same host family. Your room will be modest, but comfortable, clean, and safe.
Your program fee includes three meals a day. This is great news because nothing beats authentic Mexican food. Get ready to sample the most delicious tacos, enchiladas, and quesadillas
Find out more about our accommodation.
Leisure activities and free time
With beautiful beaches, arresting art galleries, and buzzing restaurants, there’s something for everyone in Mexico. You’ll have plenty to do during your free time on your project in this dynamic country.
There’s something captivating about touring through old buildings. If you’re into neo-gothic architecture, treat yourself to a trip to the Templo Expiatorio del Santisimo Sacramento. It’s a work of art with its ornate steeples and glowing stained glass windows.
There are also plenty of museums, giving you the chance to immerse yourself in the country’s rich history. For something different, you can spend the day appreciating the wildlife and lush vegetation of Las Peñas Ecological Park.
You can’t take a trip to Mexico without tasting authentic Mexican cuisine. You can spend an evening enjoying pozole or tamales at a local restaurant and watching the vivid orange-red sun melt into the horizon.
We have a host of different projects in Mexico so there’ll likely be lots of other volunteers in the area during your trip. So you can choose to travel and explore in a group or on your own.
Safety and staff support
Your safety and security is our prime concern. We have many procedures and systems to ensure you have the support you need to enjoy your trip with peace of mind. Our Projects Abroad staff are available 24 hours a day to help, and will be on-hand to make sure you settle in well at your accommodation and placement. If you encounter any problems, they will be available to help at any time.
Find out more about safety and backup.
Not quite what you’re looking for?
Take a look at the following pages where you'll find collections of similar projects:
Volunteer in Latin America and the Caribbean and support local people while exploring local cultures
Help make a difference in local communities and learn new skills. Get involved in Childcare, Wildlife Conservation, and more