volunteer abroad in retirement

Choosing to volunteer abroad in retirement can be the most fulfilling decision you make! Unencumbered by work schedules, you can respond to needs worldwide and in the U.S. as they occur, and be assured that your contributions are appreciated and useful. What’s more, the personal connections you make on a service program with Global Volunteers can be profound and life-affirming. Request our full-color volunteering catalog to learn how you can use your retirement for global impact.  Read the three main reasons to volunteer abroad in retirement below!

Volunteer Abroad in Retirement

You may be surprised to find your status elevated in other cultures, and as a curator of wisdom and history, you can teach from your own experience. At the same time, you learn first-hand about the daily lives of the children and families you serve. Consider how volunteering abroad can enhance your retirement years:

   1. Use Life-Long Skills

The experience and knowledge you’ve acquired over six, seven or eight decades is an invaluable resource in our partner communities. Venture near or far, and teach conversational English to students of all ages. Share your talents and expertise with local teachers, trades people, farmers, medical aides, caregivers, administrators and more. Your knowledge is multiplied in communities requesting outside assistance.

   2. Help Children Thrive

Shower your patience and compassion on children who crave extra attention. In orphanages, children’s homes, hospitals and childcare centers, you can guide and encourage children who are disabled, abandoned or living in poverty. Hold and feed babies, play with toddlers, teach kindergarteners numbers and the alphabet. Regardless whether you’ve raised children yourself, you supply the “helping hands and loving arms” children need to feel loved and confident.

Volunteer abroad in retirement in Peru

   3. Make New Friends

Volunteer abroad in retirement for one, two or three weeks, and expose yourself to a broad expanse of personal stories and perspectives on a team of caring individuals. Working together, you serve alongside local people who share their lives, dreams and struggles. In team meetings, daily assignments and evening meals, you cultivate relationships that can greatly enhance your journey of discovery.  And, you might make lifelong friends!

“I felt like Queen Elizabeth of England when it was time to leave. All the students were assembled to wish me ‘Buon Vioggio.’ After singing an Italian farewell to me, I got to shake hands and kiss 175 beaming faces. I stood at the top of the stairs and waved goodbye until all the children were out of sight. I was so grateful. The whole experience was more than I could ever imagine.”
– Katherine Cox, Italy Volunteer

You’re needed now in the Cook Islands, Cuba, Greece, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Tanzania, USA (Montana and West Virginia), Vietnam, and nine other countries worldwide! Join the corps of retirees worldwide this year! Request a free, full color e-catalog on volunteering opportunities.

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meaningful travel in Africa

To travel in a purposeful, meaningful way is to enrich your life and the lives of others. You dig deeper, stretch farther, give larger. You discover and learn new things about the world and yourself. You leave a positive mark on the communities you visit and the environments you explore. Meaningful travel is being aware of your impact, and doing what you can to help people along your journey.

meaningful travel in exotic locales

You can explore exotic locales or settle into familiar settings through meaningful travel opportunities across the world.

Travel That Feeds The Soul

In 2001, we adopted the trademark: “Travel That Feeds The Soul” to describe the affirming, restorative power of international service. Every traveling volunteer joins a service program for unique reasons. Some long to share their skills in an unconventional way with people in need. Some are motivated to experience a culture in an authentic, non-assumptive way. Most are driven by a desire to “give back” to the world in exchange for a life of opportunity. This can be a “bucket list” experience, or a long-standing quest for meaning. Either way, we’ve found that the more we give, the more we receive – and service keeps on giving throughout our lives. But it’s not all about us. Volunteering abroad is the most purposeful, meaningful travel. You help deliver essential services to children and families, explode stereotypes, cultivate mutual international understanding, and create a foundation for world peace.

meaningful travel in Vietnam

Meaningful travel acquaints you with the heart and soul of a community.

Meaningful Travel With Global Volunteers

Does this seem like a lot to expect in just one, short-term vacation? Consider this: All over the world, your skills and compassion are valuable resources to families and children – some living in the most compelling tourist destinations on Earth. Others survive on the margins of society. Whether you choose a predictable, familiar community close to home, or an intense immersive challenge off the beaten path, you can be assured that your time – one week or one month – is a great service to those you engage.

And, don’t think that meaningful travel means colorless travel. You’ll stay in relaxing, safe tourist-class accommodations. Enjoy healthy restaurant or catered local cuisine. Explore natural, cultural, educational and historic attractions. You’ll be surprised how comfortable meaningful travel can be!

Meaningful travel in the Caribbean

Meaningful travel doesn’t mean compromise. Some lodging offers interesting amenities, include swimming pools, beach access, tennis, cocktail bars, and more!

An Experience Like No Other

How can we promise an experience like no other? Simply: Expertise. For more than three decades, we’ve engaged “volunteer vacationers” in over 110 communities on six continents. That’s taught us many lessons about responsible, ethical volunteer service. And about meaningful travel. If you’re open-minded, service-oriented and light-hearted, we’ve got a place for you – and your family, group, or study abroad program. You’ll broaden your horizon, gain new insights about the world, and pay it forward by sharing your thoughts and feelings about meaningful travel.

meaningful travel

Tom, a Global Volunteers alumnus in Vietnam, tutors a small group of young students on English pronunciation.

How to Find Meaningful Travel Opportunities

  • Consider your primary objective. Is it to visit a place you’ve always wanted to explore? To share your skills abroad? To practice a foreign language?
  • Do you prefer an “exotic” or remote culture and community? Or, are you most comfortable in familiar surroundings?
  • Will you be traveling with family, friends or colleagues? Do you have group goals for your trip?
  • Are you motivated by collaboration with a team of like-minded individuals?
  • Are you stimulated by new perspectives and boundary-stretching experiences? Or do you seek a predictable daily schedule?
  • Can you easily conform to a team experience and daily volunteer assignments?
  • What lies ahead for you? Contact us to discuss your personal meaningful travel opportunities! Or, read more about meaningful travel through the voices of volunteer vacationers.

Request a free “Travel That Feeds The Soul” e-catalog.

Request a program catalog here or by calling 800-487-1074.

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family volunteering in Peru

Summer Family Volunteering in Peru – Sydney Hill and her new friends in Alto Progreso.

The teens shared an interest in soccer.  The children welcomed hugs and games just as kids everywhere do.  Neighbors worked together to build a stairway for safety and access on the steep cliff. At the conclusion of their two-week project, they felt they shared important, life-enhancing experiences together.

“Everyone really wanted to go. We were all super excited, ” said 14-year-old Beau.

But, these “neighbors” live nearly 3, 000 miles away, and traveled more than 10 hours to lend a hand to families in Alto Progreso, Peru.

family volunteering program

Jennifer, Sydney and Ryan play with toddlers.

 True Service was Goal for Hill Family Volunteering Program 

Jennifer and Ryan Hill of East Lake Woodlands, FL and their daughter Sydney and son Beau had one singular request for their family volunteer vacation:  “We want to help where we’re needed most.” 

They decided Alto Progreso, Peru was the place where each family member could offer the greatest contribution.  Planted on a desolate and dusty mountainside, this community is cut off from running water, public transportation and the public education system.  Helping improve life here, the Hills reasoned, would be highly meaningful.

Early in the service program, they met Haydee Mendoza, community leader and mother.  “Haydee beamed at the roads being built, walls, stairs and the like.  She shared stories of success and failures over her time as president of the community association, ” Jennifer said.  The differences between Haydee’s neighborhood of Alto Progreso and the Hill’s in Florida was staggering.  But the family appreciated the warm welcome of the local people, and the pride they felt about the modest upgrades the community recently made.

“Haydee took us to the hidden gem – the childcare facility run by her sister. This building used to be the community center, but was now helping single mothers by giving free childcare so they could work.” Jennifer and Sydney played with the babies in the bright, colorful playroom while husband Ryan “entertained everyone endlessly” while cheerful music played.  ”The children showed every toy to us.”

family volunteering to build stairs

Jennifer, Ryan and Beau help build stairs.

For two weeks, the family worked hand-in-hand with Alto Progreso residents – painting the inside and outside of the new community center, carrying cement bags, building forms, and helping construct a new set of stairs.  It was obvious the work they did was greatly needed and appreciated… even by the volunteers.  Beau, the youngest Hill family member, regarded the stairs project as a work-out to strengthen his lower body.  “Beau was able to feel like he could trust his legs to do more hard labor tasks, ” Jennifer reported.

He also said he was grateful to have time to spend with the local kids to get to know them as he worked.  Most important, they learned they “were able to complete a difficult task and keep doing more.”

Summer family volunteering

Jennifer plays Uno with girls at the PPA.

 They Also Helped Out Together at Lima’s Largest Orphanage

Part of the time, the family volunteered together at the Puericultorio  Perez Aranibar (PPA), a large orphanage inside Lima.  Teaching the teens conversational English and playing games with the younger children, Beau and 17-year-old Sydney felt they developed a genuine understanding of the local people’s lives.  “On the outside their lives and towns look depressing to live in, but once you get to know the people of the community, they’re almost just like yourself, ” said Sydney.  “You learn that not everything in life is a choice.”

Beau added:  “I’d say that helping makes you feel good, and seeing a different way of life really opens up new perspectives.”

family volunteering with children in Peru

Sydney spends quality time on the playground.

Jennifer recalled the last day of volunteering.  “Back to the community center, it was more full than I had ever seen it.  Many children were finishing their lunch.  Syd’s usual crowd of young girls showered her with love as we colored.  We played active games – roja luz y verde luz, agua y cemento and pato, pato, ganzo.   Ryan did all of the painting he could to finish the exterior. ”

“When it was time to leave, Ximena cried, telling Sydney good-bye, clinging to her and sobbing.  Syd walked her part-way home to help her cheer up.”

What did they hope to gain as a family volunteering in Peru?  Jennifer stated simply:  “In addition to helping a community, Ryan and I wanted to teach the family about the importance of being humble and having a giving spirit – to appreciate and respect how other people live and work.”

Smiling, she concluded Global Volunteers in Peru is an ideal volunteer opportunity for families.  “Go! Your family will be better because of it, ” she said.

“I honestly felt sad to leave, and could not believe we were not coming back again anytime soon.  I’m a jumble of emotions, and will selfishly keep the rest of my thoughts to myself.  In my heart, I hope this is buenos noches and not adios for the Hill Family in Alto Progresso.”  – Jennifer’s entry in the volunteers’ team journal

Learn how to volunteer abroad with your family!

Visit our Volunteer as a Family page to learn more about family volunteering opportunities worldwide, or request our family volunteering tip sheet with the form below.

Send me a family volunteering tip sheet.


Request a program catalog here or by calling 800-487-1074.

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Volunteer in 2017

There are so many reasons to volunteer in 2017. Much has been written and studied about the value of volunteerism in the community and to the individual. Some claim that people who volunteer live longer, happier lives. Or, is it rather that happy, healthy people volunteer more?

It may not matter which way is which.

We know our society – especially American society – depends upon volunteerism in every facet of life. Imagine a week without the Red Cross. Or without Meals on Wheels. Or Doctors Without Borders. Who would respond to fires in small communities if not for volunteer firefighters? Or tutor immigrant children in our schools? Volunteerism has become so institutionalized in American society, and across the world, that even a day without the critical support of unpaid workers would cause misery for thousands – or tens of thousands.

Volunteer in 2017 in Peru

Thankfully, we don’t have to live in a world without volunteerism! But, it can be asserted that it is more important to volunteer in 2017 than ever before.

Make 2017 Your Year to Volunteer.

Peace, justice and prosperity are fragile in many areas of our world. The global recession hasn’t resolved for people living in poverty in our own communities – and in developing communities on every other continent. If not for generous humanitarians reaching out for days, weeks, or months, critical services would never reach people in need.

As we survey the year ahead, we see the need for volunteers all across society – the society outside our doors as well as the global society crossing oceans. Global Volunteers offers the opportunity to volunteer in 17 countries around the world – China, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Greece, India, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, St. Lucia, Tanzania, USA and Vietnam – for just one, two or three weeks. Work alongside local people and under the direction of community leaders in homes, classrooms, hospitals, childcare centers, libraries, farm fields, community centers and wherever else service occurs. You can indeed make a significant difference. And, you return home with deep, informed insights on your place in the world.

Volunteer in 2017 in Greece

So, whether you choose to serve food at a local homeless shelter in your own community, read books to students in Crete, Greece, or help plant fruits and vegetables in Ciego de Avila, Cuba, never doubt your efforts, however small, are critical to the network of support we all rely on to live our best lives. At the same time, when you reach out to others, you learn about their lives and help them reach their potential. We’re inextricably linked through service. In this way, volunteerism is perhaps the most generous act of peace.

Chat online with us to learn more about volunteering in 2017.

Chat online about volunteering abroad


support Global Volunteers

Are you a current or aspiring Amazon.com shopper?  Read on to learn how you can donate to important humanitarian projects – at no cost to you!  Support Global Volunteers.

As the needs of our partner communities grow every year, we’re always creating new and creative ways to fund special projects and meet our on-going program expenses.  We’re grateful to donors who generously contribute to help us respond to these needs.  One way to help us a great deal doesn’t cost you any money at all!

Amazon.com enables everyone to be a non-profit donor.  Though Amazon Smile,  the company directly deposits 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to our registered bank account.  Just as quickly as you make a purchase, we receive a donation!

All these donations add up!  For instance, we can provide earthbox gardens to new mothers in St. Lucia  to improve their children’s nutrition.  We can purchase classroom resources for students in Cuba, Peru, Greece, Vietnam, the Cook Islands and more.  And, we can help rural caregivers in Tanzania obtain important training to help prevent child stunting.   That’s just the beginning.

All through purchases you’d be making anyway.

Make your donation by accessing the Amazon.com website below.  Your shopping experience is exactly the same as always.  But, by designating a donation to Global Volunteers through Amazon Smile, you’re helping children around the world reach their full potential.

Support Global Volunteers

healing ethnic divisions in Cuba

Of the many similarities between the U.S. and Cuba, one of the more serious social problems we share is the historical racial divide between black and white citizens.  The Creole, African, and Spanish descendants who have, over six centuries, built a rich and soulful Cuban culture, don’t share the same economic and educational opportunities on the island equally. But, as in all of the Americas, these injustices have their roots in slavery, and are slow to be recognized. Can Americans and Cubans work together to heal ethnic divisions in Cuba?  What role does volunteerism have in advancing racial reconciliation?

Comparing the History of Slavery in Cuba and the U.S.

By the time the first large group of slaves were brought to the North American colony of Jamestown, Virginia in 1619, slave trafficking had surged under the British occupation of Havana. Sugar production grew, becoming Cuba’s number one slave-produced crop.  In both countries, slaves took on the form of property and had no rights. In 1880, seventeen years after the Emancipation Proclamation in the U.S., Spain approved an abolition law in Cuba. In 1886,  slavery was abolished in Cuba by Spanish royal decree that also made an indentured servitude system, known as “patronato, ” illegal.

But just as in the U.S., emancipation did not equal equality. Former slaves were discriminated against by businesses and in employment. Black children were not allowed to attend school. All of the issues that follow slavery were very prevalent.  So, Afro-Cubans embraced Fidel Castro’s Revolution,  and Castro embraced them.  In 1959, Castro asserted:

“We shouldn’t have to pass a law to establish a right that should belong to every human being and member of society. Nobody can consider themselves to be of pure race, much less a superior race. Virtue, personal merit, heroism, generosity, should be the measure of men, not skin color. What the eternal enemies of Cuba and the enemies of this revolution want is for us to be divided into a thousand pieces, thereby to be able to destroy us.”


healing ethnic divides in Cuba

Cubans of varied heritage populate a country of color.

The Castro regime formally outlawed racism in its Revolution, and took many steps to reverse institutionalized segregation at beach clubs, in schools and in neighborhoods, where the homes of wealthy white Cubans who fled were often given to Cubans of color. Now, as the country enters a new era of fast and sweeping change, a long-taboo political conversation about race is confronted in art, music, film, and writing in diverse circles.  In fact, President Barack Obama acknowledged a common legacy of racism in the U.S. and Cuba on his historic visit to Havana in March, 2016. Perhaps in some ways, Cuba has been more progressive than the U.S. in defying discrimination.

Different Opportunities in Tourism and Volunteerism

In the early 20th Century, Cuban tourism heavily catered to the romanticized ideals of Americans and Europeans, producing new jobs and training opportunities. But the economic divide between races has nevertheless widened. As tourism has grown and become more lucrative — a day’s tips can surpass a month’s pay from the government — the staffs of hotels and restaurants have become less representative of the Cuban population.  Jobs offering greater income, with direct contact with tourists, are offered disproportionately to “white Cubans.”

Racism in Cuba

Hotel worker in Cuba.

Ultimately, in the case of tourism, the job force hasn’t met Fidel Castro’s goal of equal opportunity. If tourism opens up to Americans, perhaps the added demand will require hotel and restaurant managers to diversify the workplace. Meanwhile in the informal tourist economy, pressures to provide additional rooms and meals have enabled home owners to offer “casa particulars” – bed and breakfast establishments – and ” paladars” – home-based restaurants – despite their race.

But, volunteerism may promote egalitarianism even more broadly.  Working together, we demonstrate that Cubans and Americans – of all colors and backgrounds, are alike, and can work toward a common goal.

economic opportunity ethnic divisions in Cuba

New laws on private enterprise in Cuba has nouished sprawling reseller street markets.

Volunteerism has been used as a vehicle for racial reconciliation for years in the southern U.S.  Primarily faith-based communities have reached out across ethnic divides to repair decades of mistrust and to elevate discussions around justice and equal rights.

Properly administered volunteer programs equalize the relationship between local people and outside volunteers who work on a common goal. Volunteerism can create an atmosphere of acceptance and equity which invites others in – to unite entire communities. In the case of Global Volunteers’ work in Cuba, our stated shared vision with our community partners is “to build a bridge of understanding and respect between our countries.”  The service projects are vehicles for accomplishing that.  No one culture, race, ethnic heritage or gender has superiority in this quest. It is here – in our daily work – that divisions are erased, and true racial equality is illuminated.  It may be the one clear road to peace.

Help build bridges and volunteer abroad

Every day, you choose how you impact the world. When you contribute your energy and knowledge on a Global Volunteers team, your efforts become part of others’ success. You can be exactly what local people need – by assisting them on projects that define their future. Are you up for this kind of impact? This 17-time Global Volunteer travels the world to offer support and hope through her service. In return, she learns what’s important in life. Read Sue’s insight on the power of international volunteering:

It’s the people. I continue to do Global Volunteers trips because of the people. Not just the ones who are on the team (although it is wonderful to meet so many like-minded folks). It’s everyone in every country. No matter where I am in the world, I have learned that we are more alike than different. Every 10 year old boy likes to kick a ball around. There’s nothing like working with people, getting to know them. The pace is much slower than we are used to in the US, so conversations about all sorts of things are possible.

On one of my earlier trips, I had a local leader say to me, after I asked what turned out to be a rather silly question, you have no idea how everything the US does affects the rest of the world. She was right, I didn’t. It also told me how important what I do as a visitor in other countries is for how others view the US. My very favorite comment was from a woman in Portugal. At the close of our two weeks she said…

“I have a very different view of Americans now…”

Help build bridges in Portugal

When I  take the time to talk to people it broadens my world view and my thinking. It makes it clear that there are endless ways to view and do things; as many ways as there are people.

One small example of this happened during a painting project in Tanzania. I started to ask for a drop cloth but realized how silly that sounded before I said it. So I asked how to keep the floor clean. After a brief conversation between themselves, they started picking up dirt and throwing it on the floor… to be swept up when finished. Brilliant! The other benefit was being able to write words in the dirt as we each tried to learn each other’s languages.

So it’s not the work or an incredible ocean view, it’s getting to know the local people, the culture, the art, the food….. tasting the way the Greeks create a salad, the taste of goat cheeks (yes, that’s cheeks) in Portugal, dancing with a Cuban in Cuba, learning to open a coconut in the Cook Islands, learning to make an Irish coffee from an Irishman, learning how to cross the street in Hanoi, learning how to make an “island” ceviche with coconut cream, learning to weave a  basket with palm fronds with a St Lucian, etc… As you can see the list of reasons is endless.

Help build bridges and volunteer in Cuba

What better way to learn about the joy of diversity than to be immersed in a very different environment!

Sue’s photos from volunteering around the world:


Help build bridges!

Be part of something bigger in this world and help build bridges between countries by serving others. Volunteer abroad in one of our 17 volunteer locations – as a family, group, individual or couple – for one to three weeks. Service programs start year-round. Our community partners welcome you as family!

Request a free e-catalog below!

Request a free, full color e-catalog.

Request a program catalog here or by calling 800-487-1074.

Need assistance with this form?

teaching in India

Global Volunteer, Michelle, reports on creative ways to engage students in learning English when teaching in India.

After dropping Steve and Barbee at Assisi Illam, Jennifer and I headed back to Christ the King School for a second day with the 4th and 5th graders. We built on the animal teams and team slogans created on Monday by leading the kids into a competitive game of Pictionary. And what a competition it was!! The 5th graders were really into it, so much so that at times it felt like the room was ready to go off the rails! After a spirited game, a small team of smart “Cow” girls mopped the floor with everyone else, winning an impressive victory.

The 4th graders, once they warmed up and caught on, definitely finished with the same enthusiasm as the 5th graders. Michelle and Jen found a new phenomena even more intriguing though. They began to get “I don’t understand” head bobbles nonstop. The kids kept saying they didn’t know what words meant, not because they didn’t know the word but because they thought it was too hard to draw. Luckily, we caught on before they ran out of pictionary cards.

teaching in India

Steve teaching English in India to captivated (and captivating) students.

Over at Assisi Illam, Jen and Steve used a game to model phone conversations  – and gave them a good laugh.  Steve talked about how he told the kids they were going to practice talking on the phone by holding a banana up to their ear, which is what kids in the United States would do to simulate a real phone. After listening very intently to his instructions, Steve told the kids to pick up the phone and talk into it. “But it’s a banana”, one kid said, as if Steve didn’t know the difference!

Message for the Day: The miracle is not that we do this work, but that we are happy to do it.– Saint Theresa of Calcutta

More Volunteer Voices on Teaching in India:


teaching English in Mexico

Two University English Instructors in Querétaro, Mexico made a point to express their gratitude to our recent volunteer team.  In case you think you can’t make a difference by teaching English in Mexico as a volunteer, please read on, and then talk to a volunteer coordinator:

teaching English in Mexico

Hector Gomez, English Teacher, Universidad Tecnológica de Querétaro

“Our countries and people must be closer.”

I would really like to express my happiness and gratitude for the opportunity to be part of the wonderful experience our students in Universidad Tecnologica de Querétaro (UTEQ) have with the Global Volunteers. For us; teachers and students is a time of sharing, learning and making new friends with you. Every time we tell our students about your visit they become excited and they really want to do their best in communicating their thoughts – even though it is a language they are still learning and some of them really struggle.

Global Volunteers Team Leader Pam and her team always show respect and a positive attitude towards the students and this really helps making the communication easier. We have nothing to say except thank you for the excellent job you are doing for our students and teachers as well.

In this modern world our countries and people must be closer because we have so many things in common that we just ignore and this gives us the chance to feel closer to each other and also the students are able to learn what people outside Mexico think about us.

– Hector Gomez, English Teacher,  Universidad Tecnológica de Querétaro


teaching English in Mexico

Hugo R. Masse, Ma Ed., Universidad Tecnológica de Querétaro

“We bring together the peoples of both nations.”

I’ve found this program does a lot to bring together the peoples of both nations. As this is a public university, run on federal funds, many of our students come from rural areas, and haven’t had much contact, if any, with the English language, not to mention an actual native speaker.

When they are finally face-to-face with a member of the Global Volunteer visiting us, all their worries vanish. I realized how their faces changed from cautious to captivated. The volunteers’ teaching aids (maps, small whiteboards and markers, magazines, news cutouts, etc.) helped them cross the bridge, forget about their worries and experience this communication gap as a game and an opportunity to discover a fascinating person that could tell them about places and events they would have never imagined.

On more than one occasion, when the allotted hour was up, the students were unhappy that the class was over. I heard comments like “She is so nice”, “I really liked her”, “I wish we could have more time to talk.” Other groups asked when they were going to be visited. Apparently, word travels fast among students, and everybody was excited about practicing English with American volunteers. If it was up to me, I would have this sort of visit happen as frequently as possible, for the benefits are immense.

– Hugo R. Masse, Ma Ed.,  Universidad Tecnológica de Querétaro


Learn more about Global Volunteers’ Mexico Service Program here or chat online with a volunteer coordinator about teaching English in Mexico as a volunteer.