Discover service learning in Mexico's charming city of Playa del Carmen. Contribute to the education of the local community by helping to improve the community’s non-formal education center. Develop students' personal and career focused skills by completing connected educational assignments, all part of a comprehensive curriculum.
The program will focus on improving basic human rights through educational development, infrastructure improvement, and reciprocal cultural exchange, and will take place in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, with white sands, palm trees, and deep blue waters of the Caribbean coast on the Yucatan Peninsula.
These projects range in content suitable for students studying academic disciplines such as:
- Women’s Empowerment
- Sports and Exercise
- Biological & Environmental Sciences
- Global Health.
Example project activities include:
- Environmental awareness workshops;
- Conversational English lessons;
- Working with children with special needs;
- Providing women’s health workshops and general health campaigns;
- Holding sports clinics or engaging in sport activities with children with special needs;
- Business development workshops on marketing and advertising, business plans, management and sales, budgeting and forecasting, SWAT analysis, or presentation skills.
This inter-disciplinary program introduces students to international service-learning and sustainable development in content and practice, in Playa del Carmen. Through lectures, discussion, research, service, and reflection (beginning two weeks prior to their departure and continuing two weeks after their return home), students in this program engage in meaningful, context-driven service-learning at home and abroad. Emphasis will be placed on relating long-term project goals with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and engaging in daily reflection surrounding the experience, which will be led by qualified group facilitators who are trained to enhance individual student development. The program curriculum will be tailored to your students’ academic needs as well as any faculty requirements.
A GVI service-learning program provides students with the opportunity to live and work within the “classroom” of their chosen field of study, and to develop professional capacities associated with intercultural competency, global citizenship, teamwork, problem-solving, and leadership. By participating in this program, students will be prepared to contribute to solutions for critical global issues related to sustainable development within a local community, and alongside an international team.
The objectives for each GVI project are based on specific United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In Playa, students will largely contribute to need-based community development projects in surrounding areas that primarily improve the general infrastructure and learning environments for local disadvantaged children.
Playa del Carmen's short, mid, and long-term objectives
All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualize their contribution to the UN SDGs.
Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.
Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Learn about the long-term objectives you will be contributing to in Playa del Carmen:
Improve the quality of education at the Ludoteca, Contando con un amigo and Corazones
Raise awareness on animal welfare
Increase in-country capacity by providing training to local members of the community
Minimize the environmental impact on the Playa base and projects, and raise awareness of environmental issues amongst volunteers and children in the projects
Increase the quality of the resources at the ludoteca, escuelita, Contando con un amigo, Corazones and Coco's
Improve the volunteer's experience in the projects.
Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.
Our 10 Ethical Commitments
Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects
We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.
Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes
We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.
We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.
Working Against Dependency
We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.
Responsible Exit Strategies
For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.
Clear Roles & Specialized Training
We aim to ensure that ever participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.
Respect for all
In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.
We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conduct, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.
Transitioning from the Orphanage Model
We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.
Child and Vulnerable adult policies
We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.
As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.
However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.
This program varies in duration, depending on project requirements as well as cultural expeditions or activities. The below outlines a one week in-country program; however, your in-country service can run for as many weeks as set by your academic curriculum, objectives, and requirements.
Two weeks prior to departure, students will be assigned readings and assignments. These assignments make sure they have a basic cultural understanding of Mexico and it’s local conservation-based issues; a foundational understanding of international service learning and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; and begin a dialogue surrounding global engagement. Materials will be chosen based on collaboration with the group’s educational leader to ensure the work fits within the group’s in-class curriculum.
Day 1- Arrival at Cancun Airport and Transfer to Base
Your team will be met at Cancun International Airport by a GVI staff member or appointed representative. The group will travel immediately to the project location near the town of Playa del Carmen on the beautiful Yucatán Peninsula.
Students will be accommodated in dorm-style rooms, and will have a chance in the afternoon to relax and settle in. In the afternoon, there will be an initial welcome presentation and introduction to the GVI staff, history and background of the projects, as well as a health and safety breakdown.
Day 2- Welcome and Orientation
The next day will include a welcome presentation and introduction to the history and background of the conservation efforts GVI is involved in, both in Mexico and worldwide. There will also be a guided introduction to the local area, as well as an educational culture and language class. In the evening, a reflection period will take place in which participants will debrief and review their initial reactions and observations on the experience and location.
Day 3-5-Daily Structure: Service, Education, and Reflection
During the week the group will be involved in community development efforts and will be transported to the project site where they will work side-by-side local community members and our partner organizations, like the Save the Children Foundation. Specific projects will depend on the needs of the centers at the time, and could involve educational enhancement, engagement in construction and renovation projects, as well as creative activities, basic healthcare and hygiene programs, and sports development initiatives.
All service elements will be connected to a greater understanding of the cultural context in which the students are working. Assignments, in the form of lectures, readings, written response papers, journal entries, group presentations, and miscellaneous creative projects will be conducted daily to enhance student learning from their service involvement. Daily reflection sessions will act as the bridge that connects and helps to synthesize the many aspects of the experience.
Particular emphasis will be placed on the ways in which participants are working towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Students will critically examine their part in this process, by analyzing their contributions, challenges, and observations.
Day 6- Exploring Mexico
The group will have the opportunity to take in local sights of historical importance and international recognition. Depending on the group’s interests there will be
opportunities to snorkel off Akumal, where students can swim alongside turtles feeding on sea grass. If arriving in season, there may also be a chance to learn about nesting turtles and hatchlings as well as the conservation issues surrounding their protection. Another option is to visit a Cenote, a natural swimming hole formed by the collapse of porous limestone bedrock, which reveal a secret subterranean world. The team will learn about the system of cave cenotes that spread through southern Mexico and hear why Mayans regard them as ‘sacred wells’. There is also the option to explore a local Mayan Ruin, taking a peak into the lives of the ancient civilizations that inhabited the region, and relishing in the gorgeous views of the Yucatán coastline before heading out for a last traditional Mexican meal.
Day 7- A Fond Farewell
GVI field staff transfer the team back to the airport and bid them a fond farewell! GVI will endeavour to keep the group informed of any updates there might be in the field and with particular reference to the projects participants contributed to during their time in Mexico.
Students will continue to engage with active reflection and educational expansion two weeks after leaving Mexico, with emphasis placed on incorporating the international experience, and insights gained which are then applied to the students’ home context. Assignments will involve generating ideas to continue global engagement, connecting the experience to personal and career goals, and reflecting on the insights gained while in the field.
24-hour emergency phone
24-hour in-country support
A dedicated course co-ordinator
Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
All necessary project equipment and materials
All necessary project training by experienced staff
Flight bookings service on request
In-country transport costs
Insurance on request
Long term experienced staff
Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
What's Not Included
Additional drinks and gratuities
Extra local excursions
International and domestic airport taxes
Medical and travel insurance
Personal items and toiletries
Police or background check
Visa costs (where necessary)
‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Herritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.
We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.
Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’
Parent Info Pack
Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:
Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office. Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy. Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page. Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.