Amigos de Las Américas
Amigos de Las Américas (AMIGOS) was founded by youth pastor Guy Bevil in 1965 when he and a small group of young adults landed in Honduras to administer polio vaccines in isolated, rural communities.

He knew that people lived off the beaten path, and wanted to provide health services for those who would not normally have access to them. Nearly 50 years later, his philosophy is strongly upheld in the organization.

Amigos de Las Américas has a mission: to make young people leaders and improve underdeveloped communities while doing so. Volunteers are high school or college aged. Summer programs are generally four to nine weeks in length, though college students can take a gap semester or year. All must have a base level of Spanish and an interest in changing the world.

Over 700 volunteers received training in leadership and specific community development projects annually. Volunteers are placed with host families, which gives them a chance to improve their Spanish, learn about the host culture, share their own culture and further integrate into the community.

Accepted applicants to the program must pay a program fee; 80 percent of this goes to cover travel, additional housing and meals. The remaining 20 percent is used for the organization’s administrative expenses.

AMIGOS operates in nine different countries: Paraguay, Panama, Nicaragua, Peru, Mexico, Ecuador, The Dominican Republic, Colombia and Costa Rica. Community development projects cover a wide range of services, but are largely dependent on AMIGOS partners.

AMIGOS partners with locally based organizations, often nonprofit, to ensure that its volunteers are doing effective and needed work within a community. There are 25 partners in total.

Organizations like Servicios de Salud de Oaxaca in Mexico and Prodia of Peru, work mainly in health services, sanitation and nutrition awareness. Fundación Paraguaya and Panama’s Ministereo de Deasarollo Social provide investment services in local projects and individual enterprises. Fútbol con Corazón provides workshops on nutrition and life skills to more than 2,000 children in Columbia. This is in addition, of course, to soccer training.

Some might ask why AMIGOS focuses its efforts on Latin America when there is poverty still in the United States. The organization says it builds leaders, and that the compassion and leadership skills learned while on programs abroad are brought back to the U.S.

— Olivia Kostreva

Sources: AMIGOS, Go Overseas , US Gap Year Fairs
Photo: Vimeo