Where is it?
The headquarters of Project Amigo is located in the small (pop. 2200) village of Cofradía de Suchitlán. Cofradía is located about 20 km (12 mi) north of the city of Colima (the capital of the state of Colima) near the west coast of Mexico. Volunteers will be housed at the Project Amigo guest quarters in Cofradía. The sites you will visit and in which you will serve are located in Cofradía and surrounding rural villages.
How do I get there?
You (or your group) will make your own air travel arrangements into and out of Guadalajara (GDL) or Manzanillo (ZLO) or Colima (CLQ). Project Amigo vans and drivers will pick you up at the airport and transport you in safety and comfort to Cofradía, and to all scheduled activites and projects during the Work Week.
Who's in charge?
Project Amigo staff in Mexico includes on-site director Kirk Dretzka (firstname.lastname@example.org), our Volunteer Coordinator & Director Visitor Services Alma Bayardo (email@example.com).
Where will I be staying?
Project Amigo provides very comfortable housing for our volunteers in the Hacienda and in three nearby homes. Our requested contribution assumes double-occupancy. If you would prefer a room by yourself, please let us know and we will accommodate you, if possible. We request an additional donation of $125.00 for a private room.
What is the weather like?
Temperatures during the day range from the low 70s into the mid 80s (Fahrenheit) from November through March; days are clear and dry, nights are cool and comfortable. In other words: Perfect!
Can I eat the food, drink the water?
Most meals will be provided by Project Amigo at the Hacienda facility, cooked by our own cooks, who in addition to being very skilled artisans at the stove have also been trained in principles of food safety and nutrition. Purified drinking water is readly available in all Project Amigo facilities, including your room. Meals away from the Hacienda will be prepared by our cooks and eaten “picnic style” in the field, or be in restaurants known to and patronized by Project Amigo staff.
Is the volcano dangerous?
The Colima Volcano is an awesome presence looming over Cofradía and Colima. The volcano is geologically active, but you will typically not be in any danger. Neither Colima nor Cofradía is located in the danger zone for lava flows. During the day you can usually see smoke rising from the top, and at night from Cofradía or surrounding areas you may see glowing red lava streaming down the sides. International scientists are constantly monitoring the volcano.
What will I be doing?
Each week will include different service activities, cultural venues, educational events and R&R opportunities depending on the focus of the week, as described in the Humanitarian Work Week brochure. You will enjoy the camaraderie of other work week participants and Project Amigo staff and, if held away from Cofradia, travel together in the Project’s famous and beloved “Amigo Bus.”
What about shots?
Colima is not a Malaria zone, and no special inoculations are required. Persons with chronic lung diseases may find the occasional ash from the volcano, or smoke from the burning sugar cane fields, to be a problem. Please refer all your health-related questions to your health care provider.
What should I bring?
- Essentials: You MUST have a valid passport to travel. Be sure to check the expiration date. IMPORTANT NOTE: A MINOR WHO IS TRAVELING WITHOUT BOTH BIRTH PARENTS MUST BRING TO THE AIRPORT A NOTARIZED LETTER OF PERMISSION TO TRAVEL TO MEXICO SIGNED BY EACH ABSENT BIRTH PARENT. In the case of a deceased parent, a certified copy of the death certificate will be required in addition to the notarized permission letter signed by the living parent.
- Sundries: You may want to bring sun screen, bug repellent, anti-itch cream, a sun hat and a flashlight. You should bring prescription drugs and specialized supplies for any medical conditions you have. There are well-stocked pharmacies in Colima, but don't count on getting the specific brand of medicine you are used to. Do bring plenty of recording media for your cameras or video recorder, as there will be plenty of opportunities to take pictures.
What do I wear?
Bring light cotton clothing and sturdy shoes suitable for working and walking. Jeans are OK for both sexes. Women may want to bring a casual dress or slacks or skirt for evening social or other events. For men, casual slacks and shirt are appropriate for these same events. Sweaters or light jackets make the cool evenings more comfortable. Shorts are not commonly worn in our rural region of Mexico, and are not appropriate at work sites or around the village of Cofradia. They are acceptable at the beach on our beach day. Thin, beach-type sandals or flip-flops are neither safe nor secure footwear for the rough cobblestone streets you will encounter nor for visits to student homes.
Is there a dress code?
Project Amigo has earned the confidence, respect and trust the local people have placed in us. We are guests in Mexico, and it is important to remember that your actions and activities reflect not only on you, but on the Project and on your country. While you may see a few local people wearing provocative clothing, it is not becoming on our visitors and will cause stares and gossip. Likewise, body tattooing and facial piercing have not arrived in the villages in which we work. We ask that tattoos be covered. Facial piercing accessories (eyebrows, nose, chin, tongue, etc.) should be removed before departing for Mexico. Pierced earrings are OK - FOR GIRLS/WOMEN ONLY. We will ask men and boys to remove theirs while they are here - so it's best to take them out before leaving home. We appreciate your cooperation by dressing conservatively. Ten minutes of poor behavior on your part can undo more than two decades of goodwill and effort on ours.
What about donations?
Project Amigo maintains on its website a list of current needs. Toothbrushes and multiple vitamins are always needed. The most efficient and safest method to send donations is for volunteers to bring them with them. However, Project Amigo has very little storage space. If you are interested in bringing donations, PLEASE CHECK WITH US FIRST.
What will I encounter going through customs going into Mexico?
At your departure airport, or on the airplane, you will be given two forms to fill out: a customs form and a visa application. Fill these out before you land in Mexico. At the airport in Mexico you will go through a two-stage process. First is immigration (Migración) where you will show your passport and visa application and receive permission to enter the country. (Keep this visa stub in your passport - you'll need it again when you depart!). After you have picked up your luggage, you will go through customs (Aduana). You hand your customs form to an official who will direct you to push a button. If you get the green light you can proceed through the exit door. If you get the randomized red light, your luggage will be inspected. You should have no more than $300 USD of new merchandise per traveler.
What about returning to the USA or Canada?
You are allowed to bring back, duty-free, $800 US (2014; per person) worth of items you purchased in Mexico for your personal use. Before re-entering the U.S. or Canada you will fill out a customs form listing purchases and their value. Some items such as fresh fruit and vegetables, some archeological artifacts, items made from endangered species, etc. are prohibited or restricted. Check with U.S. or Canadian customs if you have any questions about specific items.
Is there laundry service available?
Yes, laundry service is included with your housing; tipping is not expected.
Will my electrical appliances work in Mexico?
Yes. Mexico uses the same current and outlets as the U.S. and Canada (110V), so you can bring your hair dryer, laptop computer and electric shaver.
How do I change money?
Cash: The best exchange rate is obtained by making a withdrawal at an ATM cash machine using your bank's ATM or debit card. You may also use your credit card at a cash machine, but you should alert your bank about international travel plans before leaving home. You need to have your PIN. Cash machines are found at airports, at banks, and in many large retailers and malls.) CREDIT CARDS AND CHECKS Credit cards are accepted at hotels and better restaurants and large retailers. They receive an excellent exchange rate. Checks from U.S. or Canadian banks will not be honored.
Travelers checks: We do not recommend that you bring travelers checks. The exchange rates are lower than for cash and the process can be time-consuming.
How do I make and receive phone calls?
Outgoing calls: First, investigate the international calling options with your airtime carrier. Calls can be made and faxes sent from the Project Amigo office in Cofradía. If you have a USA or Canadian card, you may be able to use it if you know your carrier's access number from México. USA 800 #s don't work from México. Please tell your family that your emergency phone number in Mexico is: 011 52 312 395-4485. LONG DISTANCE CALLS: If you are calling to the U.S. from Mexico you need to dial 001, then the area code and number. Long-distance phone calls are not included in your donation.
Incoming calls: Your friends and family may leave messages at the Project Amigo office, but be aware that our Spanish-speaking staff may or may not be able to interpret the call. Outside of work hours the phone will record messages for later translation. The number from the U.S. and Canada is 011 52 (312) 395-4485. CAN I ACCESS E-MAIL? We have free wireless Internet access at all Project Amigo housing facilities, but be aware that bandwidth and quality of signal will likely not be what you are accustomed to.
Can I meet my sponsored child or scholarship student?
We will make every reasonable effort to arrange a meeting with your sponsored child or scholarship student, but factors of the school calendar, family celebrations, distance of travel and other events affect our ability to arrange a meeting with every one.
Can I give a gift to a student?
Your scholarship/sponsorship funds contribute enormously to the life-improvement of your student, but a well-considered small gift (delivered privately) is certainly allowed. Please do not give your sponsored child money. It is important that you comply with Project Amigo's goal of promoting friendship; not begging. Before leaving the U.S. or Canada you may also want to ask other members of your club if you can take letters or pictures of them to their sponsored student(s). It means a lot to the students to receive letters from their sponsors.