Volunteering can be a rewarding experience. Our small missions, offer a unique opportunity for both medical professionals and people with no medical background who simply want to help. Read through the information below. More information on what volunteers have done in the past is available in the “Past Missions” section of this site.
1. Who Can Volunteer?
The Chiapas Project’s mission is to provide medical and dental care to the indigenous people of Chiapas, Mexico AND to promote volunteerism amongst young people and health care providers. Volunteers should be in average physical condition, self-motivated, and have a strong desire to broaden their horizons while helping those in need.
Medical and dental professionals (doctors, nurses, hygienists, EMT’s, paramedics, PA’s, CNM’s, dental assistants, etc) are most critically needed. All of your skills, and some that you didn’t know you had, will be utilized. You will be allowed to practice the medicine and dentistry that first got you interested in the healthcare field, knowing that there are others nearby to back you up. There are no worries about HMO’s, Medicare or overdue accounts.
Non-medical/dental volunteers serve a variety of important functions. You might spend one day as a dental assistant, the next as a mule carrying a backpack over a mountain path to an outlaying village, and the following as a cook. (Note: The cook(s) are held in very high esteem!) Your help will allow the care providers to treat many more patients than they could without your being there.
Young people, high school age and older, are encouraged to consider spending a week in Chiapas, but you must be realistic as to what you’re getting yourself into. You are expected to work along with adults. As such, you must be a strong, mature person who sincerely wishes to serve the indigenous people and to experience the superb feeling that volunteerism gives. With that said, you should know that the adults are very supportive and will treat you with the respect you deserve. It’s not a party, but we do have fun. The opportunity to interact with the Mexican students has been a highlight of past trips.
2. What does the committment entail?
As was explained to Dr. Brody when he sought advise before the first trip to Chiapas from other dentists who perform volunteer work, the hardest part is making the committment to help others. After that it’s simply a matter of the details.
We travel to Chiapas for one week at a time, usually in August and in February/March. Group members should make their decision to join as early as possible, mostly to ensure availability of airline seats at a reasonable price. Volunteers are responsible for preparing themselves for the trip (having proper vaccinations, documentation, clothing, medications, etc.) as well as helping to prepare the group in general (packing, lugging, getting psyched). It must be kept in mind that we will be in a remote area for 4 days out of the week and there are inherent risks being far from emergency care. Of course, the presence of volunteer doctors mitigates the risk, but it is something to be considered.
Medical and dental professionals are encouraged to find their comfort zone, and then take three steps beyond. It is extremely rewarding, especially for non-doctors, to utilize their skills that are restricted in the U.S.
Once in Mexico, we are pretty much on our own. There are no real leaders, only fellow volunteers. If something needs to be done then it is up to each volunteer to pitch in and do it, without having to be asked to do so. It is an exhausting week, but a very rewarding one. Please see the “Comments from Volunteers” section of this website for more insight on what your week will be like.
3. Where do we sleep and eat?
While in Tuxtla Gutierrez, volunteers stay at the Camino Real hotel. It is an extremely nice hotel, complete with all of the ammenities one would expect from a 5-star property. It is a welcomed change from the more basic accomodations in Ocotepec. Volunteers are responsible for the costs of their meals and lodging in Tuxtla.
4. Do I have to pay for anything?
Yes. Volunteers pay all of the costs relating to their week of service. In February 2002, the total cost per person was around USD$1150.00. The land portion (food, hotel, truck rental) was around USD$450.00, which did include some optional group dinners in Tuxtla Gutierrez. The rest was airfare from Newark to Mexico City to Tuxtla Gutierrez and return. Payment is expected at the time air reservations are made.
Monies donated to The Chiapas Project, unless otherwise indicated, are all used for the benefit of the indigenous Zoque people of Chiapas. There are no administrative expenses and therefore each volunteer is fully responsible for his/her own expenses.