La Mariposa Spanish School & Eco-Hotel in Nicaragua

Volunteer opportunities at  La Mariposa Spanish School & Eco-Hotel

What is so unique about the Mariposa volunteer opportunity?

  • You combine volunteer work with Spanish classes - we offer 20 hours formal classes (2 hours of grammar and 2 hours of conversation) within the delightful garden surroundings of the Mariposa. For newcomers to Nicaragua we also recommend starting your time here with a week or two joining in with the Mariposa programme of afternoon and weekend activities in order to familiarise yourself with Nicaragua, its history and culture and with the immediate surroundings of La Concha.

  • If you wish to come with a group to do service/volunteer work as part of an educational trip, then please see the section on "Group Service and Educational Trips". If, however, you are travelling as an individual, then we can find you a volunteer placement as an individual.

    This ensures flexibility to meet your learning needs and that you do not spend your time here mainly interacting with groups of other Westerners - on the contrary, we maximise the opportunities for you to work alongside and so get to know individual workers in La Concha. This also allows us to offer you a placement suitable to your particular interests (subject to availability).

  • In keeping with the Mariposa principle of maximising local employment opportunities, we do not use volunteers to replace local workers. Instead, we place each individual volunteer alongside a Nicaraguan worker (this of course has the additional benefit of improving your Spanish)

  • We offer opportunities for volunteers to become immersed in the community of La Concha by working within the community alongside workers from local organisations - such as working alongside a pre-school teacher in a school, observing in the health centre, or even with a bee project - so you can really get out there to see for yourself, experience and understand how the community functions. We also have a range of volunteer opportunities within the more protected setting of the Mariposa - you similarly work alongside one of the Mariposa workers.

  • Volunteers live in homestays with local families (all known to the Mariposa). This of course enhances the opportunities to get to know a Nicaraguan family and practice that Spanish!

  • Weekly de-briefing sessions are held within the Mariposa, in English, so you can share the upside of your placement, reflecting on learning aspects. Also to help you make sense of some of those more demanding and difficult experiences (led by Dr. Paulette Goudge who has a PhD in Development issues). You can browse the excellent selection of books on both Nicaragua and development and aid issues which are available in the Mariposa library.

  • We can offer you placements doing practical work or manual labor for as little as one week, but we ask for a longer time commitment if you prefer to work with people, suggested minimum one month.

Outdoor Spanish Lessons
Spanish lessons in a classroom
Learn spanish in the stunning gardens of the Mariposa

Currently available placements:

That working hours are from 8 to 11.30am, occasionally 1pm to 4.30pm (unless otherwise specified). This means (as with any work!) you should leave your house or La Mariposa around 7.30am or 12.30pm to be there on time.

  • Working with children with disabilities in San Juan de la Concepcion
    La Mariposa is starting a new project as of December 2013 working with Los Pipitos in San Juan de la Concepcion. Los Pipitos is a national organisation that works with families and children with disabilities around the country. Alongside local staff and volunteers we will provide a 6 week program of activities for children with disabilities, including music, crafts, games, and sports.

    A few years ago the special education school run by Los Pipitos in San Juan de la Concepcion was robbed of everything. Prior to last week they only had chairs, one table and a chalkboard. There are at least 15 children with disabilities in San Juan de la Concepcion, however only two have been going to school, as the school has no resources. Some children are integrated into public schools, while others stay home.

    Thanks to the generosity of students at La Mariposa we donated books, pens, paper, Legos, lacing materials, variety of games, soccer ball, and more! We hope that after this program during the vacation ends, that more children will attend school, and La Mariposa can continue to offer this as a volunteer placement.

    The needs for children with disability in this area are huge. We hope this is the first of many projects in the area for children with disabilities. Volunteers are needed between Jan 6th and 20th 2014 for the second half of our program. Volunteers alongside the local teacher and volunteers, will help play with the children, organise a variety of games and activities that are appropriate to the children's developmental level. No experience necessary, but special education teachers, OT's, PT 's, speech therapists very welcome. Intermediate Spanish helpful.

    Panama School books
  • Primary school reading and writing:  Primary schools need people to work alongside teachers to help small groups of children improve their reading and writing skills. We support two local schools, Panama School and Ruben Dario School, and an after-school reading program in the barrio of Santiago. These positions are not teaching positions, and thus require no certification, but the children benefit immensely from the individual attention they receive from our volunteers.

  • Primary school arts and crafts:  Working alongside Fernando, the teacher employed by the Mariposa to manage the Panama School and Ruben Dario school support groups, your role would be primarily to develop arts and crafts projects with the children. This work would be also invaluable during the holiday time when the out of school project is becoming increasingly popular with local children. Linking with local schools and involving children in painting their own murals is another activity that mariposa volunteers are undertaking. Our afternoon children´s reading project would also welcome this kind of help.

  • Teaching arts and crafts to women:  The Casa de Cultura in La Concha would welcome someone who could offer classes in art or in a craft activity, especially to the mothers of children who are receiving their afternoon folklore dancing classes. So you would also be in an ideal position to learn a great deal about Nicaraguan culture!

  • Sports Project:  The Mariposa supports a number of soccer leagues in the community – we started by trying to offer youngg people in some of the poorer barrios the chance to play and, building on the success of this work, have now expanded into leagues for girls and young children. Volunteers could help with this work at all levels – offering coaching and training sessions, visiting local schools to organize more tournaments (hugely popular with everybody!) and help us expand into other sports – baseball, basketball.
        * this placement may involve unusual hours - e.g. weekend work, evening work or split hours during the day.

  • Cookery:  Working in the Mariposa kitchen, alongside our wonderful kitchen staff you will get to practice your Spanish and learn a lot about Nicaraguan food (your hours of volunteering will differ from normal as you will work at meal preparation times). What we ask from a volunteer is a contribution in terms of practical help but also ideas and recipes – especially in how to imaginatively prepare our organnic produce from the farm (this includes eggs, fruit and veggies). You can also help with harvesting the produce from the farms. Please note we do not serve red meat and fish/chicken only once or twice a week. We are also looking for help with progressing a Mariposa cookery book!
        *Working hours are flexible for this placement. It may require unusual or split hours (from 7.00am to 10.00am, for example).

  • Animal care:  Please note we are NOT an animal rescue centre in the sense that we go looking for animals to rescue! We have in the past, when we had room, accepted a number of different animals and birds who needed care and attention (some from the police, some from local people). The majority of them have been genuinely rehabilitated and released back into the wild (most of them at the local nature reserve with whom we work very closely). This includes a sloth, an anteater, a raccoon, several boa snakes, a howler monkey…..andd hundreds of parrots and parakeets. Those who still live at the Mariposa cannot be released because, quite simply, they would not survive. And we do need help with looking after our 5 cats, 8 dogs, 13 horses, 4 monkeys and 25 or so parrots and parakeets. As well as the chickens, turkeys and ducks!
        * Working hours are flexible for this placement. It may require unusual or split hours

    Panama School books
  • Wildlife promotion:   We have a very small piece of land at the Mariposa (about 2 acres) and we have worked hard to maximize its attractiveness to as varied a group of wild animals and birds as possible. We plant fruit trees to help feed birds and squirrels, built a house for iguana to live in (now fully occupied!), built a very successful frog pond. We would be looking for a volunteer to help us progress this work, together with Oscar and Manuel, two of the Mariposa staff who have great local knowledge and love for wildlife. An example would be building bat boxes and bird nesting boxes.

  • Childcare:  In the barrio of Santiago, the community has begun using the same building for the after-school reading program for a daycare project in the mornings. The daycare provides childcare targeted at the poorest families in the barrio. This allows parents to work in mornings and also prepares young children (ages 1-5) for primary school. Volunteers would work alongside three daycare workers in the mornings, helping out with childcare.

  • Gardening:  We have placements both on the grounds of La Mariposa and in the barrio of Santiago. On Mariposa grounds our gardener, Santos, can always use extra help caring for our garden. In the barrio of Santiago, there is a small community garden around the after-school reading program that we support. We place volunteers with a community organizer, Pedro, who takes care of the garden and often brings volunteers along on work he is doing locally.

  • Organic Farm: new finca  Between planting, weeding, and watering there's never a lack of need for an extra pair hands to help out on our three organic farms. The veggies that our volunteers help plant and harvest are served up here at the hotel to our guests.

  • Healthcare:  The volunteer placements in the local health centers offer a unique learning opportunity. Volunteers provide support to over-worked doctors and nurses and under-staffed local clinics. For anyone working in the health field, the experience of observing the practice of medical care in a country with limited resources is invaluable. Opportunities range from assisting the nurses with routine cleanings, injections and paper work to accompanying in-home preventative education. An intermediate level of Spanish is desirable for this placement. Placements in a health care facility requires a copy of your professional certificate and a letter of reference from your school or work facility. These must be faxed to us before your arrival.

  • Reforestation:  La Mariposa maintains a small plant nursery with local flora and fauna sprouts as well as tree saplings. We plant these, as well as the flower seed donations we receive from guests, in public space around San Juan and la Concha. Volunteers are placed alongside a local gardener and/or members of the Ecological Brigade from San Juan's secondary school to work on reforestation projects.

  • Construction:  We are always looking for a pair of useful hands to do any number of construction projects we have lined up either on Mariposa grounds or in the community. From helping build shelves and birdbaths on our premises to repairs at local schools to repainting public buildings and constructing fences to replace barbed wire, there is always a bit of building that needs to be done.

  • Teach English:  The teachers at the local secondary school welcome help with both formal grammar classes and, especially important, small group conversational practice. To teach formal grammar, volunteers must have TOEFL certification. As there is always an overwhelming desire in our community to learn English, particularly among secondary school students and our staff at La Mariposa, conversation classes can be arranged as well (no certification necessary).

We always have a wide variety of things going on at La Mariposa, so often new placements spring up spontaneously! If you would like to volunteer we can be in touch with the latest placement availabilities via email and we will ask you to fill out a volunteer/homestay information form, you can check it out beforehand here.

Volunteer Information Form

Please note that we cannot guarantee the availability of placements. We will try to accommodate your interests based on what is available at a given time. We also welcome suggestions as to where we might put our energy and resources next!

Panama School
construction projects
Santiago reading project

What we ask from you:

  • Working hours vary a bit but we ask you to work approximately 4 hours a day at your volunteer placement

  • An ability to reflect on how things work - or don't work - here in Nicaragua (the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere) and why that might be the case. At times this demands a degree of self reflection as well as the easier task of observing and judging Nicaraguans!

  • Good health is essential and an attitude that goes with the flow is invaluable

  • An understanding that although we work closely with Nicaraguans and other organizations to ensure that your placement runs as smoothly as possible - from both your point of view and the organizations - we cannot offer guarantees. Plans often have to be changed in Nicaragua due to unforseen weather, school schedules or other unforseen contingencies. Please note we reserve the right to terminate a placement.

  • Depending on the placement, at least a basic understanding of Spanish is advisable. The Mariposa is an excellent Spanish school and we can orient your classes to the needs of your placement.

  • All placements require that you have your own internationally valid insurance covering illness, accident, theft, etc and have a liability disclaimer.

  • Please send us one character reference if you want to work with small children.

  • The majority of placements are walking distance or a short bus ride (fares are around 20 cents, you are responsible) away from the Mariposa. We can also provide bicycles or even a horse for placements further out!

  • We can offer placements doing practical work within the Mariposa for as little as a week but we ask for a longer time commitment if you prefer to work with people, suggested minimum one month.

  • For more detailed information, write to Paulette at

Please note that students who elect the homestay/Spanish classes/volunteer work package receive a significant discount for doing volunteer work and therefore forgo the afternoon activities program. Students wishing to participate in both volunteer work and afternoon activities will be charged the price for homestay/Spanish classes/activities and can help out during their stay (for example gardening, construction, English classes, animals), but we can not guarantee a volunteer placement. Volunteer placements are reserved first and foremost for students participating full-time in volunteer work.

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