La Mariposa Spanish School

Stay with us and take your immersion Spanish classes in an eco-hotel which itself is an unforgettable experience. Volunteer programs available.

The beauty of the surroundings of the Mariposa Spanish School enhances the quality of our Spanish instruction – all our teachers are local Nicaraguan people, highly experienced in teaching and well-equipped to introduce you to both the local community and wider Nicaraguan culture, politics, history. The Mariposa is well-integrated with the local community where, with the income we receive from you, we do whatever we can to directly support the local economy and community. Volunteer opportunities are available with a range of different organisations and with different groups (see Volunteering)

What is so unique about the Mariposa volunteer scheme?

* 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.

* We do not place groups of volunteers - only individuals. 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.

Currently available placements:

Panama School books
* Primary school reading and writing: Both rural and urban schools need people to work alongside the teachers to help small groups of children improve their reading and writing skills. We support two rural schools, one in the barrio of Panama (see Community Projects) and the other called Ruben Dario in San Juan, along with an after-school reading program just outside La Concepcion 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.

* Childcare: In the barrio of Santiago outside of La Concha, the community has recently decided to use the same building for the after-school reading program (see above) in the mornings for a women's sewing project. This project incorporates childcare so that the women have the freedom to work and earn a living while simultaneously having the security of built-in daycare. A volunteer in this position would work with the primary care taker, reading books and playing games with the children. *Starts mid-July 2010*

* Organic Farm: new fincaBetween planting, weeding, and watering there's never a lack of need for an extra pair of hands to help out on the farm. The veggies that our volunteers help 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.

* Town Hall: La Mariposa is always working to strengthen ties with the community through local government. The mayor of La Concha keeps us updated on reforestation and construction projects funded by the town hall and we do our best to place volunteers within these projects to help support the development of our surrounding area. We also take on requests to help fund small construction projects around the community, such as latrines for primary schools, local building repairs, and water retention projects.

* Reforestation: planting at schoolLa 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! From helping build shelves and birdbaths on the grounds to repainting public buildings and constructing fences to replace barbed wire, there is always a bit of building that needs to be done. Currently we are looking to help Los Pipitos, a school for disabled children and young people, which was recently robbed of all it's furniture. Donations and manual labor are needed to help rebuild what was taken!

* Teach English: The teachers at the local secondary school welcomes 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 the staff at La Mariposa, individual conversation classes can be arranged as well (no certification necessary).

* Los Quinchos: Los Quinchos is a project working with ex-street children just a short bus ride away from the Mariposa. If you are interested in doing a placement there, you should check out their website - La Mariposa supports Los Quinchos by promoting their volunteer program via our Spanish school. If interested in volunteering with Los Quinchos, apply through their website at

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