Gentle waves wash up on a long stretch of beach in Panama.

Along the Pacific coast of Panama. Photo © Lilly Lapcakova/123rf.

A U.S.-registered 501(c)3 organization, Give and Surf’s mission is to empower the indigenous Ngobe people of Bahía Honda through education and community development projects. Bahía Honda is a traditional village whose 225 or so residents live in thatched huts and travel by dugout canoe. Their work has now expanded to include Bahia Roja, Old Bank, and Isla Solarte.

Give and Surf hosts many volunteer groups, who can get involved in large-scale construction projects.Volunteers generally assist with educational programs Monday-Friday mornings, including helping out at the preschool established by Give and Surf by reading to the children, playing games, painting, drawing, and chaperoning field trips, while having the afternoons & weekends free for surfing, exploring, and enjoying everything that Bocas has to offer. Volunteers can also lend a hand at the after-school or summer-school program, which offers lessons, sports, music, movies, games, and more to elementary school-aged children; or teach English to teens and adults. Environmental and sustainability programs include a sustainable chicken project, water tank installations, and beach cleanups.

Map of Archipiélago de Bocas, Panama

Archipiélago de Bocas

Give and Surf hosts many volunteer groups, who can get involved in large-scale construction projects. Past projects have included building or repairing a playground, water catchment systems, a new roof, a dining hall, a community garden, a library, and bathroom/septic tank installations.

As might be guessed from the name, Give and Surf was founded by passionate surfers, and volunteers can take free lessons, or if they are already experienced, simply borrow a board and watch for the next big wave. It is not at all necessary, however, to have an interest in surfing in order to volunteer with Give and Surf. Besides surfing and swimming, volunteers can spend their free time snorkeling, hiking, spelunking, zip-lining, kayaking, and more.

Give and Surf

Bocas del Toro, Panama
tel. 507/6955-6804 or 507/6743-1688

Type of work: Children and youth, community development, education, and environment.

Application Process: Fill out the volunteer application on their website www.giveandsurf.org. Volunteers under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a chaperone, and it is a great family volunteer opportunity.

Cost: For 2016, costs for individual volunteers are $700 per week or $2,000 per month. Includes accommodations, local transportation, and lunches, and half of the fees go directly to the project. Group trips and prices can be coordinated separately by emailing info@giveandsurf.org.

Placement Length: One week.

Language Requirements: None.

Housing: Accommodations are on Isla Bastimentos, “steps from the ocean and a short boat ride from the volunteer site in Bahía Honda.” There is a volunteer guesthouse, but community homestays can also be arranged if preferred. Lunch is provided to volunteers.

Operating Since: November 2010, with the first volunteers arriving in March 2011.

Number of Volunteers: Over 175 volunteers in 2014 and over 200 in 2015.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Volunteer Vacations in Latin America.