Frequently Asked Questions
As you may have heard in the news, there have been a few mosquito spread diseases, especially Zika and chikungunya viruses, which have been spreading throughout Central and South America in the last few months. Of course there are many risks in traveling abroad and, as with other risks, we want to be as preventative as possible to mitigate illness.
Recommendations for Prevention
1. Take precautionary measures to avoid mosquito bites; use mosquito repellant, clothing, and mosquito nets to prevent bites as much as possible.
2. If anyone is pregnant or trying to get pregnant, we do not recommend that they travel to Nicaragua with SOL this year.
3. The CDC includes Nicaragua as one country with reports of ongoing transmission of Zika, and is listed as an Alert- Level 2: Practice Enhanced Precautions.
4. Please contact Seeds of Learning as soon as possible if you have any additional concerns or questions or are not sure if you are wanting to travel to Nicaragua due to this risk.
5. Per our materials, we continue to recommend that each volunteer consult with a health care professional about any and all travel illness concerns including these viruses.
SOL was founded almost 25 years ago. In this time, we have hosted over 3,600 volunteers. We have developed a tried and true system for hosting volunteer groups. Not only will you be making a difference in an immersion experience working side by side with local families, but you also will be exposed to a wide variety of educational, cultural and historical experiences.
SOL develops long-term partnerships with local communities in Central America. We often work with a community for several years–we do not just build and leave. Our year-round programs continue to support these communities with educational resources and help empower ongoing change.
SOL works in three regions in Nicaragua. You will be working on a school or learning center in the municipality of Matagalpa, Ciudad Dario or Tipitapa/Nindiri.
Yes, SOL purchases a policy with HCC Medical Insurance Services. This is a major medical insurance policy offered to all groups. View information about the policy here.
SOL offers a $100 discount for each volunteer 13 years old and younger. In addition, SOL offers a $100 discount for the 3rd, 4th, 5th and subsequent family members traveling in the same group.
SOL program fee for a typical 9 day trip is $1,400 plus airfare. Our fees include the costs of all lodging, meals, translation and project support in Nicaragua. Check with your group leader as groups is priced individually.
If you are a U.S. tax-payer, you are eligible for out-of-pocket savings for the volunteer service program. The service program fees, air fare, visa, and related travel expenses are tax deductible if the participant adheres to SOL’s program itinerary, because they perform the work of Seeds of Learning, a 501C-3 tax-exempt organization. (See IRS Form 526). Our trips adhere to IRS requirements that students work, on average, eight hours per day, six days out of nine (or five out of seven) to ensure this tax benefit. We can provide a detailed itinerary, however, we also recommend you keep a personal journal detailing the hours you work for tax purposes. Those interested in claiming this benefit will need to consult a personal tax advisor for tax-deductibility advice.
Yes, SOL hosts both closed and open groups. Closed groups have an identified group leader and recruit the participants within thier own school, community or church. Open groups have a volunteer leader and are open to individuals to join them. See the available group dates or join an open group.
SOL encourages you to fundraise for the cost of your trip. If you are able, additional fundraising to purchase supplies or help our programs is always appreciated. The entire cost of the work group, including airfare purchased through SOL is considered a donation to Seeds of Learning, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Please consult your tax advisor to determine how much of this can be claimed as a donation on your federal income tax return. For fundraising suggestions please see the Payment Information page.
Airline reservations are typically arranged by the group leader. On occasion SOL can help in this process. Closed group leaders will work with SOL to arrange a airline group reservation well in advance of the departure date, to ensure there are sufficient seats and the best price available.
Yes, SOL can verify your service with us to help count toward your school service hour requirements. We can also partner with your school to host a community service work group.
The simple answer is YES. Nicaragua is a long way from the political instability of the 1970’s. It has a stable government and the active assistance of many foreign governments and has recently been ranked as one of the safest countries to visit in the region. SOL has staff living year round in the region where you will be working who ensure that your safety and well-being is the first priority.
While SOL strives to welcome all participants regardless of age or physical capabilities to the program, there are some serious limitations of the roads and physical infrastructure in Nicaragua, which should be taken into account when deciding whether to participate in the work group program. If you are over the age of 70 and/or have a chronic medical condition which requires specialized attention (machinery or otherwise), please contact the SOL US office well before the trip to learn more about the conditions in Nicaragua.
SOL staff have relationships with doctors who are very familiar with illnesses common to the region and are aware of the closest medical facility at all times.
Volunteers should expect to be exposed to rustic conditions not too unlike a camping trip. Volunteers stay in hostel-style rooms or a rustic retreat center or hotel, often with shared rooms and bunk beds for 2-8 people. Expect running water and electricity to go out at times. Do not expect hot showers. Expect to use a latrine at the work site, but flush toilets where you sleep at night. Persons who have a low tolerance for dirt, roosters crowing at night, close-quarter living, serious medical concerns, or lack of privacy may not want to make this trip.
Meals often consist of rice, beans, corn tortillas, plantains, cheese, fresh fruit, avocados, and meat. If you have diet restrictions, please let SOL US staff know well in advance. Vegetarians, vegans, and those people with restricted diets should be aware that, although SOL staff does their best to accommodate special needs, there is not always a lot of variety in the food the group may eat.
Your group will be led by one or two volunteer adults from your home country who will facilitate the required pre-departure meetings and help supervise your group in Nicaragua. In Nicaragua SOL bilingual staff members will accompany your group at all times.
Groups are ideally 15-18 people. In general, we require a minimum of 12 people and a maximum of 24 participants.
Talk to your doctor. There are no required vaccinations. Opinions do vary however, particularly regarding preventitive malaria medications. Acidophilus, a beneficial bacteria supplement, helps prevent digestive problems associated with a foreign diet. For more information see the Health and Safety Guidelines in the SOL Work Group Volunteer Packet.
The average temperature in Nicaragua is 85 degrees. The weather is dry and warm from January to May, and humid and warm in the rainy season from June to December.
No, it is not required. Facial expressions and primitive sign language are your allies. For those who do not speak Spanish, our bi-lingual staff is available for any translation that is required. Start learning some basic Spanish here.
Anyone entering Nicaragua must have a valid passport that is good for more than 6 months from the date of departure. If you carry a U.S. passport, you will need to purchase a tourist visa at the airport upon arrival for $10. For information regarding applying for a passport click here.
We ask that all participants recognize that they are guests in another country and that part of the work of SOL is to build rapport between the people of Nicaragua and the United States. In general, we ask anyone traveling and working with SOL to conduct her/himself in a manner that is open, flexible, and friendly; we also have a set of specific behavioral guidelines in the SOL Policies.
Many of our program participants are either high school or college students who are traveling without parents. As a result, we feel we have an important responsibility to keep all participants safe. Alcohol consumption by any volunteer under the age of 21 is strictly prohibited. Volunteers over the age of 21 are asked to be mindful of the safety of both the volunteer group and of our Nicaraguan hosts, and to be aware of cultural norms. Abuse of OTC or physician-prescribed medicines and/or use and/or possession of illegal drugs is never permitted during the program
SOL has hosted public and private middle school, high school and university groups. Churchs, clubs and groups open to individuals have participated. If you are interested in creating a group of any kind, please contact us! A referral list of past participants is available upon request.
Please contact us for more information on how you can stay involved. Here are just a few ideas:
- Tell a friend at another school about your experience, and help them set up a trip.
- Give a talk at your school about your experiences.
- Design a fundraising project at your school that targets a need in the community.
Check out our Resource Guide to learn more about Nicaragua.