Monthly Archives: April 2016

3 Tips and Tricks for Volunteering in Latin America

by Jordan A. Parry

So you’re looking to volunteer abroad?  Awesome!  It’s such a great way to see the world while making a difference.  And there are tons of projects out there that really need your help.  You can absolutely find volunteer projects to suit your interests and the community’s needs, especially in Latin America.

But there are so many questions to ask before you book your flight.  Like, where do you even start?  How do you choose a country for your project?  What sorts of things are important to take into consideration when choosing a program?

Medical clinics and hospitals, orphanages, animal shelters, conservation projects, schools, construction sites, etc. are all looking for help all the time–You can definitely make a difference!  Here are a few things to keep in mind as you start sifting through the almost infinite information that’s out there.




1. You (generally) get what you pay for.

Yes, it’s possible to find very low-cost and even free volunteer abroad programs.  However, with these programs, you often sacrifice a lot.  Don’t you want a program that has a supportive staff that will help you if, say, your luggage gets lost or you break your wrist?

A free program often means little or no support on the logistical side of your trip.  If anything goes wrong, you’re on your own.  Have you ever tried finding a reliable dentist in an emergency when you don’t speak the local language?  Good luck with that!

Paying just a little more can make sure you have someone meeting you at the airport, giving you a practical tour of the area and a safety orientation, and checking in with you frequently as you progress through your volunteer experience.  These teams will have your back, helping you with all sorts of situations: lost luggage, recommendations for vegetarians, even calling your mom if you get sick!

Believe me, no matter how prepared you think you are, you can’t possibly foresee every situation that could come up during your trip.  But you can rest a little easier knowing that you have a team of volunteer coordinators looking out for you.


Image credit: Maximo Nivel


2. It’s often a good idea to choose a private organization, not a non-profit or NGO.

I know this seems counter-intuitive, but bear with me.  Non-profit organizations and NGOs have requirements to fulfill regarding their spending.  That might seem like a good idea, but what it really means is restriction.  These organizations aren’t free to decide what communities or projects really need the funds, or how much to allocate to each.  They also aren’t always free to accept unlimited donations for these projects.

Private organizations, therefore, usually have much larger budgets and can allocate even more resources directly into the community that needs it.  You can feel better knowing that a larger percentage of your program fees are going straight into the purchase of supplies and resources for the impoverished community where you’re working, and not into red tape and bureaucracy.

Here are a few programs that are awesome for volunteering in Latin America.  Check them out!

3. You can seriously increase your potential impact by learning some Spanish before you go.

Working alongside a volunteer organization in Latin America for a few years, I saw a LOT of volunteers come and go.  And the number one thing that made some volunteers more effective at their projects than others was their level of Spanish.

All of these programs will tell you that it isn’t necessary to speak Spanish to go and volunteer, and on the surface, they’re right.  Any pair of hands can be helpful.

But say you’re volunteering in a medical clinic.  Wouldn’t you like to be helping the patients as they come in, asking them questions about how they’re feeling, preparing them to see the doctor?  Or would you prefer to mop, wipe, and restock?  Your ability to communicate effectively in Spanish will directly influence the type of work you can be doing.

This is where ShareLingo comes in!  By practicing your Spanish with real native Spanish speakers, you will have a huge advantage over other volunteers who just took a year or two of Spanish in high school.  You will be prepared to understand common expressions and slang, and will be able to anticipate outrageous situations and unexpected misunderstandings before they come up.

You will not only have a greater impact during your volunteer project, but you will also build real, lasting connections with Spanish speakers before, during, and after your experience volunteering abroad.


English and Spanish speakers working together in a ShareLingo class


Image credits: Maximo Nivel and ShareLingo

About ShareLingo
The ShareLingo concept is really simple. Instead of learning from a white board or a computer, we help English learners meet Spanish learners for face-to-face practice together. A bilingual facilitator uses our method and materials to keep things moving so you are never bored. We have language learning solutions for individuals, businesses, non-profits, and schools. Learn more at

5 Unique Ways to Celebrate your Madre this Mother’s Day

by Jordan Parry

¡Ojo! Mother’s Day, or Día de la Madre, is quickly approaching. This year, it will be celebrated on Sunday, May 8. If you’ve dropped the ball so far, no fear! ShareLingo has your back with some great ideas for showing your mother that la quieres mucho.

1. Make her a special postre with a Latin American flair.

If two and a half years living in different Latin American countries taught me anything, it’s that Latinos definitely have a sweet tooth! South-of-the-border desserts are some of the best in the world. Show your mom you appreciate her with a homemade tres leches cake, or maybe some Peruvian picarones, or, for the culinary-challenged among us (myself included!), a simple flan can be an easy-but-delicious way to show off your skills as a cocinero.

Tres leches cake is a very rich dessert made from three types of milk: whole milk, condensed milk, and evaporated milk. You might think this cake will end up soggy from all the extra liquid, but you couldn’t be more wrong! The three milks work together to make the cake perfectly delicious. Find a recipe here.

Image credit:

Image credit: Postres Tía María 

Picarones are a Peruvian delicacy made from the fried dough of sweet potatoes smothered in a mouthwatering syrupy glaze. Be careful, these doughnut-like treats are very addicting! And here’s a tip: they are best served finger-burning hot.  Here’s  the recipe.


Image credit: InkantoPeru

Flan is an easy-to-make dessert that is very popular in all Latin American countries. If you’ve never had it, the texture is the most surprising part: it’s a custard, and the texture is about halfway between a pudding and a cheesecake (in my opinion). Click here for the recipe.


Image credit: Cook Diary

2. Serenade her with some sweet baladas.

Check out YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Apple Music, or your favorite music streaming service for some inspiración.  There is tons of great música out there that you can listen to with your mom.  Some great artists to get you started?  Luis Fonsi, Enrique Iglesias, Romeo Santos (formerly of the bachata boy band Aventura, whose music is also fabulous), Reik, Alejandro Sanz, Jesse y Joy, Sin Bandera, and my personal favorite, the Spanish sweetheart, Pablo Alborán (#sigh) (#marrymeplease).


Image credit: CadenaDial 

Comment below if you’ve got any favorite crooners I’ve neglected to mention here.  We’re always looking for great Spanish-language music!

3. Come (with the whole family!) for a day at the museo and a potluck picnic.

ShareLingo is celebrating Mother’s Day together!  The Saturday before Mother’s Day (DMNS-LogoMay 7), we are having a bilingual museum scavenger hunt.

Come to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (bring a sack lunch), and be ready to do a scavenger hunt inside the amazing exhibitions the museum has to offer. You will connect with different cultures, and it will be a great opportunity to make new friends.

We have tons of tickets to give away!  So feel free to invite your friends and family to join in for this super divertido event!

Call us at 303-835-7399 to register!  We will see you May 7th at 9:45 am in the main entrance to the museum!

4. Teach her to bailar a little salsa, bachata, or tango.

There are tons of ways to get your groove on in Denver! There’s a Meetup group for beginners-only salsa dancing, and Salsa Central has salsa and bachata lessons every Wednesday night.  Check out Yelp for some of the best dance class recommendations.  If you’re embarrassed by your two left feet, YouTube has tons of tutorials that you can do from your own living room!

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

5. Give her some special flores with a sweet meaning.

The exotic national flowers of several Latin American countries often have their own special message, according to the language of flowers.  Try mixing and matching to create your own unique message for Mom:


No matter how you choose to celebrate, all of us at ShareLingo wish you a very happy Mother’s Day!  ¡Un abrazo fuerte!


About ShareLingo
The ShareLingo concept is really simple. Instead of learning from a white board or a computer, we help English learners meet Spanish learners for face-to-face practice together. A bilingual facilitator uses our method and materials to keep things moving so you are never bored. We have language learning solutions for individuals, businesses, non-profits, and schools. Learn more at

YMCA and ShareLingo

Screenshot 2016-04-05 12.58.34

 The ShareLingo Project

in partnership with

The YMCA Community Programs Branch

The 21st of March marked the end of the third 10-week series bringing Whittier (East Denver) neighborhood residents together to break cultural barriers through language conversation. The project, which was developed by The ShareLingo Project, and funded by the YMCA Community Programs Branch for the first 20 weeks, held its last class for the Spring at the YMCA Programs Branch at Manual High School. The project ended with a class of 18 students working together. The ShareLingo Project class is made up of English and Spanish speakers that are paired together to help each other. English speakers improve their Spanish, and Spanish speakers improve their English – all while learning about each other’s culture and background. Students who completed the program received a certificate of completion and were met last night by the Board of Trustees.


On the last day of class students were asked to evaluate the class, and rate it on several key questions on a scale from Strongly Disagree [1] to Strongly Agree [4]. Please see graphic below.


YMCS Evaluations graphic


Students felt very strongly that they benefitted from this opportunity of practicing their target language with other native speakers of that language. They strongly agreed that the course matched the description announced: that the course was fun, easy to understand and enjoyable. They felt that directions in class were clear and that they had a positive attitude towards one another.


Two key questions were tailored to the host of this location (The YMCA), this included:

  1. Your level of knowledge of the host at the end of the course?
[Scored 3.9 out of 4]
  1. This course benefits the host’s interest in providing community relationships.
[Scored 3.9 out of 4]

“ The course was fun and helped me build confidence in speaking and thinking in a foreign language.”

-ShareLingo/ YMCA Participant

“ The connections it fostered with other community members.”

-ShareLingo/ YMCA Participant

“ Really getting the chance to read and listen to a native speaker was beyond helpful.”

-ShareLingo/ YMCA Participant

“Todo el curso fue importante y me ayudóen mi trabajo, en ayudar a mi hija en la escuela y en toda mi vida.”

-ShareLingo/ YMCA Participant

“ I have taken ESL classes, and English grammar classes before, but only ShareLingo has   helped me much more in my life. ShareLingo has helped feel more confident speaking, listening and thinking correctly in English. It’s helped me have more confidence in making phone calls, and speaking to other people.”

-ShareLingo/ YMCA Participant

About ShareLingo
The ShareLingo concept is really simple. Instead of learning from a white board, or a computer, we help English learners meet Spanish learners for face to face practice together. A bilingual facilitator uses our method and materials to keep things moving so you are never bored. Learn more at

ShareLingo Partners with Fitzsimons Credit Union to Improve Parental Engagement at McGlone Elementary

Helping McGlone Elementary help Montbello families

By James Archer

McGlone Elementary School

About McGloneMcGloneFront

“McGlone Elementary, located in the Montebello community, is a proud Denver Public School (DPS) which serves a student population that is 95% low-income, 98% minority, 62% English Language Learners, 9% Special Education students and 100% college bound. School enrollment has grown over time, (and is now at full capacity), due to consistent improvement in school quality and McGlone is now nearing almost 750 students. McGlone is an innovation school, with extended day and extended year. McGlone is a really incredible place– they have shown significant growth in the past four years since turnaround, catapulting them from one of the lowest-performing schools to the 8th in the state for growth. In recently released data, McGlone had the HIGHEST growth in the district in literacy out of all elementary schools, (growing 31 percentiles!).”1

Research shows that there is a strong correlation between parent involvement and student achievement, so one might expect for parental engagement to show up as a central strategy in schools. But, does it? Some examples suggest otherwise. For example, the 2012 DPS Mill Levy? The allocation for parent engagement was just one percent of the $49 million of new annual funding passed by voters.

ShareLingo Class at Fitzsimons


One progrFitzsimonsClassam that has been shown to improve Parental Engagement is The ShareLingo Project’s language exchange classes.  In the classes, ShareLingo connects native English and Spanish speakers and helps them teach each other about both Language and Culture. How does this help Parental Engagement? We’re glad you asked! The program brings 5 to 7 Spanish speaking parents together with 5 to 7 English speaking school staff and parents for a 10 session English/Spanish class. While the participants work together to teach each other English and Spanish, they also find out about each other’s cultures, and what is happening at the school. This builds trust, confidence, and friendship between the participants. Parents who experience this friendship are much more likely to engage with the school!

McGlone has already tested the ShareLingo model, with great results. However, even though ShareLingo discounts the classes heavily for non-profits – especially schools – the school budget has not allowed for McGlone to continue the program.

So, with a mandate to improve student performance, offset by funding realities in which countless important programs compete for ever-dwindling budget dollars, schools are facing an uphill battle. So, what is a school to do?

Enter Private Sponsors

Fitzsimons Credit Union has been helping the local community for over 60 years.  Their programs and services help individuals and families with their life-long financial needs.

Fitzsimons Credit Union is a not-for-profit-full-service financial institution serving the Colorado communities of Aurora, Watkins, Bennet, Strasburg, and Eastern Centennial, as well as active and retired military and select employers.

As part of their commitment to the community, Fitzsimons Credit Union has agreed to sponsor a ShareLingo group at McGlone.


“We are happy to help our fellow neighbors and community partners. ShareLingo is a great way to help people learn from each other and we are glad to offer this experience to others that benefit from it”

-Paolina Yakusheva
VicePresident of Marketing and Business Development


About ShareLingo
The ShareLingo concept is really simple. Instead of learning from a white board or a computer, we help English learners meet Spanish learners for face-to-face practice together. A bilingual facilitator uses our method and materials to keep things moving so you are never bored. We have language learning solutions for individuals, businesses, non-profits, and schools. Learn more at