Latin America and Caribbean Featured Program: Nicaragua
Nicaragua is bordered by Honduras to the north, Costa Rica to the south, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The country is roughly the size of New York State. Nicaragua is a tropical area with rich ecosystems supported by its climate and topography.
Nicaragua is home to almost 6 million people, with an estimated 2.5 million people living in Managua and surrounding areas making this capital city the second-most populous city in Central America.
Eighty percent of the Nicaraguan population subsists on less than US$2 per day, and 43 percent on less than US$1 a day. In a country of more than 5 million people, there are many situations that affect the housing situation. Inadequate housing, insufficient public investment in the housing sector, natural disasters, social and economic instability, migration from rural to urban areas and the formation of new nuclear families are all factors that take a toll on the availability of adequate housing in Nicaragua. It is estimated that each year the housing deficit in the country rises by some 30,000 homes.
Habitat for Humanity began working in Nicaragua in 1984. Since then, families in Jinotega, Matagalpa, Estelí, León, Chinandega, Managua, Bluefields, Carazo and Rivas have built their homes with Habitat assistance.
Habitat for Humanity Nicaragua supports families in achieving solutions to their housing needs. The organization works through four main initiatives to serve low-income families, with special emphasis given to women-headed households, families with three or more dependents, families with members who have special needs, and families with a monthly income of less than US$350.
Auto-construction: Habitat Nicaragua creates exemplary construction projects in alliance with others. These projects provide training and technical assistance in areas such as alternative construction methods, quality control systems and community infrastructure.
Disaster mitigation: In order to facilitate disaster response and mitigation, Habitat Nicaragua provides technical assistance in construction systems, access to disaster-recovery related subsidies and financial intervention. The disaster-response strategy includes preventative projects that mitigate the effects of natural disaster in the most vulnerable areas of the country, such as the Western and Atlantic coast regions.
Secure tenure: Habitat Nicaragua provides training and technical assistance in the legalization of land ownership. In addition, the organization helps to channel subsidies and train key actors, such as local government officials, communities, housing networks and social movements.
Housing law: Through advocacy initiatives and strengthening the capacity of municipal governments, Habitat Nicaragua supports the implementation, regulation and budgeting of national housing law.
Learn more at the Habitat Nicaragua country profile page.
Types of construction for volunteers
Our houses are made of steel-reinforced cement block walls and a roof of galvanized zinc sheeting. Designs vary from project to project, but the standard size of the house is an average of 18 square meters. Each house will have a mason and the future homeowner family doing construction in addition to volunteers.
Volunteers will aid in whatever skilled or unskilled work is needed. Some tasks include digging foundations, laying block, mixing mortar, moving materials, or cutting and tying rebar. It normally takes 2 to 3 full weeks to complete a Habitat house in Nicaragua.
North Atlantic Region, San Rafael del Sur, Managua, Masaya and Estelí.
Teams arrive by international flight to Managua, Nicaragua for all project locations.
Habitat Nicaragua will determine the best lodging option for your group, taking into consideration the group size as well as proximity to the construction site. Work teams usually stay in hotels, retreat centers, or dorm-style accommodations that are basic, safe and clean. The team will stay two to four people per room. Typically rooms are equipped with a private bathroom, though in some locations only shared bathrooms are available. Volunteers are not required to bring any bedding, but will need to pack a towel.
Transport to and from the airport, as well as daily transportation to and from the worksite, will either be a private bus or the regional office pickup truck. In some cases, the hotel is near enough to walk to the site.
Food and water
Breakfast: Typical Nicaraguan breakfast of rice and beans, eggs, bread and coffee. Breakfast is typically served in the hotel or a local restaurant.
Lunch: The midday meal is typically served on the worksite and will be include sandwiches, soda, chips, fruit and a small dessert.
Dinner: Evening meals will be served in the hotel or a local restaurant.
Water: It is not advised to drink the tap water in Nicaragua. Fresh drinking water will be provided daily
Vegetarians: Please remember that vegetarianism is not the norm in Nicaragua; however, simple requests for no meat can easily be honored. Though there will not be available items such as veggie lasagna or soymilk, vegetarian platters of salad, fruit, eggs, cheese, rice and beans can often be arranged.
Hosting structure and services
Habitat Nicaragua volunteer and GV coordinators will be with the team all throughout the trip, and will accompany the team leader at all times. At the same time, two national volunteers will work as translators to assist group members with the language. All participants receive an emergency contact sheet with phone numbers and must carry it at all times.
The hosting coordinator is committed to answering every e-mail within two days of correspondence whenever possible. Cultural interchange activities such as traditional welcome and farewell with local families, specialized meetings and discussion with local community groups and alliance partners are a part of each experience. At the end of the trip, Habitat Nicaragua will present volunteers with a certificate for his or her participation.
Standard itinerary (9 days)
Day 1 (arrival day, typically Saturday): Greeted at Managua airport by Habitat Nicaragua staff; dinner.
Day 2 (Sunday): Transported to host program; orientation and welcome.
Day 3-7 (workdays, Monday-Friday): Breakfast served before traveling to worksite; work from 8a.m.- 4p.m. with lunch on site. Free time after work to clean up; supper of typical Nicaraguan food; time for team activities.
Day 8 (Saturday): Tour cultural sites; free time; final team dinner.
Day 9 (final day, Sunday): Departure day.
Starting at US$1,750
View the standard budget.
Mid-January to mid-December.
Volunteer Engagement specialist
If you have read the FAQs and have further questions before you submit a Global Village trip proposal, please contact the regional Volunteer Engagement Specialist.
Please note: proposals for LAC trips should be submitted no less than six and no more than nine months prior to departure. Due to the LAC area’s hosting capacity and volume, this timeline ensures our team can best support you in the Global Village trip planning process.