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Thank you for your interest in Simply Smiles! We invite you to explore our projects in Oaxaca, Mexico and on the Cheyenne River Reservation, as well as volunteer opportunities in these locations.

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1730 State Street Extension
Bridgeport, CT, 06605
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2038104041

Simply Smiles provides bright futures for children, families, and communities. The organization partners with populations in need to create physical and emotional environments where suffering is alleviated and from which local leaders can emerge.

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Volunteer Groups • Home for Children • Oaxaca, Mexico

volunteering at the Simply Smiles home for children • oaxaca, mexico

We are looking for exceptional volunteer groups to travel to the Simply Smiles Home for Children in Oaxaca, Mexico. 

The children in our care have been abandoned, orphaned, or were living on the streets. They’ve found a home with us, but they now need you.

While volunteering, you’ll live at the children’s home and support our amazing local staff to care for the children. You’ll help with their homework, assist with preparing their meals, help to brush their teeth before bedtime, even work to expand and improve the children’s home facility.

Simply Smiles has been hosting volunteers at our program locations in Mexico since 2003. As a volunteer, you will be engaged in meaningful, inspiring, life-changing work. We invite you to join us at the Simply Smiles Home for Children - and to be part of providing the bright futures that every child deserves. 

High Schools • Colleges • Organizations • Faith Communities • Clubs • Families • Individuals

these children need you.

One week. full immersion.

volunteer resources

Click on the thumbnails below to download.

  Two-Sheet Trip Overview

Two-Sheet Trip Overview

  2019 Mexico Volunteer Handbook

2019 Mexico Volunteer Handbook

  Mexico Volunteer Intro Booklet

Mexico Volunteer Intro Booklet

testimonials

“From each and every email that was promptly answered, I got the feeling that Simply Smiles was a special place and I sure was right.”

Emily, New Jersey

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“The easiest way to put it is Simply Smiles is simply amazing! I can’t wait to go back again.”

Beth, Pennsylvania

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“I have told everyone I can about Oaxaca. The children have my heart and I am hoping to go back very soon.”

Lauren, Kansas

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“What a tremendous experience it is for me to serve as a volunteer with Simply Smiles. It is my honor to continue working with this wonderful group!”

Karreem, Connecticut

frequently asked questions: The Basics

Where is the Simply Smiles Home for Children?

The Simply Smiles Home for Children is located in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca (pronounced wa-HAH-ka).

The children’s home is located in beautiful San Bartolo Coyotepec, a neighborhood about 9 miles south of the historic Oaxaca City center.

We are just a quick 15 minute drive from the Oaxaca City Airport.

Safety

There is no getting around that when Mexico makes the U.S. news, the stories are generally ones that don’t portray Mexico in a positive light. But Mexico is a big country and the majority of it is tranquil, beautiful, and not reflective of the problems seen in the news. Oaxaca falls under this category.

Simply Smiles has hosted thousands of volunteers in Oaxaca since 2003. When you visit Oaxaca, you are welcomed guests in a community that respects and supports the work of Simply Smiles. We are very comfortable, and extremely experienced at, hosting volunteer teams and individuals across our projects throughout the state of Oaxaca.

As you know, there are always some risks associated with any travel. If you would like to discuss any concerns or questions you may have about safety while in Mexico or traveling to Mexico, please feel free to contact us at any time:

What are the available dates for a Simply Smiles Service Trip?

Simply Smiles offers service trips to our home for children year-round.

We recommend you book your service trip as early as possible as popular weeks do fill up fast!

Click here to jump down the page to see available dates.

What type of work will our group be doing?

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Your time volunteering at the Simply Smiles Home for Children will be focused on sharing your attention, energy, talents, and experiences with the children.

Volunteers assist the children’s home staff to provide for the children in 3 ways:

  1. Through your presence. Your presence shows the children they are loved and cared for.

  2. Through the activities you provide. You will help to run activities for the children: games, field trips, helping with school work, special theme events like “dinosaur week,” and much more.

  3. Through your hard work. You will work side-by-side with our Mexican contractors (and often the older children as well) to expand and improve our facility. Don’t worry, you don’t need any construction experience, and we have jobs for all physical abilities. You may find yourself becoming an expert at mixing cement, laying bricks, or tiling!

What are the accommodations like?

Volunteers stay at the Simply Smiles Home for Children, where you will live and work side-by-side with the children and staff.

Sleeping: We have a volunteer dormitory, separate from where the children sleep, with bunk beds, mattresses, pillows, and bedding.

Bathrooms/Showers: There are multiple bathrooms with flush-toilets, running water, and showers.

Food/Water: Meals are eaten family style, with the children and staff, in our cafeteria. Bottled water is provided.

Electricity: There is electricity with standard U.S.-style outlets.

Communication: There is cell phone reception.

Do I need to speak Spanish?

You do not need to speak Spanish in order to have a meaningful and life-changing experience at the Simply Smiles Home for Children in Oaxaca, Mexico. Very few of our volunteers speak any Spanish.

Bilingual Simply Smiles staff members will be with you 24 hours a day. But you will be happy to find that your presence, your hard work, and your empathy will transcend any language barrier that may exist.

Is there an age minimum for volunteering? Age maximum?

Because of the physical and emotional demands of this experience, the age requirements for minors to participate in a Simply Smiles service trip experience in Mexico are as follows:

  • Ages 10-14 (by arrival date) only when accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

  • Ages 15-17 (by arrival date) as part of a contracted volunteer team.

Volunteers traveling independently must be at least 18 years old (by arrival date).

There is no maximum age, but our volunteers should be aware of the physical demands of the Simply Smiles service trip experience.

How much does the trip cost?

The total cost of a Simply Smiles service trip to Mexico varies depending on the price of airfare, your group's transportation to and from your local airport, and other potential expenses like team t-shirts. But the two main expenses are:

  1. Volunteer Expense: Each volunteer makes a $750 contribution to Simply Smiles in order to help cover the expenses associated with your time at the Simply Smiles Home for Children. Your volunteer fee covers: your lodging, your meals, building project materials, all program-related costs, your transportation while in Oaxaca, and 24/7 on-site staff support.

  2. Airfare: Airfare costs are determined by your departure city, of course, but as an example, roundtrip airfare from the New York City airports to Oaxaca, Mexico (airport code OAX) is generally in the $800 range.

How do we get there?

Service trip groups fly into the Oaxaca City Airport (airport code OAX).

The Simply Smiles staff will pick your team up at the airport and drive the quick 15 minutes to the Simply Smiles Home for Children.

How do I book a week-long Simply Smiles Service Trip?

 Volunteer Coordinator Jasmine Martier with the kids at the Simply Smiles Home for Children in Oaxaca, Mexico

Volunteer Coordinator Jasmine Martier with the kids at the Simply Smiles Home for Children in Oaxaca, Mexico

Booking a service trip with Simply Smiles is quick and easy. We require a simple contract and a $500 non-refundable deposit. When you are ready to book your trip:

  1. Confirm with Volunteer Coordinator Jasmine Martier that your desired time-frame is available.

  2. Jasmine will send you a link to the contract and deposit information.

  3. Once you have submitted both your contract and deposit your trip is booked and we’ll send you a login for your trip planning webpage.

If you are not ready to book, but would like to “pencil in” a week, please let Jasmine know and she’ll note you as an interested party for a week (or weeks) with no commitment on your part.

Are there references I can talk to?

Absolutely! We’ll start with the two listed below. But, if you like, we can provide you with a few hundred more. :)

Higher Education Reference:

Karreem Mebane

Kareem is the Director of Service Learning at Sacred Heart University, which hosts an annual service trip for undergraduate students to the Simply Smiles Home for Children.

mebanek@sacredheart.edu | 203-365-7622


Faith Group Reference:

Rev. Eleanor McCormick

Eleanor is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and leads an annual youth and adult service trip to the Simply Smiles Home for Children.

revelmccormick@gmail.com | 785-813-1639

I want to volunteer as an individual, but I don’t have a group. What are my options?

We host volunteer groups year-round in Mexico. Most of these groups come from institutions like universities and churches. However, very often, there is space for an individual volunteer like yourself to join one of these teams.

If you are interested in volunteering as an individual, please reach out to our Volunteer Coordinator Jasmine Martier.

interested in volunteering with Simply smiles? start your journey.

Volunteer Coordinator Jasmine Martier is at your disposal:

Give Jasmine a call at the Simply Smiles office: 203-810-4041

LiveChat with us! Chat with us, Monday through Friday, 9AM to 5PM EST, by clicking the chat window in the bottom right-hand corner of this page.

Click to download & review our Mexico Volunteer Handbook

volunteer in MEXICO | available dates:

We host groups at the Simply Smiles Home for Children year-round.

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blog posts from our mexico volunteer groups

Read on-the-ground insights from Simply Smiles volunteers and staff:

Groups who have recently volunteered with Simply Smiles:

Ann Arbor Congregational Church, MI

Chadwick School, CA

Chester Congregational Church, CT

Choate Rosemary Hall, CT

Deerfield Academy, MA

Fairfield First Congregational Church, CT

Fairfield University, CT

Farmington Valley Association of the United Church of Christ, CT

Guilford Congregational Church, VT

Middlebury Vermont Congregational Church

Millbrook Academy, NY

Mohegan Tribe, CT

Monroe Congregational Church

Morgan School, CT

Palmer Trinity School, FL

Plymouth Congregational Church, KS

Regis College, MA

Rotary Club of Guilford Vermont

Round Hill Community Church, CT

Rowayton Congregational Church, CT

Roxbury Congregational Church, CT

Sacred Heart University, CT

Saint Mary’s College, IN

Silver Lake Youth Camp

Sisters for Peace, MA

St. Michael’s College, M.O.V.E., VT

Stamford Congregational Church, CT

Trinity School, NYC

University of Wisconsin Steven’s Point

Wapping Congregational Church, CT

Woodmont Congregational Church

Zen Peace Makers

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as featured in:

more frequently asked questions

Who will our volunteer group be helping?

Volunteers participating in a Simply Smiles service trip to Oaxaca, Mexico will be helping the children who live at the Simply Smiles Home for Children in meaningful and life-changing ways.

Volunteers are a vital part of how we provide bright futures for the children in our care. We need you!

How long is a Simply Smiles Service Trip Experience?

Group service trips to the Simply Smiles Home for Children are week-long experiences. Your team will arrive on Saturday and depart the following Saturday.

What should I expect to see and experience in Oaxaca?

Oaxaca is one of the most impoverished states in Mexico. You are traveling to serve children who have nowhere else to live other than at the Simply Smiles Home for Children. Some of the sights you will see and the stories you will hear may be difficult to accept, understand, process, and respond to. However, the Simply Smiles staff will be with you 24/7 to help you to process your experience and help you to maximize your positive impact.

Oaxaca is also a bright and colorful place, full of great natural and cultural beauty. The historic city center and the Monte Albán ruins are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. While in Oaxaca, we will travel, as a group, outside of the children’s home to see some of what Oaxaca has to offer -- and often times the kids will go with us for a group field trip!

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Will Simply Smiles staff members be with our group the whole time?

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Absolutely!

The Simply Smiles staff will pick your group up at the Oaxaca City Airport upon your arrival, live and work with your group 24/7 during your service trip, and bring you back to the Oaxaca airport at the end of the experience.

The Simply Smiles staff is dedicated to ensuring that your group has an informed, meaningful, and safe experience.

There will be bilingual staffers with you at all times. The Simply Smiles staff is also trained and certified in basic First Aid, CPR, and Mental Health First Aid.

What is the minimum number of participants to constitute a group? The maximum?

The maximum number of volunteers we can host in one week is 12. If your group expects to have fewer than 12 participants, that’s not a problem at all! Simply Smiles will recruit additional participants for your week. (Don’t worry; we’ll put you in communication with one another before your trip!) And if your group is larger than 12, don't be discouraged. Reach out to us and we will do our best to work with you.

How far in advance should I book my group’s trip?

It is best to book as far in advance as you can to secure a spot with us. Our Volunteer Coordinator, Jasmine Martier, will work with you to find a week that works for you. Click here to jump see available dates.

There is no commitment to “pencilling in” a week with us, so don’t hesitate to reach out and start planning your service trip!

I need to have the trip approved. Are there resources I can present?

We have compiled a few resources below that you can download, print, and share:

  Two-Sheet Trip Overview

Two-Sheet Trip Overview

  2019 Mexico Volunteer Handbook

2019 Mexico Volunteer Handbook

  Mexico Volunteer Intro Booklet

Mexico Volunteer Intro Booklet

Simply Smiles is also more than happy to visit your group (in person or over video conference) to share an overview presentation and do a Q&A. Anything we can do to help get your trip approved, just let us know. We are at your disposal.

I noticed that Simply Smiles is not affiliated with a religion or religious order. Why is this? Will going with my church group affect my experience?

Simply Smiles is not affiliated with any one religion, faith, or denomination. This is so that we can be approachable and effective with every person in need and so that we can partner with every type of group.

With this said, more than half of our volunteer groups are from faith groups. But we have a strict policy forbidding evangelizing or proselytizing in any manner (this includes "vacation Bible schools".) We believe that the most powerful way to share the universal tenants of your individual faith or beliefs is to live a life of example and good works. Doing so will have a powerfully positive impact on everyone for whom you are traveling to support.

We know that this is a complicated subject that can be a sensitive. If you have any questions, we encourage you to contact us at any time.

How is this service trip not “voluntourism”?

Simply Smiles is committed to working in concert with the indigenous communities at our program locations in Oaxaca, Mexico and on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota.

We have formed successful working partnerships with these communities that are built on mutual respect and trust. Together, we are working toward a defined and common goal. Visiting volunteers are included in this partnership and are vital to this pursuit.

The Simply Smiles volunteer experience is crafted so that you are offering help that is desired, needed, and that can’t easily be offered by the local population.

During your service trip experience, you will not be a tourist, an onlooker, or a passerby. You will be fully immersed in the culture, in the work of Simply Smiles, in the lives of our partners, and in the vital process of helping to provide the bright futures that every child deserves.

start your journey.

Volunteer Coordinator Jasmine Martier is at your disposal

Give Jasmine a call at the Simply Smiles office: 203-810-4041

LiveChat with us! Chat with us, Monday through Friday, 9AM to 5PM EST, by clicking the chat window in the bottom right-hand corner of this page.

Click to download & review our Mexico Volunteer Handbook