Chile's English Opens Doors Volunteer Program

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture



Language learning is one of the most important skills we have, to increase intercultural understanding and a global worldview. One such language learning program, sponsored by the Chilean government, is the National Volunteer Center Chile's English Opens Doors Program. I am so impressed with this Volunteer Program, and wanted to share it with our Wandering Educators. I contacted the English Opens Doors Program and asked for more information. Little did I know that we'd be featuring such an impressive language learning and volunteer ESL program!


"Realizing the significance of the ability to communicate in English in a globalizing world, the Chilean Ministry of Education took the initiative in 2003 to establish the English Opens Doors (EOD) Program, an innovative program devoted to improving English teaching and learning in public schools throughout Chile."  - National Volunteer Center, Chile.


We were lucky enough to sit down and chat with Eliana del Rosario Chamizo Alvarez, Program Coordinator at the National Volunteer Center Chile, and the English Opens Doors Volunteer Program.  Here's what she had to say...


WE: Please tell us about the National Volunteer Center Chile and the English Opens Doors Volunteer Program...

EOD: The National Volunteer program is an initiative hosted at the Ministry of Education in Chile with the support from the United Nations Development Program, UNDP.

The goal is to provide support for Chilean English teachers at their work with students in schools. The idea is to reinforce the use of oral English in class and also in the preparation of extra curricular activities like Public Speaking competition and English Debate tournament, organized by the Ministry of Education, where volunteers have a very significant role.

Given the importance the program and the national scope it has, since 2006 it holds the category of a presidential initiative, with special budget and very good perspectives of expansion throughout the year.

The program’s staff works hard in locating volunteers in primary or secondary schools where they be most useful, this is to say, where there is a motivated English teacher who will work along with them, who will incorporate him/her to different initiatives and will make the volunteer feel comfortable at the school.


WE: What was the genesis of the program?

EOD: The National Volunteer Center started as a pilot program in Antofagasta region; this is in the north of the country in a mining city. There a group of 12 recently university graduated students worked with schools in the city of Antofagasta providing help directly to English teachers and organized activities with the students, so they could get motivated with learning more English.

What started as a local initiative has evolved into a national one and also new types of volunteerism have emerged, like part time volunteers for English-speaking students who are here for an exchange semester with a Chilean university. Also new elements have been added to the program like the Spanish course online with follow-up from the Ministry.

English Opens Doors ESL VOlunteer Program 

English Opens Doors Program


WE: How many people volunteer, each year? What is the application, training, and placement process?

EOD: In 2004 there were 15 volunteers in the country, in 2005 the number increased to 106; in 2006, 218; 470 for 2007 and in 2008, 600 volunteers.

This means every year there is a special effort in bringing more volunteers to Chile and allocating them where they are most needed.



WE:  Can you please share more details about the experiences of your volunteers?

EOD: In general all the volunteers who come to our country leave with a very strong feeling and belief they have made a significant contribution to Chile’s future and education.

The personal experience is very rewarding and a significant group wants to come back to keep working on the program. Also, some of them are now part of the staff at the program, enriching the work with thir own experience.



English Opens Doors ESL VOlunteer Program 

English Opens Doors Program


WE:  Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

EOD: For a young and developing country like Chile, it is of great importance to bring globalization and “add a face to it” into our national boundaries. Our students need to understand through human beings how others think, what their backgrounds are and realize how English can make this process of communication possible. So this is an invitation to contribute to Chile’s prosperity and educational future. More than professional qualifications we people with enthusiasm, energy and professional motivation to work in different and also challenging environment.



WE: Thanks so much, Eliana! This seems to be an incredibly rewarding experience for all involved.