ISL has long-standing partnerships with universities across the United States and Canada.  In 2017 alone, ISL worked with over 30 universities and colleges to bring faculty and students on service-learning experiences in Latin America, the Caribbean, and East Africa.

Our Mission

To support cultural awareness, service-based learning, and sustainable development projects through experiential and responsible volunteer travel programs that inspire lives of local and global service.

Who We Are

ISL is an international educational non-governmental organization (NGO). Since 1994, we have offered medical, educational, and community enrichment volunteer programs to high school and university students, post-graduates and professionals from hundreds of institutions, both nationally and internationally.

Who We Serve

ISL sends service groups to provide medical, dental, optometry, physical therapy, public health, well-child, veterinary, education, and community enrichment assistance in Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Africa. We offer our services in remote areas or to populations needing assistance as directed by local governments and local professionals.

ISL also provides free medicine, eyewear, and dental and medical supplies, and employs hundreds of local people in the countries in which we serve.

What ISL offers:

  • A customizable experiential learning experience
  • Year-round availability
  • Eleven service locations
  • The guidance of local, licensed professionals
  • Relationships with local ministries and universities
  • Sustainable programming
  • 25 years of experience

Capacity Building, Safety, and Best Practices

Over the past two decades, ISL has refined a system for delivering responsible care for populations in developing communities. In each of our service locations, ISL operates as the hands of local ministries of health, reaching out to communities they are unable to assist due to resource limitations. In addition to serving vulnerable citizens, ISL is often the sole health care provider for immigrants with no access to their host country’s health services.

In the clinical setting, no patient interaction takes place until the patient has signed a consent form. Diagnoses are made and treatment and prescriptions are given only by the local physicians who supervise every clinical activity in which our volunteers are involved. Each health care professional employed by ISL is fully licensed.

All services we provide must be in the best interests of our partner communities, not only immediately, but long term.

ISL has an excellent reputation for safety. We work in areas where our staff and their families live and work. We avoid politically unstable areas and interview and train each member of our staff. We do not work with strangers. Our drivers, cooks, and guides are all part of our ISL network. We ensure that our transportation companies have a good record, reliable equipment, and carry insurance.

ISL prohibits discrimination on the basis of color, national origin, disability, sex, gender identity, religion or any other factor.

Volunteer Safety

For the sake of security, ISL volunteers remain together as a group from arrival to departure, and are accompanied by ISL staff at all times.

The safety of our volunteers is our number one priority. ISL has offices in all of the countries that we serve. That means wherever you go, rest assured, we’re there too. All ISL regional staff members are thoroughly screened to ensure the safety of your groups local interactions and we continuously monitor and address all emerging health and safety issues in each of the countries we operate.

Specific precautions taken by ISL:

  • ISL groups avoid large, crowded areas like sporting events whenever possible.
  • We continuously monitor local media and information sources in each of our countries through our on-site staff, and take appropriate actions to avoid areas of concern.
  • Our on-site staff provide feedback on the local situation in each community we work, and if recommendations are made to change itineraries or programming, we do so immediately.
  • Our management team relies on the advice of a number of organizations including the U.S. State Department, the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control, the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, as well as an international safety and security organization. If conditions exist that may hinder our ability to provide a safe program, we will alter the itinerary and redirect the program to safer regions or provide other alternatives.

Professional Staff

All of our ISL staff members are trained professionals. Our team leaders come from different professional backgrounds as medical doctors, researchers, Ministry of Health officials, teachers, members of the clergy, engineers, economists, business executives, and tour guides.

All program leaders undergo extensive training. They begin by working as bilingual assistants and assistant team leaders before becoming team leaders.

ISL hires licensed doctors from certified universities in the countries we serve. Our medical staff is composed of general practitioners, pediatric surgeons, and specialists in various fields such as dentistry, veterinary science, physical therapy, and optometry.

Our doctors are gifted teachers with strong clinical backgrounds. They have a passion for service and expertise in tropical medicine and field clinical work.

Faculty & University Partners:

How to Integrate ISL Programs into your Coursework

ISL provides service learning programs that offer real world exposure and combine experiential education and cultural exploration with relevant community service. Here are some suggestions for incorporating ISL programs into your curriculum:

  • Use an ISL program as one of the choices for community courses, which will add an international option.
  • Include juniors, seniors, and graduate students, and set up separate international clinical courses to include both clinical and didactic hours. Junior students can receive clinical credit within their class; senior students receive clinical credit to be used in their final clinical course; graduate students receive clinical hours toward their field of study.
  • Combine a program with other schools in your region. This allows for pre-departure meetings for group cohesion and review of course work prior to the trip.
  • Choose a specific course with established credits, pre-requisites, and co-requisites. Develop the course description, in-country expectations, and student activities in accordance with the university’s study abroad requirements and standards. Set the course objectives as well as clinical objectives and expectations.

ISL will work with you to develop a program that will achieve your goals and expectations.

Healthcare-related possibilities:

  • Global Health – multi-disciplinary – Available in all ISL destinations
  • Continuing Education for Registered Nurses – Available in all ISL destinations
  • Dental – Panama, Baja, Mexico
  • Chiropractic – Costa Rica
  • Physical Therapy – Available in Costa Rica, Belize, Panama, Baja, Mexico, Tanzania
  • Optometry – Costa Rica & Panama
  • Veterinary – Panama & Baja, Mexico

“Design Your Own” Global Program – Non-Health-Related Possibilities

ISL would value the opportunity to partner with your school or organization to customize a service learning project that meets your cultural/learning objectives. Our staff will work closely with you to help you make the best choices for your group.

Possibilities include photojournalism, ESL tutoring, literacy projects, community enrichment projects, environmental and sustainability projects, social justice, creative and performing arts, special education, Spanish language, and more.

Creating Your ISL Program Blueprint – For All Program Types

As an ISL Integrative Programs partner, we do the logistical work for you! Just tell us who, what, when, and where. There are four steps to the completion of your program blueprint:

Step One — Decide on program type and primary objective

Things to consider:

  • Do you plan to integrate this experience with an existing course?
  • Will this be an annual program?
  • Will this program be available to students from other institutions?
  • Will the university be assisting students/ faculty financially?
  • What level of students should participate?
  • Will faculty be part of the program or will it be for students only?
  • What will the size of the team be?

Step Two — Choose dates and destination(s)

ISL maintains staff in 11 locations and has scheduling flexibility.


The following country combinations are also available: Costa Rica/Nicaragua or Costa Rica/Panama.

Step Three — Develop the schedule

Make a list of key events:

  • Arrival
  • Orientation
  • Training seminars
  • Service projects
  • Community sharing
  • Evening reflection/entertainment
  • Recreation
  • Departure

Consider the following:

  • Destination(s)
  • Time of year
  • Program type
  • Program length
  • Program group size
  • Number of faculty accompanying the group
  • Student education/skill level
  • Special requirements of the course or class
  • Experience/goals desired
  • Community preferences (rural, remote, indigenous, urban)
  • Recreation preferences
  • Other special preferences (meals, tours, daily schedule, supplies, donations, etc.).

Step Four — Program Agreement and Deposit

Once the initial program details have been determined, ISL will submit a Program Agreement for your signature. This agreement will include basic program details, release of liability, and program duplication prohibition.

Contact us about creating an ISL/University Partnership.