The San Carlos Foundation provides minimal living expenses (currently $6000/year) to professional volunteers -- doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers, teachers, etc. -- who live in primitive conditions among the people they're working with and train them to take over their jobs when they leave. The Foundation has supported a total of 114 volunteers since 1984, including Ben Linder, the 27-year-old American engineer who was killed by the Contras in Nicaragua in 1987. Volunteers are carefully placed where they will do the most good. A volunteer must be professionally qualified, fluent in the appropriate language, and experienced in Third World work. Their San Carlos stipend should be their sole source of support for living expenses. They must also have secured a volunteer assignment of at least one year's duration. San Carlos is run by an unsalaried board of directors; it has no paid staff. Administrative costs are minor, and they are absorbed by the board members, so 100% of all donated money goes to workers in the field.
San Carlos now has 23 volunteers in the field, working in Chiapas, Mexico; Brazil; Cuba; East Timor; Guatemala; Haiti; the Philippines; Nicaragua; and the United States. They include physicians, engineers, lawyers, community organizers, agronomists, and educators, among others. Their accomplishments are as varied as their backgrounds. To give just a few examples: Nancy McGirr, a volunteer from San Francisco, created Fotokids, a program that teaches children who live in a garbage dump in Guatemala to be professional photographers. Rebecca Leaf, a mechanical engineer from Winchester, MA, a volunteer since 1992 is building small hydroelectric plants, completing the work begun by the late Ben Linder with the Cua-Bocay Development Project in Nicaragua. Tara Burke, a lawyer from Pleasant Valley, NY, does human rights work in Guatemala City.