Volunteer opportunities: summer

For several years, No More Deaths has conducted a volunteer program during the hottest and deadliest times of the year. Groups and individuals participating in this program will be providing direct aid in the US–Mexico borderlands, where people migrating continue to unnecessarily suffer and die in staggering numbers. We will mobilize as humanitarian-aid and human-rights workers in the Arizona desert to challenge lethal and cruel policies that systematically place migrants on the receiving end of violence.

Here are the steps for applying to the program:

1. Review all the program information.

  • Project placements
  • Schedule
  • Cost
  • Groups and group discounts
  • Fundraising
  • Fee reductions
  • Eligibility
  • Safety
  • Legality
  • Transportation
  • What to bring

2. Submit the online application and $50 deposit by the appropriate deadline.

Project placements

Desert Aid
No More Deaths has an ongoing humanitarian presence in the desert migration corridor south of Tucson, utilizing both a fixed base camp and intermittent mobile camps. Our efforts are concentrated in an area 5–20 miles from the international border, and focus on upholding the most fundamental human right—life itself—by providing basic humanitarian assistance to those in need. Desert Aid volunteers will participate in a variety of activities including providing water, food, and medical attention to migrants crossing the Arizona–Mexico border. One method of providing aid involves hiking gallons of water through miles of desert terrain. Because of the extreme conditions, volunteers participating in the desert aid program should be comfortable with camping, extreme heat, strenuous physical activity, high-stress situations, and flexible/irregular daily schedules.

Desert Aid volunteers are expected to:

  • Commit to first, and above all, service.
  • Provide your own transportation around town. If you are coming to NMD as part of a group you are also responsible for providing transportation out to the desert. This transportation must be 4-wheel-drive.
  • Follow our protocols and the principles of Civil Initiative.
  • Attend the training and the “taking it home” activities.
  • Provide your own outdoor gear for volunteering in the desert (packing list will be provided).

Agua Prieta Migrant Resource Center (MRC)
The MRC is located on the Mexican side of the Douglas–Agua Prieta border, immediately after the Immigration and Customs building. The MRC serves repatriated migrants and migrants in transit with humanitarian aid, orientations of the city’s services and options, and abuse documentation. Migrants repatriated to Agua Prieta have recently suffered a traumatic experience of crossing the desert, being detained by the Border Patrol, and deported. The vital services we provide help migrants get back on their feet and return home (if they desire). Tasks and volunteer activities include: greeting newly arrived migrants and explaining the MRC and its services, preparing and giving out burritos and coffee, helping migrants make phone calls, conducting abuse documentation interviews, filing missing persons reports with the Mexican Consulate, organizing clothing and hygiene packets, sweeping/mopping, and other general activities.

As of April 2012 the MRC is serving an average of 30–50 people a day and the busiest days have seen almost 200 people. No matter how many people we serve, we hope to offer as much as we can with the resources we have, which includes our volunteers’ time. MRC volunteers will be placed with other volunteers, and the coordinators are just a phone call away.

The MRC is a binational project of Frontera de Cristo, a Presbyterian border ministry; the Catholic parish Sagrada Familia; No More Deaths; and volunteers from both sides of the border. Though many of the organizations and volunteers supporting the MRC do so out of religious conviction, there is no requirement that any volunteer hold any creed, and we render service without regard to the beliefs of migrants and without evangelizing. Housing will be provided by Frontera de Cristo or volunteers can choose to stay with a Mexican host family for $25 per week. The organization will also provide volunteers with a bicycle for transportation within Agua Prieta and Douglas.

Agua Prieta volunteers are expected to:

  • Speak at least a beginner’s level of Spanish.
  • Be willing to make mistakes, and learn!
  • Be willing to spend a good deal of your time at the Center, though we’ll try to get you out to see the “sights” of Douglas–Agua Prieta (such as they are).
  • Take the opportunity to meet new people, and be willing to be flexible and work through difficulties and misunderstandings.
  • Attend the training and the “taking it home” activities.
  • Provide your own transportation (personal vehicle, rental car, or public transportation from Tucson to Agua Prieta).


Summer programming begins at 5 p.m. on the first Friday of each session and ends on the following Friday at 10 p.m. Programming runs for 10 total sessions (20 total weeks) from June 6 to October 24. Sessions will run for two weeks, but volunteers will have the option of staying for just one week (session A). A detailed session calendar is below. We would like to encourage volunteers to stay for longer than two weeks because of the learning curve in desert aid work. Volunteer fees significantly decrease the longer one volunteers. One- to three-month commitments are encouraged.

Cost and deposit

Providing year-round humanitarian aid is a costly project. Volunteer fees help to offset that cost. Your contribution not only makes it possible for us to run a volunteer program, but also allows us to purchase water, food, medicine, first aid supplies, and socks for migrants.

The volunteer fee varies for new volunteers, returning volunteers, and groups.

New volunteer Returning volunteer Group discount
7 days total (session A)
$250 $200 (– $25)
14 days total (full session) $375 (additional $125) $300 (additional $100) (– $25)
21 days total (full session + 1 week) $425 (additional $50) $350 (additional $50) (– $25)
28 days total (full session + 2 weeks)
$425 (no additional fee) $350 (no additional fee) (– $25)

We do not ask for additional contributions from volunteers who choose to stay longer than four weeks because at that point volunteers are able to take on more of a leadership role.

A $50 deposit is required with your application. Your group’s applications will not be considered until all individuals within the group have sent in their deposit. The deposit will be applied toward the volunteer fee, and the balance is to be paid once you arrive in Tucson. The deposit represents your commitment to volunteer if accepted and placed. We need this commitment from you to ensure that we fill each volunteer slot and run volunteer programs at our full capacity. If we are unable to accept and place you, the deposit will be refunded to you in full. However, if you cancel after we have confirmed your volunteer placement, the $50 deposit will not be refunded.

The volunteer fee covers volunteer lodging, food, and training for all groups, and transportation for groups of four or fewer (see the Transportation section for additional requirements for groups of five or more).

We do not want to turn anyone away for lack of funds. The next three sections address how to meet the cost of volunteering.


Groups and group discounts

We strongly encourage potential desert aid volunteers to apply with others as part of a group. We find that volunteers participating in desert aid as part of a group from a single home community experience a number of advantages. First, groups are able to work collectively to prepare for their trip, including raising the necessary funds. Second, groups provide a natural and pre-existing network of support while participating in work that is extremely challenging, physically and emotionally, and help ease the often difficult transition back to volunteers’ home communities. Finally, the existing affinity between members of groups and the shared analysis that may be developed while participating in desert aid provide a good starting place for taking next steps and organizing for migrant justice when volunteers return to their home communities.

For these reasons, we offer volunteers who apply as a group (of three or more people) a $25-per-person reduction in volunteer fees. If you intend to participate in desert aid, please consider applying as a group and contact us if you have any questions.


We encourage you to raise the volunteer fee through fundraising, using this as an opportunity for people in your community to learn about and support your time volunteering. Ideas for fundraising previously used by volunteers include spaghetti dinners, salsa dance nights, house parties, presentations to your church/school communities, letter-writing campaigns to friends and family, appealing to businesses for sponsorship, and more. We expect that you view your involvement with No More Deaths beyond your arrival in and departure from Tucson; committing to our mission without physically being on the border is an essential part of awareness-raising and movement-building. Hopefully you will view your volunteer experience with No More Deaths as a short but intense part of what you hope to accomplish, instead of viewing it as the goal itself.

Fee reductions

We do not want the volunteer fee to prevent an otherwise willing volunteer from applying. Therefore, we offer the possibility of a fee reduction for volunteers that cannot meet the full costs of NMD programming. If you would like to be considered for a fee reduction and/or a reduction of the deposit, please email the volunteer coordinator.



We invite people of conscience everywhere to join in this effort. Participation requires no special skills or background—though we’ll use them if you have them!—only a commitment to putting one’s beliefs into practice. If you are willing and able to tolerate a degree of emotional intensity, stress, and physical discomfort for the sake of something you believe in, and physically able to work hard under the hot sun, we urge you to join us this summer.


Volunteering with No More Deaths is not risk-free. The places around the world where humanitarian-aid work is done are typically unsafe or at least uncomfortable places. The Arizona–Sonora border region is no exception. The dangers this region poses to humanitarian-aid workers are relatively minor in comparison to other global trouble spots. They are also minuscule compared to the dangers that people in migration face. Still, they are very real. The border region is an increasingly lawless and increasingly militarized zone—a paradox familiar in other parts of the world as well.

Our work can be very stressful. We meet people who have suffered and are suffering greatly, and the potential for secondary trauma is high. We ask that you carefully consider your mental and physical capacity to work in this environment before you apply to join us. It is of great importance that we be able to focus all our efforts on providing direct assistance to those in need.


We are very clear about the legal parameters of our work in the desert, and cover them extensively in training. We do not do anything illegal. Unfortunately, this does not mean we are immune from legal threats and challenges. You should carefully consider your willingness to accept the legal risk. Individuals in more vulnerable legal situations to begin with—non-U.S. citizens, for example—need to weigh this particularly carefully.


No More Deaths will provide transportation for volunteers to and from the airport as well as to and from the desert. For more information on this or to schedule a pickup, please contact the Logistics Coordinator. Due to our limited number of vehicles, volunteer groups of five or more people, who plan to participate in desert aid, are expected to provide their own transportation out to the desert camp (and it must be four-wheel-drive). No More Deaths will not provide transportation for volunteers around Tucson. However, there is public transportation as well as opportunities to rent bicycles from our local bike collective, BICAS (Bicycle Inter-Community Art and Salvage).

Agua Prieta volunteers are expected to provide their own transportation from Tucson to Agua Prieta. Agua Prieta volunteers will need to use a personal vehicle, rent a car, or reserve space on the shuttle service to Douglas. More information on rental packages will be provided in your pre-arrival package. However, this is a cost that should be figured into your fundraising activities.

What to bring

A packing list will be included in pre-arrival information. Housing (floor space in a donated building) will be provided during your stay in Tucson. All volunteers should come with their own bedding (i.e., sleeping bag and ground pad). Desert aid volunteers will be sleeping outdoors in a camping-type environment: there is no housing or bedding provided. If you want to sleep in a tent (as opposed to under the stars), you will need to bring one. Agua Prieta volunteers will have housing provided.

Session deadlines

An application is required to participate in NMD’s summer volunteer program. Each session has an application deadline, and you need to submit both the application and the deposit by this deadline.

Begin End Application deadline Expect to receive confirmation of volunteer placement by
Session 1 June 6 June 20 April 25
May 2
Session 1A June 6 June 13
Session 2 June 20 July 4 May 9 May 16
Session 2A June 20 June 27
Session 3 July 4 July 18 May 23 May 30
Session 3A July 4 July 11
Session 4 July 18 August 1 June 6 June 13
Session 4A July 18 July 25
Session 5 August 1 August 15 June 20 June 27
Session 5A August 1 August 8
Session 6 August 15 August 29 July 4 July 11
Session 6A August 15 August 22
Session 7 August 29 September 12 July 18 July 25
Session 7A August 29 September 5
Session 8 September 12 September 26 August 1
August 8
Session 8A September 12 September 19
Session 9 September 26 October 10 August 15 August 22
Session 9A September 26 October 3
Session 10 October 10 October 24 August 29 September 5
Session 10A October 10 October 17

Submit application and deposit

Each applicant should fill out the application.

It is best to submit the deposit online to avoid delays. Please visit our donation page and submit $50. Please designate your payment for “My participation in the volunteer program,” and if donor and volunteer are not the same person, dedicate the payment in the volunteer’s name.

Should you want to pay by check, please make the check out to “UUCT–No More Deaths.” It is very important that you include in the memo “Deposit—ASB” and your name. Then mail the check to the following address:

No More Deaths
ATTN: Julia Kirk
P.O. Box 40782
Tucson, AZ 85717

What happens next

After you submit your application and deposit, you will receive a confirmation by the date given in the schedule.