South America Connections began finding placements volunteers in 2001, in response to specific requests for social service opportunities in Chile. Our first placements were in a children’s home in Santiago; over the years we have expanded well beyond the capital city to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, and south into Patagonia.

SAC only places volunteers in organizations that we know well. We’ve visited many times with the people you’ll be working with, and we’ve worked with them to design a placement that is rewarding for both the volunteer and the institution that receives them. This is important because sometimes, organizations say they would like volunteer assistance, but aren’t really prepared to provide the support and supervision that you need, especially at the start of your placement. Of the many possible placements that we research each year, we are rigorous in offering only those which that can offer you a positive experience.

As a Chile-based organization working closely with those who receive our volunteers, it matters to us that our volunteers do a good job and live up to their commitments. Your performance as a volunteer reflects not only on you, but on SAC and on future volunteers as well. We encourage you to ask questions before confirmation of your placement, to be sure it is the right one for you.

The South America Connections Team

Samantha Sparks
Samantha (born 1963) founded South America Connections shortly after moving to Chile in 2000, in response to requests for worthwhile volunteer placements from several U.S. students taking ‘gap year’ time away from their studies. She is SAC’s director. With an English mother and North American father, Samantha now has her own bi-national family (two young boys), with Lionel Mancilla, a Chilean. Samantha believes strongly in the value of travel and immersion in foreign cultures; these have been defining influences in her own life. An African Studies/History major from Yale University and with a Masters in Social Science from Stockholm University, she has lived for varying periods in France, Sweden, Kenya, Mexico, England, the United States and Chile, and has travelled to many other countries around the world. She is fluent in Spanish.

Lionel Mancilla
Lionel (born 1964) is SAC’s advisor.
Born and raised in Valparaiso/Viña del Mar, Lionel has an engineering degree from the Santa Maria university in Valparaiso and a Master’s degree in Economics from the University of North Texas. He has lived in the United States and is fluent in English. Before moving to southern Chile, Lionel worked for several years in Santiago. Lionel’s intimate knowledge of Chile, and his extensive network of personal and professional contacts throughout the country, are a valuable asset to South America Connections.

Our Commitment
We are committed to creating a valuable, enriching experience for every individual.

Contact SamConnects:, phone (56) 64 23 22 30, mobile (56) 99 04 03 564