Volunteering in Guatemala was a great choice. Although my trip involved some class work, I am glad I was able to accomplish two goals. First, I was able to travel and meet some amazing people doing amazing things to help those in need. Second, I was able to complete the project that was the last milestone for completing my Master’s degree.
Questions I get asked about the trip:
1. Would you chose IVHQ again? Absolutely, the IVHQ has a partnership with Maximo Nivel, the organization I served with while in Antigua Guatemala. They were efficient and organized. However, you can find your other volunteer opportunities on your own.
2. How was it traveling alone? Intimidating at first, but a must!!! I do not mind traveling alone. I met people from all over the world. As a female though, I did worry a bit about safety. It was my experience that using common sense for safety is important –no late nights at bars alone, awareness of surroundings etc. and everything else was fine. Try not to be so afraid you don’t enjoy yourself. Have fun just be smart!!
3. Where did you stay? I was placed in a home-stay with a lovely family (Father/Mother/Young Son). There were several other female volunteers staying in the house with the family as well. Theses ladies and I traveled together, went out together, and volunteered together. Although I traveled alone, I was rarely ever alone. I usually choose hotels for the amenities and comfort but I am glad I tried something new.
4. How was it not being fluent in Spanish? Well, I am far from fluent but I did enroll in the Spanish language classes offered by Maximo-Nivel. It was like stepping back in Spanish classes taken in middle or high school. It was nice to learn the basics again but not very helpful for client interactions at my volunteer placement. I used the internet for other translation needs. I plan to continue working on my Spanish skills but if I could change anything, it would be my ability to communicate better with the clients at the clinic where I volunteered.
5. What did you do? I volunteered at an elderly clinic and through other chance meetings at my home-stay, I got the opportunity to volunteer with BuildinGuate.
Both are great organizations with people who truly care about their goals to help the people in need. I highly recommend everyone to check out the work that BuildinGuate is doing, I was touched and inspired by the group that serves the needy families living at the dump. If you are in Guatemala please look them up; if you are elsewhere in the world inform others and/or donate to an amazing LEGIT cause.
When choosing to volunteer abroad, consideration was given to organizations that offer fair costs, reliability, computer labs and programs that requires health/travel insurance and background checks.
I would choose IVHQ again for other programs in other countries. My experience with Maximo Nivel in Guatemala was safe and positive.
My host family was welcoming and provided home cooked meals!! Guatemalan Food!!
On the weekends there are opportunities to go on short excursions. A trip to Pacaya Volcano is definitely worth the early morning wake up. It’s likes walking along the clouds on the way down. Don’t forget your flashlight!!
I loved the service and the adventure!
If you are thinking of volunteering abroad, ‘Just Do It’