You are about to discover a new culture, accomplish something unforgettable, and explore what Guatemala has to offer!
Volunteer in the ancient land of the Mayan civilization in a variety of quality projects. Work with endangered turtles or neglected animals, participate in conservation efforts on a beautiful lake, work alongside locals in a coffee cooperative project or care for children or the elderly. Programs are based in and around the beautiful city of Antigua.
I truly fell in love with that place. It was terribly hard to say goodbye. Hopefully I will see them soon again. Guatemala is a beautiful country with such kind people. I overall had a phenomenal experience.
Corinne | Guatemala Volunteer
Programs were modified and or revised constantly to ensure volunteers and most importantly the schools, clinics etc were happy and benefiting. This meant that volunteers got a genuine experience full of challenges but with the comfort of experience and understanding.
Nicole | Guatemala Volunteer
Just Choose a Project and Apply!
You have a unique opportunity to learn a different way of living in a new culture, and to experience the traditional Guatemalan diet. Accommodation in a homestay has been selected to ensure volunteer well-being and comfort, to maintain safety and security, and to give an insight into life in Guatemala.
Childcare and Orphanages
Are you driven to help the world's most vulnerable citizens? Do you love kids and want to help them thrive? In the Childcare and Orphanage Project volunteers assist the children with basic hygiene education, homework, organising games and activities, organising workshops and provide the children with love and attention. There are many different childcare placements available in Guatemala, including day care centres, school and orphanages, and many of the children suffer from poor domestic lifestyles and substance abuse in their families.
Christmas and New Year
Do you love the spirit of Xmas? Want share the joy with communities in need? The Christmas and New Year projects are specifically designed for volunteers who would like to travel to Guatemala during the Christmas/New Year break to be part of a very special holiday both for volunteers and the communities of Antigua. This week-long tour will offer a range of activities and while the Xmas project starting on December 22 will offer activities at a childcare centre, a home for the elderly and even on a coffee farm. The New Year tour, starting Dec 29th will have opportunities to work at a childcare centre and a home for the elderly. If you would like to participate in both programs, please apply for two weeks with a December 22nd start date.
Did you know you have a great wealth which if you share you lose nothing? In the Teaching English Project, volunteers will be assisting teachers in educating local students in English. Volunteers will assist with workshops, organising educational games and activities and tutoring. Volunteers may also participate in fundraising and the collection of educational materials, and will be placed in either poor public schools, community centres or libraries.
Are you passionate about wildlife conservation? Keen to help in the preservation of these iconic animals and their habitats? Then join our partner and help to preserve endangered turtle species and other wildlife along the gorgeous Pacific coastline of Guatemala. The species' populations are in sharp decline due to over harvesting of eggs, beach development, fishing, pollution, and poaching for meat and leather. The program gives you the chance to make an important contribution to the preservation of these species, assisting local communities who carry out conservation work and gaining first-hand knowledge of Guatemala's biodiversity and culture. Please note, the turtle season is from June - November, but that the project is open year round, as there is a lot to do.
Are you handy with a hammer? Proficient with a paint brush? Savvy with a saw? At our Construction Projects volunteers assist with the construction and/or renovation of schools and orphanages and the surrounding grounds. Volunteers will typically be involved with laying bricks, carpentry, painting, laying tiles, landscaping and gardening. The building projects are to help the community improve their schools and orphanages. Be prepared to be patient and flexible, and to get your hands and clothes very dirty.
Are you a Spanish speaking doctor, nurse or med student? We need volunteers to work at either one of the rural clinics surrounding La Antigua, or in clinics for mentally and physically disabled children. There are roles for licensed professionals, medical students and pre-med students, however volunteers require at least intermediate Spanish as the staff they will work with have limited English. Volunteers should be aware that the range of activities available to them will depend on their experience as well. Notarized documentation of your medical school, nursing school, or other medical credentials will be required.
Are you a coffee fiend? A java junkie? In the Coffee Cooperative Project, volunteers will assist with the sustainable production of coffee in a coffee-farming community in the Guatemalan highlands. Volunteers may be involved with coffee-picking in the fields, roasting the beans and packaging the final product, alongside wider agricultural activities, such as helping in the nursery. As well as various agricultural activities, volunteers will also be involved in marketing of the coffee product to the wider market and with support of the community by helping in reforestation and possible construction projects.
Healthcare (working with the elderly)
Are you the compassionate type? Are you kind and patient and comforting? Volunteers are needed to work in the nursing homes and senior centres in and around La Antigua, with the aim of creating a compassionate and friendly atmosphere for the vulnerable elderly population. Volunteers will provide one-on-one attention, basic healthcare, assist with meal and medicine distribution and organising recreational activities. Volunteers are encouraged to bring their own ideas to this placement as well.
Lake Clean Up and Conservation
Are you committed to conservation issues? Want to help build a cleaner, greener future? In the Lake Clean Up and Conservation program, volunteers will assist to preserve the lake's natural resources by raising awareness and educating the population on the proper use of the lake and its basin. The three main areas that volunteers will be involved in are environmental education, natural resources management and environmental cleanup.
Animal Care and Animal Rights
Are you passionate about animal rights? Want to help make life better for neglected animals? Volunteers in this program assist in the protection of domestic animals such as cats and dogs who do not enjoy the family status as their counterparts in the West. These animals are often neglected and abandoned, and volunteers will provide medical treatment, recreational activity and human contact for the animals. In addition, volunteers may have the opportunity to participate in educational programs for local schools, spay neuter programs, rabies vaccinations, and the construction of dog runs and fencing.
Our vision is to connect people with communities in need, with a particular focus on vulnerable women and children. We do this by supporting the work of local community organizations in countries through the placement of international volunteers.
We are excited to get your placement under way where you will:
Be a part of GVN's efforts to inspire learning, innovation and action to unlock the potential of vulnerable communities around the world. Work with exceptional grassroots projects in community development, conservation and wildlife, personal development, fundraising and physical challenges.
Have the 24/7 support of a non profit with 12 years experience in placing 19578 volunteers that will provide you with an affordable and rewarding placement.
Volunteer with a world-class organization which is recommended by Bill Gates and CNN.
Be a part of progressive non profit that has raised over $2 million to help women and children in need.
Have the comfort of knowing that GVN staff have collectively flown over 1 million miles to ensure you get a quality placement.
Make a long-term impact in your community of choice - it's not just a vacation.
How GVN works...
The first step is to fill out an application to see if we have a place for you. Then if your application is successful you will be accepted and we will then get to work organizing your placement.
GVN is a registered Charitable Trust, so volunteers finance themselves, or can fundraise online with our unique GVN platform, with US donors receiving tax receipts. The Program Package provides you with all that is listed below, along with personalized support from our expert staff and the knowledge that you'll be working with a reputable and registered charity with over 12 years experience in the field.
At the heart of our work is the communities our volunteers work to support - we ensure that these communities truly benefit from your time in Guatemala and that the Program Package fully supports you financially while you're volunteering.
The Program Package also includes a project donation, which supports the work the GVN Foundation does in addressing nutrition, education and healthcare needs, as well as supporting longer-term development approaches, including income generation activities and microfinance.
Your program package includes:
Personal support from your Program Specialist throughout the preparation process.
Your Program Guide, with all the details on Guatemala and your placement.
Fundraising strategies and access to our crowd funding platform where you can raise up to 100% of the cost your trip, with tax receipts for your US based donors.
Access to Your Own Online Journal: which helps you to communicate effectively and easily with your family and friends back home.
Opportunities for Preferred Pricing and Personalized Service when booking Airfares: through our travel partner GYT Flight Centre who go the extra mile to support GVN volunteers.
Accommodation: Home stay.
Meals: 3 meals daily. (In 2015 this will change to two meals, breakfast and dinner)
Project Donation: Included.
Airport pickup: On arrival date.
Training: In-country orientation and training.
Supervision: In-country staff supervision.
Support: Pre-departure personal support from your volunteer coordinator, 24/7 in-country support from partner, and 24hr emergency line.
Spanish lessons (one week), weekly Salsa lessons, internet usage at our partner's headquarters, a monthly volunteer party, and a certificate of completion from our partner organisation.
An opportunity to debrief and provide feedback
Free access to GVN Changemakers program which alerts you to future internship/job opportunities at GVN.
A Letter of Completion in Volunteer Service.
The opportunity to stay connected with your project.
Global advocacy and fundraising campaigns to continue your part of the movement for social change with an international non-profit that has granted over $2 million to our partner organizations.
The program package does not include: Flights, insurance, visas, vaccinations, project transportation, departure from the program.
We recommend you allow a weekly budget of US $25 for your other expenses such as bottled water, personal items, beverages, transportation, and entertainment.
Your Program Package
Calculate the price of your individualised program package. Details on longer placements may be available on request.
Select A Project
Then: Select A Length
Your Program Package
For those securing far enough in advance, there is a possible US$300 discount. Confirming your placement early on allows us and our partner communities the ability to plan in advance with confidence in terms of volunteer numbers and funding for the months ahead.
What kind of volunteer work is available?
Childcare - including orphanage, school and day-care centres
Teaching - including public schools, community centres and public libraries
Construction - renovating in schools in and around La Antigua
Healthcare - medical support in rural clinics or clinics for mentally and physically disabled children, as well as working with the elderly
Animal Care & Animal Rights - working with neglected and abandoned animals in La Antigua
Conservation - working on lake clean-up and restoration or with a turtle conservation program.
What hours am I expected to take part in the program?
The schedule for each project will vary, but most volunteers will work for 4 hours either in the morning or in the afternoon. Those working in the orphanages may find their busiest period is early in the morning, whereas those working in the clinics may be busiest in the afternoon for example.
What is the climate like in Guatemala?
The climate of Guatemala is broadly divided into 3 sections, reflecting the changes in altitude across the country.
Tropical coastal zone – includes the coastal areas and lowlands up to 1,000m altitude. The climate here is hot and humid throughout the year, with temperatures ranging from 20˚C (68˚F) to 37˚C (99˚F).
Temperate zone – Guatemala cools slightly as you reach heights up to 2,000m, in the more moderate climatic zone. Here temperatures, whilst still warm, rarely rise above 30˚C (85˚F), and can cool rapidly at night. La Antigua is situated in this climatic zone, and where volunteers will be based, along with the capital, Guatemala City.
Mountainous zone – This includes the areas of Guatemala above 2,000m. Whilst temperatures are frequently in their 20˚Cs during the day, temperatures drop sharply at night, and can go below freezing.
The rainy season (winter) lasts between May and October, and it usually only rains for a few hours a day during the afternoon during the rainy season. Guatemala enjoys a couple of dry weeks during July, to break up the winter. The dry season (summer) runs through the rest of the year, although there are some rainy periods interspersed.
Tell me more about Guatemala
Guatemala is one of the most bio-diverse and historically significant countries in Central America, and the country’s abundance of biologically unique ecosystems makes the entire region a biodiversity hotspot. The Classic period of Meso-American civilization corresponds to the height of Guatemala's Maya Civilization and is represented by countless sites throughout the country, and today "Guatemaltecos" are very proud of their indigenous cultures.
Guatemala has a predominantly mountainous landscape, with narrow coastal plains and limestone plateaus. There are several active volcanoes in the mountains, and Guatemala occasionally suffers from violent earthquakes. Whilst the Caribbean coast is particularly susceptible to hurricanes and tropical storms, Guatemala usually only suffers from increased rainfall rather than being directly hit by hurricanes.
Is there opportunity to take Spanish classes or participate in cultural activities whilst on the program?
All volunteers will receive two hours of group Spanish classes each day for the first week of their project. All the Spanish teachers are professional teachers - either certified in teaching Spanish as a foreign language or with a Masters in Education. Volunteers will also be provided with a course book. After their first week of classes, volunteers will switch to a Tandem Exchange Program, which involves being matched with a Peruvian who is studying English with our partner organisation. They will meet for one hour conservation practice each day. Volunteers may also opt to extend their Spanish classes for an extra charge.
How does GVN choose volunteers for this program?
Each GVN program has different criteria depending on our partner's requirements. Every application is reviewed to ensure that the minimum requirements (as set out on the program page) are met. Next we look to see what skills or experience you have that relate specifically to the program. We are also interested in any previous volunteer experience you may have (either local or international), travel experience, and your particular interest in the program.
After reviewing your application, should we require any further information from you, we will email you to request this.
How safe is it to volunteer in Guatemala?
As in many countries, foreigners are perceived as wealthy in Guatemala. Although the people are generally warm and friendly towards foreigners, as well as appreciative of the work done by them, not every individual is the same. We work extremely hard to ensure you are placed in safe environments while volunteering and security policies are in place to achieve this. However, as in any situation at home or abroad, there is no way to erase all potential threats.
In major cities across Guatemala it is important to be wary of pick pocketing, especially in crowded areas. You should also avoid extremely remote areas where you will be alone. Furthermore, you should be aware that there are active volcanoes in Guatemala and Guatemala occasionally suffers from violent earthquakes. Volunteers will be given further safety advice, including for the case of natural disasters, in their orientation session.
Can I bring my family and children to this program with me?
Yes, you are able to bring your family, including children, on this program. Babysitting can also be provided at a cost.
Can you accommodate specific dietary requirements?
Please indicate any dietary restrictions on your application form. Vegetarians can be catered for but you need to let us know beforehand.
What age do you have to be to volunteer?
You must be 18 years or older to volunteer. There is no upper limit for volunteers; we only require that volunteers are in good health. Under 18's wishing to volunteer with an adult will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Are we able to do any sightseeing while volunteering?
Yes. Volunteers have their weekends free for travelling and we do recommend that you take advantage of being in Guatemala to see some other places of interest, which include the Mayan ruins of Tikal and Peten and Lake Atitlan. Our partners in Guatemala can help you book some of these trips.
What clothing is appropriate for the program?
Volunteers should dress conservatively at all times, according to the custom in Guatemala. Volunteers need warm clothing for the nights and also light, loose clothing for the day, when it can be hot.
Can groups participate in this program?
Yes, we are able to accommodate groups for this program - please contact us for details.
Are there holidays or festivals I should be aware of when volunteering?
The major holidays to be aware of in Guatemala and La Antigua are:
• 1st January (New Year’s Day) • 22-25 April (Easter) • 1st May (Labour Day) • 30th June (Army Day) • 25th July (Día de Santiago Apostol (Antigua’s patron saint)) • 15th September (Independence Day) • 20th October (Revolution Day) • 1st November (All Saints’ Day) • 24th, 25th December (Christmas) • 25th December (Christmas Day) • 31st December (New Year’s Eve)
Holidays in La Antigua are perfect dates to go on trips and combine volunteer programs with travel and other activities. There are some projects that are always open, so if volunteers want to work these days it is still possible.
What resources will be available?
Each project will provide you with the resources you need. However, for the teaching and childcare programs you may like to bring teaching resources, toys or games to help you. Our partner organisation also has a selection of resources including games, books, pens and paper etc.
How do I pay my fees?
Your program fee is payable to Global Volunteer Network 10 weeks prior to the 1st of the month you wish to volunteer. Please note, your placement is not confirmed (ie secured) until your program fee has been received. Please note that all charges incurred by the payment of the program fee are at the volunteer’s expense, e.g. if a bank transfer incurs a bank fee at the point of origin, that is at the expense of the volunteer. Seventy percent (70%) of the program fee is refundable until two calendar months before the 1st of the month you are due to begin your program. For example a volunteer with 15 July 2012 as their start date would need to submit their refund request form by the last day of April 2012 to be eligible for a refund. Refer to GVN's legal terms of service for full details.
When will I know specific details on the placement?
After you have joined the program, you will be sent the program guide with more details about the program and your Volunteer Coordinator will begin making arrangements for your placement. Once you’ve confirmed your placement, you’ll be put in touch with our partner organization.
Where will I be located?
The projects are all based in and around La Antigua.
What languages do I need to to be able to speak to volunteer?
For the Healthcare Programs volunteers must have at least an intermediate level of Spanish (i.e. be able to hold a relevant conversation, understand and follow instructions, and so on). For the other programs there is no language requirement, but we do recommend that you learn some basic Spanish before you start volunteering. The staff at our partner organisation speak English, but the locals at your specific project may have very limited English. All volunteers will participate in one week of Spanish lessons and then for the duration of their stay you will practise with a Spanish speaker wanting to learn English, as part of a language exchange program.
Do I need travel insurance?
All GVN Volunteers must have insurance. You are free to take out insurance cover through any provider of your choice. However, as some policies do not cover volunteering, we recommend you check you are covered during your volunteer placement.
For your convenience we have arranged a comprehensive package specially designed for volunteering. It includes excellent medical and accident coverage as well as “loss of deposits” cover which covers fees paid to GVN, airlines etc. If you would like to learn more just follow this link: http://www.globalvolunteernetwork.org/insurance/
Can you tell me more about your partner in Guatemala?
Our partner organisation was founded in Cusco, Peru in 2003, with their Guatemala office opening in 2009. In addition to international volunteer programs they also have TEFL/TESOL Certification programs in Guatemala and Costa Rica, and offer English and Spanish courses. Their aim is for volunteers to experience Guatemala's rich cultural diversity and build their proficiency in Spanish while at the same time helping an impoverished region of the country.
Who organises my visa for my volunteer placement?
If you need one, you will need to organise your Visa through your travel agent before you leave for Guatemala. The information pack includes links to Guatemalan Embassies through out the world. Volunteers from the majority of countries are automatically given a 90-day tourist visa on entry into Guatemala.
If volunteers wish to stay longer than 90 days, they have the option of applying for an extension in Guatemala City (which usually takes 1 working day), or visit a nearby country such as Belize or Mexico, and then re-enter Guatemala, where they will be given another 90-day visa.
What is the course content of the training?
Volunteer orientation takes place on the first Monday following arrival on Sunday. This meeting includes a power-point presentation about the program, the partner organisation, and living in Guatemala. Volunteers are also given an info sheet relating to the meeting, which includes information on their volunteer project (schedule, contact person, location, how to get there etc.) and their Spanish class schedule. All volunteers are provided with a pocket-sized card with our partner's emergency telephone numbers, and any questions they may have will be answered. Volunteers first visit their project with staff members, are taught how to use public transportation, introduced to the staff at the project (who will have the volunteer's details), and discuss their project in more detail with the staff.
Tell me more about flying into Guatemala
The vast majority of volunteers will fly into La Aurora International airport, in Guatemala City. Here you will be collected by staff and taken on the 45 minute journey to La Antigua.
Are there any specific starting dates?
The program begins on any Monday of each month, and volunteers need to arrive into La Antigua the Sunday before.
May I choose which project to volunteer in?
May I volunteer in a combination of projects?
We recommend that you spend your time on one project as our experience shows that between one volunteer project and Spanish lessons, volunteers are kept very busy. However if you do wish to volunteer in different projects, please ask your volunteer coordinator.
What are the living arrangements when volunteering?
All volunteers will be staying with Guatemalan host families in La Antigua. You should expect to share a room with at least one other person. 3 meals a day will be provided at your accommodation.
How do I get to the project?
You will be shown during orientation the best way to get to your project. Volunteers will usually catch a short bus ride to their project or walk.
What immunisations / vaccines will I need?
Hepatitis A & B Typhoid Pertussis Diptheria, Tetanus & Polio Measles / MMR Rabies Malaria - recommended only for those visiting rural areas below 1,500 m (4,921 ft). Yellow Fever - recommended only for those who come from an infected area.
Are there more expenses once I arrive?
The program costs cover accommodation, airport pick-up and all meals. If you plan on arriving early or staying on, then you will need to have spare money for this time. Also some money may be required for your days off depending on what you intend on doing. Other costs include buying bottled water, visa (only required in staying longer than 90 days), departure tax, and any shopping you will do personally. Volunteers also need to pay for the bus to their project each day.
What happens if I get sick or have an accident whilst I'm in Guatemala?
You should contact our partner organisation who will take you to a clinic with an English speaking doctor. They will also give you an emergency number during your orientation session. If you are unable to contact our partner organisation, you may call GVN using our 24/7 emergency hotline.
Guatemala is one of the most bio-diverse and historically significant countries in Central America, and the country's abundance of biologically unique ecosystems makes the entire region a biodiverse hotspot. Guatemala is bordered by Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras, and has coastlines along the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Guatemala has a predominantly mountainous landscape, with narrow coastal plains and limestone plateaus.
Development in Guatemala
Guatemala’s economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, which accounts for nearly 15% of the GDP and half the work force. Key exports include coffee, sugar and bananas. Foreign Direct Investment is slowly trickling into the country since the signing of the 2006 Central American Free Trade Agreement; however this has been hampered by a combination of climate, poor infrastructure and a lack of skilled workforce.
Hampered by economic financial crisis in 1998 and the collapse of coffee prices, the economy has improved gradually and Guatemala enjoys a stable macroeconomic management, which has helped to mitigate the impact of the latest recession. The current government is continuing the policy of encouraging FDI and expanding the export and tourism industry. Despite this, Guatemala remains one of the poorer nations in Central America.
Volunteers provide assistance to disadvantaged socio-economic groups within Guatemalan communities, focusing primarily on childcare, animals, health and education.
As a volunteer in Guatemala you can provide love, affection, education and support to children in need. You will help to improve education in schools ensuring children learn and flourish. As a volunteer you can practice and teach preventative healthcare, and hygiene. Depending on your interests you can also contribute to building projects in impoverished communities, or in an animal rights project. You will also provide education, inter-cultural exchange and understanding in Guatemalan communities.
What else can I do in Guatemala?
Visitors to Guatemala will be delighted by the cultural sights and natural treasures accesible to them.
Volunteers are based in La Antigua an extremely popular destination for both tourists and Guatemalans alike, famous for the preservation of its colonial architecture and a UNESCO world heritage site.
While you're in Guatemala visit a remote Mayan village in the mountains, or tour Mayan ruins dotted around the country. Spend a little time relaxing in a hammock on one of the Pacific coast black sand beaches.
If shopping is your thing, you can't go past the Chichicastenango market where vendors come from around the country to sell their hand-made products.
Spanish Lessons and Tandem Exchange Program
For your first week you will take Spanish lessons provided by our partner. These are taught by professional teachers, either certified in teaching Spanish as a foreign language or with their Masters in Education, and you will have two hours of lessons per day, usually in the mornings, so that you spend the afternoons at your volunteer placement. Volunteers will also be provided with a Native Spanish Program book.
For the remainder of your stay you will take part in our partner's Tandem Exchange Program. This program pairs volunteers learning Spanish with a Guatemalan student who is learning English at their headquarters in La Antigua. This way you practise Spanish with your partner for one hour a day, as well as provide invaluable practice for the Guatemalan student learning English. It's also a great way to get to know local students in La Antigua. If you wish to extend your formal Spanish lessons beyond your first week, this can be arranged for an extra fee.
Online Spanish Lessons
Global Volunteer Network has established a partnership with the Spanish school Instituto Exclusivo, which offers GVN volunteers a 5% discount off their online Spanish lessons. This is not like other courses which give you pages of web material or recordings of various phrases to repeat. You will speak to, and see your instructor as he/she is giving you a private lesson, tailored to your level of Spanish. Learn spanish before you go