Guatemala

Institute for Field Research Expeditions - IFRE

To whom it may concern,

Hi, my name is Chris. If you are reading this, you are thinking about traveling to Guatemala. I wanted to write this for you, so that I might answer some of your questions.

I spent 3 months in Guatemala (3/13-5/13).

I decided to travel to Guatemala for a couple reasons.

1) Medical Experience

and

2) To learn Spanish.

I was able to successfully accomplish both of these goals. I am currently applying to medical school, and my personal statement focused on my experiences in the hospital that I was observing in.

Working in the hospital was a unique experience because I was able to get hands on experience that I could have never gotten in the states. (Scrubbed in to about 5 surgeries) During my medical school interviews, I had a lot of interesting things to talk about that made the interview better.

I tried learning Spanish through various avenues, however, the only success way for me has been total immersion. (I am a proficient Spanish speaker.)

With that being said,

I highly recommend that you travel to Guatemala through IFRE, ONLY if you are serious about having a real life experience. I wouldn't advise you to go there if you are not serious because life is hard down there. You'll be miserable if you are a turkey.

Day to day life events are what you make of it. I would suggest if you go there that you have daily schedule that is busy. (Volunteer project and Spanish lessons.)

The Contact through the program Oscar Gomez is a very nice man. He looks after the volunteers and is very reliable when it comes to issues that the volunteers need.

Please do not hesitate to contact me.

filosacp@mymail.vcu.edu

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Guatemala
Posted: Apr 24, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Global Crossroad

My four week experience in Guatemala was life changing. It enabled me to develop a comprehensive understanding of the Guatemalan culture, which I would not have gotten had only travelled through. Staying with a local family, taking Spanish lessons and volunteering at the clinic meant that my days were busy and compltely full of Spanish. Because there was no opportunity to speak English, it meant that my Spanish improved substantially and I reached the goal that I had set for myself. The volunteering aspect of the program was valuable in my future direction as a Dietitian, where understanding the Guatemalan mentality towards food and health, as well as from a medical point of view, gave me a cultural understanding of what those things mean in a less developed country. I was lucky to be able to give lessons about food and health to the children at the clinic and this interaction was very rewarding. I must admit that without this, I may have felt somewhat useless because when I was sitting in on Dr consultations, I could only observe and I would have liked to have had a little more responsibility if I was not giving the classes as well. Oscar, the in-country co-ordinator, was very helpful in making me feel settled with my host family and at the clinic. He was also my Spanish teacher, along with his collegue Mario, and both teachers taught me with much more precision and in much more depth than what I had previously experienced, so a big thankyou is owed to them both. I would recommend the program to anybody considering doing it, however, my only suggestion is to be fully aware that, in most cases, you will only be observing the Dr's and you will need as much Spanish as possible to get the most out of it.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Guatemala
Posted: Apr 18, 2014
Overall:
9
Support:
10
Value:
7

A Broader View Volunteers Corp

Before the trip even began, I felt supported by my country coordinator, she through emails and knew I would have the safety of her assistance waiting for me when I arrived in Xela. Throughout my time in Guatemala, she answered every question promptly, and always made time to meet with me, take me to the doctor, address any problems that arose, and assist me in my projects when needed. She made time to bring the volunteers together so we could meet one another and was excellent to work with.
The most surprising thing I experienced was how open the projects were to the assistance of the volunteers. I was welcomed immediately and put to task with several jobs and every day was different depending on the need of the project. I have rarely encountered persons so trustworthy and genuine as those with whom I worked at the project, and was surprised at how open and receptive they were to my assistance and presence in their workplace.
The most difficult thing to experience was processing the emotions of the stories, and daily battles I encountered at my projects and even sometimes speaking with someone in public. It is one thing to hear these stories or see these peoples’ emotional strife, but the difficulty was overcoming the sensation that I do not have the power to “fix” any of these issues. My greatest strength, I finally learned, was simply to listen and lend kind words of support when I could.
Don’t overpack! You’ll find you need less clothes than you think you do (a weeks worth is fine). Bringing your own toiletries is quite helpful and once you’ve used them, it leaves you spare room in your suitcase to take home any gifts or souvenirs you might have gathered. Try to ask friends and family for funds that you can bring with you to your project. You may have a vision of what your project needs, but asking them face-to-face, or through ABV is much more efficient for your project and will more helpfully distribute your funds!
I have traveled many times throughout the world, but never quite in the manner as organized by ABV. I was quickly made to feel a part of the community surrounding me, and I was introduced to other volunteers and to my program, making me very much feel at home. Then without realizing it, Xela became my home, those with whom I worked and lived became my family, and my project was the highlight of every day.Working with children, and then adolescents at my projects, I had the fortune of gaining insight into the pain and yet the universal joy that exists within young minds. This joy allowed me to be energized when around the young persons even when my health began to fail towards the end of my 3 months.
ABV has a great way of not directing you, but working with you to accomplish tasks at projects. Never did I feel alone or without support from the ABV team as I dove into work at the projects, or interacted with the cultural community of Guatemala.I have been changed for the better because my mind flourished, and heart expanded, and my worldview broadened.
Living with my wonderful host family quickly became very comfortable, and routine. I recognized my host mother’s rules and traditions and respected her customs, and I became friends with her family. My room had two beds, was quite comfortable and roomy, with enough space for all of my things. I had a drawer with a key that I kept with me that my host mother gave me for locking up valuables, passport, etc. Every meal was delicious, although I am not too picky, I always felt safe in my home, and when I had two-weeks of two other ABV volunteer roommates, I greatly enjoyed their company.
Prior to traveling, ABV support was great. My account on the website kept me up to date with my progress in my application process, and then my placement process. I always knew who to email with any questions and felt regularly updated on travel arrangements and plans. I also felt that the website offered me ample information to allow me to make an informed decision that ABV was the right organization for me.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Guatemala
Posted: Apr 15, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

A Broader View Volunteers Corp


I was very hesitant to come do the program for a week. This concern was expressed to Sarah who answered all my questions During the trip I learned about a new culture and how different people live here than in the U.S. it saddened me to see some of the houses that people live in, and it showed me how blessed I am. The project site taught me about myself as well, I learned that I am better with 2 -4 years olds than 5 up. The week was fast & fun. I would do it again, the experience is so worth it! 

My host family Doña Veronica and her family were the best! I had a roommate Mary who was also great. Veronica always made sure I had everything I wanted and needed. The food was great every day and talking during the meals helped me a lot. Veronica & her family were very patient with me. They also provided towels and toilet paper which I brought with me. They are a great family. 

I was surprise how calm and safe Xela was. I had heard of the dangers and things that could happen, but with regular caution I was fine everywhere I went in Xela and at the project site. My hesitation and nervousness was for nothing ☺ 


Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Guatemala
Posted: Apr 11, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Institute for Field Research Expeditions - IFRE

I voluntered with the IFRE this march to work in an orphanage in Xela. It has been a wonderful experience,the children are amazing and it is worth it.
I also came here by myself,I have felt safe the entire time and knew I could get in contact with the field staff anytime if need be.
The IFRE set me up with a wonderful host family who treated my like I was one of their own.
The IFRE is reliable,affordable,and an overall great experience.
I hope to continue volunteering with them in the future and recommed them to others.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Guatemala
Posted: Mar 21, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

A Broader View Volunteers Corp

I came into this trip ready to immerse myself in service to others and learn about a new culture, but I had no idea how eye-opening it would be. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to get out of my scholastic bubble and realize that there is a whole world out there to explore, and so many people that need help! I’ve learned more in these 2 weeks than I could have ever learned in a classroom. I met some pretty extraordinary people and would definitely do it all over again. 

It was difficult to see some of the improvised areas of Xela and Guatemala in general. It broke my heart every time a hungry child or homeless individual would approach us trying to sell us something. I wish I could have given more to these people! 

Bring your own toiletries and certainly bring medicine just in case you get sick! Try to research and have an idea of what you would like to do on the weekend. Lake Atitlan was beautiful and pretty easy to get to with the help of the coordinators in planning transportation. I would also definitely suggest the language and cultural immersion program. The tutors are awesome and the lessons significantly improved my Spanish-speaking abilities. 


Presenting our donations and medical supplies to the Centro de Salud was my favorite memory of this trip. To see how grateful they were for the much needed supplies truly warmed my heart.
What surprise the most was how fast the people in Guatemala speak Spanish. I almost always had to ask individuals to speak slowly so that I could understand them. ‘Más despácio por favor’. I was also surprised at how friendly everyone was! Almost everyone greeted us on the street with ‘buenos dias, tardes, noches’.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Guatemala
Posted: Mar 18, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Global Volunteer Network (GVN)

I signed up to volunteer abroad with GVN to learn how to serve. GVN exists to help support people step out of their comfort zone and follow their dreams of making a very real and positive difference in the lives of others. That is just what GVN did for me. Their transparent nature and helpful support staff empowered me to take the first step in realising my dream to serve others. Both before I set off to Guatemala and now, as I am still here, their support has been both necessary and empowering. Throughout my volunteering experience I have felt that any concerns or queries I voiced to GVN were dealt with professionally, and that GVN wanted nothing more than to support me on my journey to learn how to work for the people they work so tirelessly with. As GVN works with local charities, when placed with one of their projects, it is possible to learn about the culture of the country you are in which is so important as you learn to work in a culturally sensitive way, helping to make any changes or ideas you may have sustainable and comprehensive to the people you are working with in-country. I feel as though GVN understands that the work they do could not continue without volunteers. Volunteers are their front line staff. We are their eyes and ears across the world. As volunteers are of the utmost importance to GVN, they do their best to make your volunteer experience safe, supported and life changing. I was too scared to take the leap into the unknown myself but with the support of GVN I am now in Guatemala, working for a wonderful charity for children through GVN's partner organisation Maximo Nivel and I can say with a smile on my face that I feel as though I am making positive difference to the lives of the children I work with everyday. This journey has changed my life and it has helped me achieve my goal of learning how to serve. Not only have I learned a new language, but I have learned about NGO operations, social change, cultural sensitivity and sustainable development. All these new skills and experiences I will take away and I use in my future as I am motivated to continue to work to make a real and positive difference in the lives of others. If you have been unsure whether or not to sign up with GVN, I hope from reading this you will be encouraged to take the leap into the unknown and have GVN as your safety net! You will not regret it!

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Guatemala
Posted: Mar 12, 2014
Overall:
9
Support:
10
Value:
8

Cross-Cultural Solutions

Cross Cultural Solutions gave me an opportunity of a lifetime! I had always wanted to volunteer abroad for several years and after some research, I decided CCS would be a great start and it was definitely the best decision of my life. The program specialist works closely with you, getting you prepared to the fullest before you depart to your trip. I had many questions as I was beginning my application process and they were all thoroughly answered. Next arriving to your home base can make someone anxious especially if this is something they are doing for the very first time in their life. And that was me. Being that it was my first time doing a volunteer abroad trip, I was a bit nervous about how I would acclimate to the new culture and how I would do at my volunteer placement. However, right when I got to Guatemala, the in-country staff relieved many of my anxieties. They were extremely pleasant and so helpful in making me feel comfortable and right at home. And the volunteer placement was awesome. It was such a rewarding experience. I learned so much from the ladies that I helped at the elderly center there. I will cherish the time spent with them and will never forget this experience. It was an eye-opener for me and I wish everyone gets the opportunity to do something like this in their lifetime. Another thing I loved about CCS was their way of immersing you into the culture. Each day they had a cultural activity planned for us which gave us the chance to learn about the people, the culture, the language and the country we were visiting. CCS seriously over succeeded my expectations. I went in not know this experience would change my life, but it did. And now I can't wait to do my next trip. I want to try all of the locations CCS works with. I highly recommend everyone to look into this program. You won't be disappointed!

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Guatemala
Posted: Feb 3, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Cross-Cultural Solutions

The volunteer work through Cross-Cultural Solutions was such a fulfilling experience. The staff at CCS are extremely helpful and prompt in the pre-departure by frequently checking up, sending updates, and answering any questions. The volunteer work was extremely rewarding, and the cultural activities that CCS provided were phenomenal in terms of providing a holistic lens of the country, along with its cultural uniqueness to be celebrated and its issues to be acknowledged and acted upon.
The in-country staff does an incredible job of making the volunteer feel at home with their friendly companionship and awareness of how you are personally feeling. The focus of exposure and education in addition to the service work allowed this trip to unexpectedly be one that teaches volunteers both the tangible and intangible aspects of this life that are so essential to be recognized.
I am considering traveling through CCS in the future, and I am extremely delighted in the opportunity. If you are considering volunteering abroad, I have hope that CCS will provide an opportunity for a life-changing experience.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Guatemala
Posted: Feb 2, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)

I just returned yesterday from spending 1 week in Guatemala volunteering at the Eco Agriculture program.

Simply put this program was fantastic. Everything about this program made this one of the best times of my life.

Pre-Program-

Chelsea was beyond amazing in answering ANY and ALL questions I had, and believe me I had a lot of questions. Her responses were always professional and timely. I could not have asked for a better coordinator.

Arrival/Orientation-
Maximo Novel could not have been a better in country program, they eased all stresses and worries I had, because believe me I received so many emails and comments from friends and co-workers when they realized I was going to Guatemala alone. To the point I wonder if I should backed out.

I am so happy I did not BACK OUT.

Country-

I read up on Guatemala and I learned about the country and culture prior to arrival so this was helpful, the information booklet was highly informative and gives great recommendations on what to read prior to arriving. Antigua is very easy to walk, and the buses were not as bad as I thought. (I was practically paranoid, to get on that bus). It is a very beautiful country and you will not regret going.

Program-

As Green as it gets. I can't say enough about this program. I was not in nearly as great as shape as I thought I was, and came down with a cold, so my help was not as wonderful as it I hoped it to be, and as so many people have commented I received a lot more, that I felt I could give. I was only there for a week, so I tried to do everything I could to help make their lives easier. I can't say enough about the program. This was an excellent and very EDUCATIONAL experience. You have NO idea how much work goes into a single cup of coffee, and it made me that much more appreciative.

Home stay-

My home stay was one of the best things about this program. I can't begin to even tell you how much I am going to miss my house mother, she was one of the best humans I have ever met in my life, and I will do my best to get back and visit. She was fantastic.

Recommendations:

Learn as much Spanish as you can. Not much English is spoken and the locals are very appreciative of any Spanish you can speak.

If you do this program, understand it is HARD work, you will do a lot of hiking sometimes up to a hour to pick the coffee. It is very hard but also VERY rewarding work.

Come with no expectations, and try to not worry about all the "bad" you hear about in Guatemala. Believe me I was practically panicking over it (I shouldn't have been!!!) The people are warm and inviting and truly some of the friendliest people I have met in my life.

This program is fantastic. I can't wait to go on my next trip!

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Guatemala
Posted: Jan 27, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Comments

Thanks so much for sharing your experience volunteering in Guatemala. We're so glad that our team were able to make your journey stress free and rewarding. We look forward to having you volunteer with us again soon!

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