Last Updated on July 12, 2017 by Natasha Amar
Voluntourism, when done the right way, and for the right reasons, can go a long way in creating impact and adding more meaning to your exploration of a new country and culture. Volunteers have the chance to gain insight into a new culture that is far deeper than that of the average tourist, and it also helps them to connect with locals and other like-minded travelers who want to travel more purposefully. There are many reasons to sign up for a volunteer program while on a holiday.
Asia and Central and South America are both popular choices for traveling volunteers because not only are they cheap to travel through and live in, they also home to diverse and vibrant cultures and places where your tourism dollars and effort have the opportunity to make meaningful impact.
While I am no stranger to voluntourism, Guatemala has been on my mind for a while now. There’s just something about the idea of exploring ancient ruins, extreme volcanos, or secluded beaches while immersing myself in the culture, working on turtle conservation projects, and perhaps even learning a bit of Spanish with Maximo Nivel volunteer abroad programs, that makes me the idea appealing.
If you’re planning a trip to Guatemala, here are some volunteer abroad programs to consider.
Work with Children
If you like children and have some experience with them, consider working with children in Guatemala. Work in government-run facilities or afterschool programs to help provide individual attention and care to children who are affected by a challenging home life. Facilities are often understaffed, making you a key asset to the organization.
With your assistance, children see kindness and care, get academic support with their school work, improve and develop their social skills, and are educated to adopt healthy habits such as washing their hands and brushing their teeth. You are encouraged to use your unique skills and interests in a working with kids project.
During the holiday season, volunteers get to participate in the holiday parties and gift giving. You might dress up like Santa, help to wrap or distribute gifts to children, host fun games or activities, or help to coordinate the event with others. It’s a great way to embrace the season, give back to the community, and enjoy the holidays abroad.
Help the Environment in Turtle Conservation
If you’re a beach lover, the turtle conservation project might be the most appealing of the volunteer abroad programs in Guatemala. Between lounging on the beach and hanging with other volunteers, you’ll take an active stance in helping to reverse the dangers of the extinction of sea turtles. The program begins in La Antigua where you receive an orientation session and information to prepare you for your project. You will then work directly with a biologist, interns, and/or locals involved in managing the turtle nesting grounds.
You help to protect these little guys from poachers as you participate in nightly group beach patrols, relocate eggs to safe hatcheries, record and maintain data records to ensure all eggs and turtles are fully accounted for. You may also be involved with the construction of hatcheries, and accepting donations from local collectors. Volunteering in December will likely see you helping to release dozens of baby sea turtles, mature enough to return to the ocean, as the month rounds off peak nesting season.
Build Dreams in Construction Projects
Construction projects are some of the most impactful projects to join, especially if you’re fit and able and willing. In Guatemala, the projects are focused on building homes, schools, orphanages, playgrounds, and bathroom facilities in areas with little to no access. The construction projects are a great way to directly contribute to the local community.
You work alongside a professional foreman who is experienced in guiding and training international volunteers. Some of the duties include renovation, painting, plastering, wall and roof repairs, laying tile and flooring, mixing cement, carpentry, welding, or plumbing, and preparation/clean up.
New facilities are built in rural neighborhoods that receive little to no funding, so services are more accessible to locals in these areas. Contribute to the construction of a much-needed facility with the confidence of knowing you’ll be giving the gift of education, health, and community space. There’s nothing like seeing for yourself the tangible impact of your efforts.