From stunning lakes and valleys to imposing volcanoes and mountains, anyone who’s visited Guatemala knows how incredibly diverse this Central American gem is. But if you’re looking for a truly meaningful experience while visiting, a volunteer program is the perfect opportunity to give back while exploring this astonishing destination.
In Guatemala, you’ll find volunteer projects for every passion and experience. You might choose to get involved by teaching English, working with kids, or taking part in a construction project, but if you’re looking for a unique volunteer experience, check out the options below.
Mayan Immersion is a unique volunteer program that you can only get involved in while visiting Guatemala. The Mayan culture is prominent throughout many Central American countries and Mexico, and over 20 native dialects are spoken in Guatemala alone. The ancient culture is evident in traditional foods, fashions, and customs. But if you really want insight on the daily life of a traditional Mayan family, get involved in this indigenous community program.
The Mayan Immersion program takes place 30 minutes outside of Antigua in a traditional farming community. You live with a Kakchikel-speaking family and participate in all aspects of daily life. Volunteers are assigned tasks based on need. You might be asked to help with fieldwork, cooking traditional meals, and even making handwoven textiles and crafts.
Being immersed in this project allows for a cultural exchange opportunity which includes learning a traditional Kakchikel language. You’ll be living off the grid and mobile and internet access may be limited. Volunteers who enroll in this project understand the temporary adjustments from the modern world but are eager to learn during a Mayan Immersion experience.
Are you fascinated by exotic reptiles and amphibians? Would you love the chance to work with snakes, wall lizards, arthropods and alligators? Then, this one of a kind project was made with you in mind. The project was founded in order to help protect and rehabilitate exotic species that have been captured illegally. In addition, the project helps to contribute to Guatemala’s mission of environmental education for the public. Unfortunately, the project receives no government support, so all funding comes directly from donations making it hard to maintain financial stability.
Volunteers provide invaluable help to the center by contributing their time and energy to the mission. Alongside professional veterinarians and biologists, you’ll help to care for and rehabilitate a variety of sick and injured species with the goal of re-releasing the animals into their natural habitats. Volunteers will help with general maintenance of the facility, feeding the animals, and cleaning cages. You might assist with hosting guests and children’s groups.
Volunteers can choose to live with a host family in Antigua. Accommodations include a private or shared room, breakfast and dinner 7 days/week, and a chance to practice Spanish and immerse yourself in the local culture.
In Guatemala, horses are traditionally used as work animals to help tend to daily chores and tasks. Unfortunately, many owners aren’t able to train or care for their horses properly. This is where the Horse Rescue & Rehabilitation center comes in. The owners ensure that each horse is properly looked after and trained to best service the family’s needs.
At the horse rescue project, volunteers typically begin their workday around 9AM by bonding with the horses during a grooming session. Then, you’ll serve the horses their breakfast and ensure they have plenty of water throughout the day. Those tasks might be followed by getting the horses some exercise on a walk around the trail. In addition, the horse pens need to be cleaned on a daily basis. It’s important that volunteers are able to observe and assess the horse’s condition to report any abnormalities as soon as possible.
The Rescue & Rehab Center is a short bus ride away from Maximo Nivel campus in Antigua. Choosing a host family stay will ensure a convenient commute. Remember that you might share a room with a fellow Maximo Nivel participant and two meals per day are served around a family table. Mealtimes allow for participants and local families to get to know one another and foster a true cultural exchange opportunity where you’ll be able to practice your Spanish language skills, and teach the family about your culture, as well.
Eco-agriculture projects in Guatemala give volunteers a behind the scenes look at sustainable farming practices of some of Guatemala’s most desired products. One option is the permaculture project which is one of the most unique aspects of Guatemala’s eco-agriculture. With a commitment to ancient Mayan techniques, farmers in Guatemala use their advanced knowledge of geometry and astronomy to produce high quality crops. Permaculture farmers use spiral figures and lunar cycles to create the energy needed for crops to thrive. Getting involved in a permaculture project is perfect for anyone interested in learning about Mayan history and their contributions to academia.
Volunteers can also work alongside local macadamia and coffee farmers who use more traditional and sustainable farming methods. You participate in all aspects of the production process including picking, weeding, planting, processing, and packaging. Eco-agriculture projects can be very laborious and physically demanding. Before enrolling for this program, make sure that you can work long days on your feet in hot and humid conditions.
Stray cats and dogs can be found throughout the streets in all of the major cities in Guatemala. The stray situation is not only harmful to the homeless dogs and cats, but it can also lead to public health and safety issues, as well. In an effort to get these animals domesticated and hopefully adopted by loving homes, grassroots organizations all around Antigua run dog and cat shelters.
Volunteers are a huge help to these shelters which lack funding and sometimes proper staff to care for all of the animals they rescue. Daily tasks include grooming, training, and cleaning. You may also get involved with medical treatment for animals, spay/neuter programs, and public outreach and education. In some cases, you may get involved in small construction and renovation efforts to improve the facilities for the pups. True animal lovers are perfect for this project.