Meet Pierre, a three-time Maximo Nivel volunteer participant who worked at both our construction projects in Peru and Guatemala – 10 years apart! We had the opportunity to chat with Pierre about his experiences in both countries, a decade apart. Here’s what he had to say:
How did you hear about Maximo Nivel 10 years ago?
I was looking to reconnect with my own values and to give back to a community in need. 10 years ago I searched for an organization that would help me do just that and was connected to Maximo Nivel.
Why did you choose Peru as your first volunteer abroad destination?
I did some research and learned that Cusco was a safe city in a safe country. My kids were still very young at the time so that was important to me. I also wanted to spend time in a country that allowed me to improve my Spanish, and Peru gave me the added bonus of a trip to Machu Picchu.
What made you choose Guatemala most recently?
I’d already had the experience of visiting and volunteering in Peru. I’ve also traveled to Costa Rica on my own, so I chose Guatemala because it was a new country to explore. I also have a friend working in Guatemala City, so I figured I would be able to visit them, as well.
What made you choose a construction project each time?
I really enjoy working with my hands. I figured a construction project was perfect for someone like me and a good way to really give back to the community. I also had such a great experience with the local foreman the first time around that I decided I would choose a construction project again.
Do you feel like you’ve made a direct impact on the community?
I feel like I made an impact in two ways: 1) I raised $1,800 simply by asking friends of mine for donations. With the money, I went shopping with the construction manager for tools and with the health manager for medical supplies; 2) having contributed to the final product of the offices we built in the medical centers around Antigua.
What were the most interesting things you learned while volunteering abroad?
Living in the country and with a host family, exposed me to daily life as a local. I learned about cultural values (their ability to be happy with much less than we have in Canada), their religious beliefs, and traditional food staples such as Pepian chicken and tamales. Being exposed to the language also greatly improved my Spanish speaking skills. In Guatemala, I opted for the Spanish immersion courses which really helped me to advance.
What was your experience with the host families?
I had two host-family experiences, one better than the other. When I volunteered in Guatemala in October, I stayed in a 5 family-member household. It was then that I had a really great experience. I spoke with the family a lot and we shared meals around the table. I had my own room each time and breakfast and dinner were always provided.
Which excursions did you participate in while volunteering abroad?
In Peru, I had the privilege of participating in the Inca Trail, visiting Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, the floating Uros Islands, and Lake Titicaca. In Guatemala, I visited Semuc Champey – which I loved – climbed Acatenango, which allowed for an awesome view of Volcan Fuego eruptions in the distance, climbed Pacaya, which was OK at best, and absolutely loved Lake Atitlan.
I also visited San Pablo La Laguna, San Juan la Laguna and San Pedro, Guatemala City and absolutely loved Tikal and Yaxha where I stayed in a Peten lakeside hotel with blue-green warm waters. I got to do those last excursions by extending my stay in Guatemala on my own.