Volunteer Programs in Guatemala
Guatemala is an enduring country and in fact, has the largest economy in Central America. However, the country still suffers with more than half the population living in poverty as it works to improve political organization and social justice. Guatemalans facing economic disadvantages deal with unequal access to education and healthcare, making poverty, illness, and illiteracy ongoing problems. International volunteers work in various sectors of community service to help make a real difference in these people’s lives.
Guatemala is bordered by El Salvador and Honduras to the South, Belize to the East, and Mexico to the North. It is a beautiful country with amazing landscapes featuring tropical coastal areas and lowland jungles, mountainous regions filled with deep river valleys, and over 30 volcanoes, 3 of which are still active. Guatemala has a population of 14 million people with approximately 50% are of indigenous origin. These deep cultural roots help keep many of the ancient Mayan traditions and customs alive today.
Where to Volunteer in Guatemala
Maximo Nivel offers volunteer abroad projects in and around the city of Antigua, Guatemala, as well as the Pacific coast.
The entire city of Antigua, Guatemala was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. This designation helps guide the preservation of colonial monuments and ancient ruins–a live museum with walking, talking proof of the historic greatness and splendor of the city of Antigua. This is your home base for Maximo Nivel’s volunteer abroad program, which provides a very unique opportunity to get involved in both urban and rural areas around Guatemala.
Developing English language skills is one of the best ways for Guatemalans to participate in the country’s economic success and improve their access to academic opportunities. Maximo Nivel volunteers are placed in government-run schools, both inside and outside of Antigua, and at a local fire rescue station. Volunteers are provided a crash course on how to effectively teach English as a second language. These projects help plant the seeds of language, which then blossom little by little every day, creating a much brighter future in the lives of local people and communities.
6 of 7 species of sea turtles are in danger of extinction due to poaching, the destruction of natural habitats, and commercial fishing. Sea turtle conservation projects are designed to reverse this trend. Increasing the number of sea turtles is important for the ecosystem, long-term sustainability, and for animal rights. Sea turtle volunteers in Guatemala work on the Pacific Coast where you support both biologists and local researchers. Volunteers take part in various support activities and outreach programs including nighttime beach patrols, tagging and counting eggs and turtles, hatchery management, and beach cleanup. Maximo Nivel’s sea turtle projects are part of a movement to help sea turtles flourish in their native land.
In Guatemala, the use of responsible farming methods has taken hold because they help eliminate threats to the environment and human health. However, sustainable farming doesn’t come without a cost, as local farmers need more hands in the field to maintain optimal production. Volunteers work with local farmers just outside of Antigua where you can learn all about the sustainable farming of coffee and macadamia nuts. Volunteers at Maximo Nivel participate in every step of the production process including picking, weeding, planting, processing, and packaging.
The Mayans had an advanced understanding of astronomy and geometry and applied it to agriculture, but few farms utilize those techniques in Modern Day Guatemala. At this farm, volunteers will get to learn about ancient Mayan techniques and beliefs to produce high quality crops and to care for farm animals. Along with the farming of various crops, volunteers will help care for ducks, hens, horses, rabbits and turkeys which have all been rescued and live in a natural environment where they are free to roam. Volunteers may also participate in educational seminars and events held in order to create a greater awareness and understanding of the importance of permaculture and recycling to the local community.
Maximo Nivel’s construction projects in Guatemala help develop local communities by constructing classrooms, small clinics, and community centers. Through these infrastructure and renovation projects, volunteers help improve access to education and healthcare, and promote community solidarity. Volunteers at Maximo Nivel work hard digging, removing dirt, mixing cement, carrying brick, painting, and plastering. Work with your hands, learn basic construction, and help make a real impact at projects for people who truly appreciate your efforts.
Are you interested in the many species of animals that occupy the beautiful land of Guatemala? Volunteer your time caring for exotic animals at a local rescue center focusing on the three R’s–Rescue, Recovery, and Relocation. Volunteers work closely with veterinarians and other professionals to help support the treatment of injured and sick reptiles. The aim of this project is to nurse the animals back to health and release them into the wild where they belong. Maximo Nivel volunteers help with general maintenance of the rescue center, feeding, and cage cleaning; and you may also get involved with hosting guests at the center.
Our horse rescue and rehabilitation project have a fundamental purpose- to treat rescued horses with respect and help with the rehabilitation to make sure they live long and healthy lives. The project also educates locals on how to properly care for their horses to lead longer and healthier lives. Volunteers will help in the daily care of the horses and is a perfect fit for a volunteer wanting to learn more about the everyday needs of horses. Volunteers can expect to groom, feed and help clean out the horse stables, clean hooves, and help care for sick or elderly horses at the stables. Currently the projects also give horseback riding tours and private lessons to help educate others on what type of care and attention is needed with horses.
Volunteers are placed to help with grassroots organizations that take in stray cats and dogs. Volunteers will help with daily maintenance, training and provide much needed discipline and love to these vulnerable animals.
In Guatemala, hospitals and clinics are often understaffed, lack resources, and are not properly funded. Still, there is universal healthcare and the quality of service that can be achieved under less than ideal circumstances can be inspiring. At Maximo Nivel, medical volunteers can help make a true difference in the lives of healthcare professionals and their patients. Volunteers assist doctors, nurses, and other professionals in rural, underserved, government-run clinics. Volunteer work includes assisting with general check-ups, taking vital signs, preparing materials and equipment, and assisting during mealtimes. Volunteer groups may also work in running medical campaigns to provide healthcare, as well as dental and hygiene education, to underprivileged communities outside of Antigua. Volunteers can be proud of their medical work abroad and the impact you help bring to communities we serve.
In developing countries like Guatemala, populations with special needs, such as the elderly and people with disabilities can be at a significant disadvantage. Volunteers at Maximo Nivel, can help make an important impact working with these marginalized groups. Volunteer placements are in assisted living facilities working with people who are physically or mentally disabled, elderly patients, and children infected with HIV. Responsibilities include all facets of ensuring patients’ well-being–general care, conversation-talk therapy, feeding and bathing, physical therapy, workshops (e.g. exercise, dental care), sorting and distributing medication, and even arts and crafts. These projects help serve some of the most vulnerable groups and advocate for the resources needed to meet their daily challenges. Healthcare volunteers need to possess patience, compassion, and sensitivity.
When families face severe economic disadvantages, children are often the first victims. Neglect, abuse, and abandonment are pervasive issues as people struggle with the lack of resources and inability to care for their children. This creates a vicious circle that is very difficult to penetrate and solve.
The staff at our working with kids projects in Antigua, Guatemala, do their best to provide individual attention to each child. With your help, children are exposed to kindness and care, receive academic support, and begin to develop social skills and improved hygiene habits. Maximo Nivel volunteers work in after school programs on the outskirts of Antigua, where the need for support is quite high. While you’re learning to serve, you can help make these children’s lives and smiles a little brighter, and a community a little better.
Maximo Nivel’s Mayan Cultural Immersion project provides a unique experience to learn about a traditional way of life. Volunteers are placed with a Mayan Kakchikel-speaking family in a rural Guatemalan farming community, approximately 30 minutes from Antigua. Volunteers participate in the everyday tasks of the family including working in the fields, learning and preparing traditional Guatemalan dishes, and making textiles and crafts from a type of reed that grows in a nearby lake. It is not common for community members to speak any English, so it is helpful if you have some understanding of Spanish. You will also have the opportunity to learn Kakchikel, which is the main Mayan language in the region.