Special Needs Care Volunteer Program in Guatemala - Antigua
Curious about Special Needs volunteering in Guatemala? International Volunteer HQ’s Special Needs Care project empowers volunteers to assist at group homes or clinics for disabled children or the elderly. Volunteers gain experience caring for people with disabilities while helping to provide them with the kind of personalised care and attention that can really make a difference to their lives.
- Programs start every Monday
- Affordable fees from AU$633 for 1 week
- Includes accommodation, breakfast and dinner, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
Help disabled children and the elderly by providing care in homes and clinics
Discover the rich history and culture of Guatemala
Stay with a local family or other volunteers in charming Antigua
This program is ideal for:
What to expect and how you'll make an impact
Like in many places around the world, the opportunities for children growing up with special needs in Guatemala can be very limited. These children often respond well to individual care and attention, making volunteer assistance in homes and clinics they attend extremely sought after.
As a Special Needs volunteer you will assist in group homes or clinics for disabled children or the elderly. The range of disabilities found amongst the children is wide, so volunteers must come prepared to help with both basic life functions and engaging the children in imaginative games.
Special Needs volunteer work can vary but generally includes:
- Providing personal care
- Helping with feeding
- Dressing and changing clothes
- Bathing and personal care
- Playing games and helping with activities
- Assisting with physical therapy
Why do Special Needs Care volunteering in Antigua with IVHQ?
When you volunteer with disabled people in Guatemala you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:
- Improving quality of life for people with disabilities
- Helping students develop life skills in a safe place
- Practicing your Spanish
- Developing your communication skills
- Gaining experience working with disabled people
- Immersing yourself in Guatemalan culture
Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate in this program. If you are under the age of 18, IVHQ offers alternative volunteer opportunities for teens. Visit our High School Volunteer Abroad page to learn more.
Guatemala photo gallery
Academic course credit
Gain course credit from your college or university and meet your academic requirements when completing a volunteer abroad program with International Volunteer HQ!Learn about course credit
Read reviews from Special Needs Care volunteers in Antigua
”I loved how I was taken care of from the beginning to the end. Really felt safe and comfortable on making the trip happen. I felt honored volunteering and actually learned so much in the process. It will be one of your best experiences in your life.”
Read reviews from Special Needs Care volunteers in Antigua
When you walk the cobblestone streets of Antigua it is easy to see why it has been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Baroque architecture, Spanish colonial churches and brightly painted buildings can be admired on nearly every corner. The urban environment speaks to the rich history of the city which dates back to the 1500s and includes a number of destructive earthquakes which have seen it repaired and rebuilt over a long period of time.
IVHQ’s Guatemala program is based in Antigua with placements in the city and surrounding areas. At these placements you’re likely to see the struggle faced by many Guatemalans living with limited resources. Despite the beauty of the place and its busy tourism industry, Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Its citizens can benefit greatly from the support volunteers can give local initiatives which strive to improve their lives.
Antigua is located approximately 30 minutes from Guatemala City.
Arrival and orientation
The program orientation begins every Monday and volunteers need to arrive in Guatemala City on the day before orientation.
After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at the La Aurora International Airport (GUA) in Guatemala City. Your airport pick-up is included in your Program Fee. We recommend that volunteers under the age of 18 travel internationally with a notarized letter from their parents to support their documentation.
When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and transported to the volunteer accommodation in Antigua. Your accommodation is covered by your Program Fee and includes the night before your program orientation.
If you are travelling in Guatemala prior to your volunteer program, we can arrange for you to be picked up in Antigua on the day before your program orientation.
Orientation is hosted by our local team at their office in Antigua. Orientation begins on Monday morning and covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Guatemala – an introduction to Guatemala, Guatemalan customs, language training details, rules and expectations, safety, travel opportunities in Guatemala, and an introduction to your project and placement. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socialising.
Volunteer schedule example
On your first day of volunteering, you will be escorted to your placement by a local coordinator and introduced to the placement staff you will be working with.
Volunteers will have a morning or afternoon shift, which will last around 3 to 5 hours. Work and hours are dependent on the project and location. If a volunteer is taking Spanish language lessons, they will usually volunteer for half the day and spend the other half in lessons. A typical schedule is as follows:
|7:30 - 8:00 AM||Breakfast with your host family.|
|8:30 AM||Volunteer leaves home and travels to the project. The volunteer meets with the local staff. You will be given a duty roster and a plan for your work.|
|12:00 PM||Lunch at a local restaurant.|
|1:00 - 5:00 PM||Work at the placement usually ends. Volunteers are free to travel back to the accommodation, go sightseeing or do some shopping.|
|7:00 PM||Dinner with your host family.|
During the weekends, volunteers have spare time and usually just relax or take the opportunity to explore Antigua and other parts of Guatemala. Hop on a chicken bus and discover the beautiful architecture and sights of the charming city of Antigua, or jump on an ATV and go exploring at a coffee plantation, on a volcano or through small countryside villages. You’ll also find a great selection of markets selling everything from fruit and vegetables to locally-made handcrafts and cooking classes that can teach you how to make Guatemala’s tasty national stew - Pepian.
Long weekends can be taken to travel further afield to destinations, such as Tikal, Belize, Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras.
Sunday is a religious day of rest and many shops and restaurants are closed. Most Guatemalans devote the day to spending time with their family. If you wish, you can accompany your host family to their local church, as a Latin American church service is a unique and special experience for many volunteers.
Accommodation and WiFi
Volunteers who are under the age of 27 are accommodated alongside other volunteers in a large, dormitory style volunteer house, and those over the age of 27 are accommodated in smaller local homestays. If you are traveling as a family, the local team will place you in a home-stay.
Living is comfortable with electricity, running water and western bathrooms. Low pressure showers should be expected and the water is not always heated. You will need to bring your own towel and toiletries, but bed linen is provided.
Bedrooms have single beds and bunk beds with bedding provided. You can expect to share a room with 2 - 6 other volunteers of the same gender. Private room upgrades are available in Antigua and cost $62 per person, per week.
WiFi is available at the volunteer houses and homestays. However, the connection may not be as reliable as what you are used to at home. You will also have access to computers and WiFi at the local team’s office in Antigua.
Please note, volunteers under the age of 18 who are traveling solo will be accommodated separately from those over the age of 18, in a homestay. If there are other volunteers under the age of 18 participating at the same time, the local team will do their best to ensure they are accommodated together.
Volunteers are provided breakfast and dinner at their accommodation. Breakfast will be bread or tortillas, spreads, fruit and eggs with tea or coffee. Dinner commonly consists of meat, beans, starches and vegetables.
Lunches are not provided to Antigua-based volunteers as they are usually away from their accommodation around midday. We recommend budgeting between AU$4 and AU$8 per day to buy lunch at local restaurants recommended by staff. Tap water in Guatemala is not potable and drinking water is not provided for you in your accommodation, however bottled water is easy to purchase and inexpensive throughout Guatemala. Tap water can be used for showers and brushing your teeth.
When you apply for the program, please be sure to notify us of any special dietary requirements so we can make arrangements for you.
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
|1 week||AU$633 Equivalent to AU$90/day|
|2 weeks||AU$1044 Equivalent to AU$75/day|
|3 weeks||AU$1357 Equivalent to AU$65/day|
|4 weeks||AU$1661 Equivalent to AU$59/day|
|5 weeks||AU$1966 Equivalent to AU$56/day|
|6 weeks||AU$2270 Equivalent to AU$54/day|
|8 weeks||AU$2879 Equivalent to AU$51/day|
|10 weeks||AU$3488 Equivalent to AU$50/day|
|12 weeks||AU$4096 Equivalent to AU$49/day|
|16 weeks||AU$5314 Equivalent to AU$47/day|
|20 weeks||AU$6531 Equivalent to AU$47/day|
|24 weeks||AU$7749 Equivalent to AU$46/day|
- Breakfast and dinner
- 24/7 in-country support
- In-country program orientation
- Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
- Airport pick-up
- Personalised preparation tools, guides and check lists
- Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
- Discounts on language lessons
- Discounts on travel and tour add-ons
- Certificate of International Volunteer Service
- All programs attract a Registration Fee of US$329 (approximately AU$541) in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services. IVHQ fees are priced in USD but you may elect to pay in AUD.
- A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
- Additional things to budget for include: Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, public transportation to and from your placement each day and return to the airport when your program finishes.
- Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Guatemala generally find US$100 per week to be sufficient for expenses, such as lunches (except for Beach and Turtle Conservation and Mayan Cultural Immersion volunteers), in-country tours, and Spanish language lessons.
Recommended activities and tour add-ons
We believe that no volunteer adventure would be complete without experiencing the natural wonders of your host country. That’s why we offer volcano and coffee farm tours, surfing lessons and mini adventures, exclusively available to IVHQ volunteers in Guatemala as affordable add-ons.
Please note that volunteers on the Beach & Turtle Conservation, Mayan Cultural Immersion and Eco-Agriculture projects are only able to do the following add ons before or after their program, not during.
Please contact us or your IVHQ Program Manager to book or get more information about any of the following activities and tours.
This incredible historic site is located 60 minutes from Antigua. The tour is available at 2 different times each day, either 8 AM or 1 PM, and lasts approximately 6 hours. You will be picked up and dropped off at the local team’s office. Bilingual guide and entrance tickets are included
Sample local fresh fruits while you visit the famous Central Market and Market El Carmen. Continue your tour with a visit to Museo San Francisco and Casa Santo Domingo.
Walking tour of Antigua with special visits to sample 4 local cuisines
Experience fantastic views of the Panchoy Valley and roast marshmallows on hot lava rocks! At sunset, participants get to enjoy wine/beer or non-alcoholic beverages accompanied by a cheese, grapes, and nuts plate. Bilingual guide and entrance tickets included.
Learn about ancient Mayan customs and traditions, including cooking, dance, costumes, and weaving. A traditional lunch is included.
Explore the grounds of the eco-village, enjoy any of their restaurants, and have access to play the different games that have been set up for guests to unwind and have some fun.
Participants will have the chance to see diverse wildlife, and potentially even some animal births while there! Every safari adventure is a new experience, giving visitors a unique opportunity to see the different species of flora and fauna from the region. The tour is by car and boat ride. Please note, this tour is only available Thursday to Sunday each week.
Participants take in the beautiful sights of the Santo Tomás church and stroll Santander Street. Participants eat lunch on their own in the market or at local restaurants. Bilingual guide and entrance tickets included.
Monterrico is a beautiful black sand beach that is situated on the Guatemalan Pacific ocean. On arrival at the Pacific Coast you will take a mangrove tour by boat. During your tour of the mangroves you will see many different seabirds that are endemic to Guatemala, like pelicans, herons, kingfishers.
Visit the coastal town of El Paredon on the Pacific Coast. Kayak or paddleboard along the mangroves, where you will see many different seabirds that are endemic to Guatemala, like pelicans, herons, and kingfishers. After the tour, your driver will take you to the beachfront hotel where you can enjoy the facilities during the day. You can swim in their pool, use the yoga deck or just enjoy the beach breeze while you have a bite to eat. Transport and guided kayak/paddleboard tour included.
Participants visit the pueblos of San Juan and Santiago around Lake Atitlan by private boat. You will immerse in the traditional market in Chichicastenango, and spend the night in Panajechel. Hotel accommodation, breakfast, bilingual guide and entrance tickets included.
Learn how to surf at a local Surf School in El Zonte, El Salvador - a charming coastal community that is popular amongst surfers. Just a short journey from your volunteer placement in Antigua, you won’t want to miss out on this surfers paradise. Transport, accommodation in dormitory-style housing, expert surf instructors, and surfboard included.
Visit a lush, tropical park known for its jungle views, numerous caves & swimming holes You will depart in the morning for a full day’s drive to Lanquin, where you can enjoy some relaxing time for the evening. On the second day, you will leave in a 4X4 ride for the Semuc Champey National Park. There you will enjoy a hike to “El Mirador”; Visit the Sumidero (where the river flows under the ground and back into the open), the Natural turquoise pools; an awesome tour of the Kamba caves; and tubing in the Cahabon river. On day three, you will return to Antigua early in the morning, with a stop at a Coffee Farm in Coban, before your return to Antigua.
Learn the history of the region by visiting the Copán Archaeological Park, one of the most important sites in Mayan history and UNESCO World Heritage Site. After exploring the secrets of the Mayan culture, you’ll visit Macaw Mountain, an impressive bird park working towards bird rehabilitation, breeding, and protection against poaching. Return transport Antigua - Copan Ruinas, and hotel accommodation included.
Your half-day Volcano Tour will take you to Pacaya Volcano, an active volcano within a national park with exciting thermal activity and stunning scenic views. Enjoy taking amazing photos and even roasting marshmallows over warm lava rocks.
Want to make sure you tick off all the must-see sites in Guatemala? The Mini Adventure combines the major hot spots in Guatemala into a 1-week excursion that can be added at the beginning or end of your volunteer program. You will be accompanied by a certified, bilingual tour guide for each trip, using Antigua as your home base between tours. The 6-day adventure complements your volunteer experience, without the stress of trip planning! It will begin on Sunday and finish the following Saturday morning, and accommodation is included from the Saturday before your adventure begins. Please note that your meals are not included on this trip.
The Mini Adventure includes:
PACAYA VOLCANO Set out on a half-day hike to climb Pacaya Volcano, a fully-active volcano and one of Guatemala’s best national parks. Take amazing photos and roast marshmallows over hot magma.
YALU COFEE FARM Start the day with an exhilarating zipline tour through the trees! Next, learn how the people of Yalu produce their rich and flavorful coffee. Choose two more activities to round out your day—pick fresh blackberries, walk the eco-trails, go horseback riding, catch some fish, or help milk the cows! End the day with a cup of Yalu’s finest coffee.
SURF SCHOOL Leave the town of Antigua and head over to the village of El Zonte in El Salvador. Enjoy your stay at a local surf hostel, and 2 days of private surf lessons with certified surfing instructors. Relax on the beach, try body boarding, and explore nearby caves and waterfalls. The hostel has a great ocean view, a nice pool, and hammocks for relaxing. Based on field conditions and logistics, surf school may be moved to Guatemala’s well-known Playa Hawaii surf destination.
TIKAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE Take a short flight from Guatemala City to Santa Elena, where you meet your guide and travel to Tikal National Park. Explore the “City of Voices” and learn about Mayan civilization and history. The next day you have an early breakfast and visit the Temple of the Jaguar, the Great Plaza, the Lost World, and you climb Temple IV. In the afternoon you fly back to Guatemala City.
If you would like to add a Mini Adventure to your trip, you can arrange this directly with your Program Manager once you are registered for the program.
Enjoy a challenging 2-day trek and camping adventure on the active Acatangego Volcano. You’ll hike 11 miles (8 kms) round-trip up this active volcano with an elevation gain of 5,150 ft (1,500 metress). Be sure to pack your camera to capture the stunning views with neighboring volcanoes spewing lava while camping at 13,000 ft (3,963 metress).
Spend a full day trekking up Acatenango Volcano, an active volcano in Guatemala with stunning views of neighboring volcanoes.
Enjoy a half-day tour of the Yalu Coffee Farm or Philadelphia Coffee Plantation, both working coffee farms, led by your own expert guide. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about the coffee production from plant to cup, and enjoy a coffee tasting at the end of your tour.
How to book IVHQ’s recommended add-ons:
When you apply for an IVHQ volunteer program, make a note of which tours and add-ons you’re interested in on your application form so we can check availability and prices for you.
Once you’ve paid your registration fee, your IVHQ Program Manager will be able to book your place on the tour(s) you have chosen and help you organize your trip.
Affordable Spanish language lessons
Fluency in Spanish is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Guatemala program, however on certain projects volunteer work will be restricted with limited language ability. We recommend that volunteers take advantage of the very affordable language lessons offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers by our partner staff in Guatemala. Past volunteers feel that taking these lessons help immensely with day-to-day volunteer work and communicating with local people. Volunteers interested in taking Spanish lessons can arrange these directly with the IVHQ Program Manager prior to departure. The language lessons are tailored to each volunteer’s current level of Spanish and classes run from Monday through to Friday. The cost is very affordable and offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers. These lessons are not available for volunteers during the Beach and Turtle Conservation project, Mayan Cultural Immersion project, Eco-Agriculture project or Holiday Experience project due to the remoteness of these project locations. Volunteers on these projects can arrange lessons before or after their projects if they wish to stay longer in Antigua.
- 2-hour Small Group Classes: from AU$106 per week
- 1-hour Private Classes: from AU$115 per week
- 2-hour Private Classes: from AU$230 per week
How to book IVHQ’s language lessons: When you apply for your IVHQ volunteer program, make a note in your application of the language classes you’re interested in.
Once you’ve paid your registration fee, your IVHQ Program Manager will be able to book your place on your chosen language classes.
Check what's required to visit Guatemala
Safety and support
IVHQ follows best practice and industry-leading health and safety procedures, which are regularly reviewed and optimized as part of the B Corporation recertification.
- All volunteers encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training.
- All local teams trained on best practice volunteer management & First Aid.
- All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ's Risk Management Policy.
- All volunteers have access to 24/7 in-country support from our local team.
Essential country information
|Currency||Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ)|
Weather and climate: Guatemala has a range of micro climates and the high altitude of Guatemala City results in a subtropical highland climate in this region. There aren’t distinct seasons in Guatemala and the temperature is typically mild year round. Temperatures range from 22°C to 28°C (72°F to 82°F) during the day, and 12°C to 17°C (54°F to 63°F) at night. The country attracts winds and rain during the months of May to October with the hottest month being April.