Volunteer in Guatemala
At a glance…
- Available year-round
- 12 meaningful project options
- Projects based in and around the colonial city of Antigua and Sipacate
- Accommodation in local homestays or a dormitory-style volunteer house
- Between 20 and 50 volunteers start in Guatemala each month
- Program fees include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, breakfasts, dinners and 24/7 in-country support
- Program fees from US$320 for 1 week (approximately AU$395)
- Affordable Spanish Language lessons available
- Most affordable fees - as the world leader in affordable volunteer travel, we’re able to keep our fees low by partnering with a local organisation in Guatemala to support meaningful community projects and local employment.
- Superior support - your experienced IVHQ Program Manager, teamed with our local team in Guatemala will ensure you feel supported every step of the way - from planning to volunteering.
- Responsible projects - we’re dedicated to ensuring that our projects are responsibly run and have sustainable positive impacts that are supporting local needs.
- Online training - as soon as you register on an IVHQ program, you will gain access to our interactive volunteer training to ensure you’re well prepared for your program.
- Safety-first - volunteer safety is a top priority for IVHQ and we have clear standards for risk management on each program. You can feel confident that you are placed with trustworthy institutions, organisations and families that have been screened by our local teams.
- New friendships - as an IVHQer, you’ll always be in the company of friendly locals and like-minded volunteer travellers who will quickly become your life-long friends.
- Epic weekend adventures - you’ll have your weekends free to explore Guatemala with your new-found friends.
The IVHQ Guatemala volunteer program has volunteer placements located in the colonial city of Antigua and surrounding towns and villages. Antigua is located approximately 30 minutes out of Guatemala City. Turtle Conservation volunteers are based in a coastal town on the Pacific Coast, and Eco-Agriculture Conservation volunteers are based in the Guatemala Highlands, just 30 minutes from Antigua.
Guatemala Volunteer Project Locations:
- Childcare (Antigua)
- Medical (Antigua)
- Teaching English (Antigua)
- Turtle Conservation (Pacific Coast)
- Construction and Rennovation (Antigua)
- Eco-Agriculture Conservation (30 minutes from Antigua)
- Mayan Cultural Immersion (Rural Antigua)
- Animal Care/Animal Rights (Antigua)
- Working with Elderly (Antigua)
- Special Needs Care (Antigua)
- Spanish Service Learning (Antigua)
- Holiday Experience (Antigua)
Volunteers are required to fly into La Aurora International Airport, which is a 16 to 18 hour flight from most major airports in Australia.
Volunteer programs begin every Monday. Volunteers can choose to volunteer for periods ranging from 1 week to 24 weeks.
Your role on this project is to provide individual attention and assistance to children from poor homes and communities. Many children at the projects we work with are affected by poor home life, little to no schooling and alcohol or drug abuse among their families.
This project is well suited to individuals with a warm, caring nature and a passion for working with children. You will play an important role in working alongside local staff to improve the educational, emotional, and hygiene conditions of the children.
When volunteering on this project you can expect to work in schools, daycare centers, and orphanages. Work varies but generally consists of providing individual attention, playing with children, organising games and activities, educating children regarding hygiene and assisting with homework.
As you will be working alongisde the local placement staff, prior experience in Childcare is not required to join this project.
As a volunteer on our Medical project in Guatemala you will gain hands on experience working with local doctors and nurses in small local clinics for the poor, providing check-ups and basic medical care in poor communities and at orphanages. The rural areas of Guatemala contrast sharply with those in large cities, especially with respect to medical care.
If you’re someone who is studying or qualified in the Medical or Healthcare field, and wanting to gain knowledge of rural health care systems then this project is for you.
While volunteering on this project it is important that you have realistic expectations with regard to the activities in which you will be involved in. Pre-medical students as well as first and second year medical and nursing students can participate in the following areas within the clinic and hospital placements: taking weight, height, blood pressure, heart rate and temperature, making beds, cleaning, talking with patients, preparing materials and sterilising equipment. Third and fourth year medical and nursing students, as well as medical professionals, can also participate in the following areas: cleaning wounds, giving injections and sutures, working in consult rooms and specialised departments, assisting doctors taking physicals and histories, giving vaccinations, taking records, drawing blood samples, providing basic assistance with physiotherapy. It’s important to note that your level of independence will be determined by your current level of training, demonstrated expertise, Spanish level, age, personality, program duration and ability to take initiative.
This project is open to pre-medical and pre-nursing students, as well as all students enrolled in medical and nursing school. Fully qualified healthcare professionals are also welcome to join this project. Please be sure to note your relevant qualifications and experience in your application.
Please note that the Medical project has an extra cost of US$65 (approximately AU$80) per week for supervision, materials and the logistics involved in this project. This amount will be included in the Program Fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply.
As a volunteer on our Teaching English project you will play an integral part in providing free English lessons to adults and children so they can learn the language. The ability to speak English gives Guatemalans a genuine opportunity to find work and build a career in tourism, business, or teaching.
If you’re someone who is interested in teaching a variety of age groups, and have a strong understanding of the English language - this project is for you!
As a volunteer on this project you will work in a variety of settings, including English learning programs for the poor, public schools, community centres and public libraries. Work varies but generally consists of teaching small groups of children, tutoring local students, setting up workshops, assisting local teachers and organising educational games and activities. You might also participate in cleaning and fixing up the teaching areas as well as fundraising, and collecting donations of books and other educational materials.
As you will be volunteering alongside our local team, you do not need to be a qualified or experienced as a teacher but you may need to plan and deliver an entire class as a primary teacher to small groups of students. Our local team provide Teaching English volunteers with a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) “crash course” and educational materials to help get you started. If you are interested in gaining a TEFL certification at a discounted rate before travelling to Guatemala, visit our Online TEFL Course page.
The aim of this project is to assist a government organisation on the Pacific Coast of Guatemala with sea turtle protection and sustainable egg protection programs.
This project is well suited to individuals who are prepared to work hard and get dirty. The project is located in a rural area and you can expect to stay in a dormitory style hostel.
When volunteering on this project you can expect to help out with beach patrols, relocating eggs to hatcheries to protect them from predators, building hatcheries, releasing hatchlings, beach cleaning and beach reforestation. Your role will vary according to the time of year, and it is important to be flexible in regards to the tasks you are assigned. You will need to arrive into Antigua where you will receive your orientation. You will then make your way to a small fishing village near Sipacate in a provided shuttle on Tuesday morning; returning back to Antigua on the final Friday of your program.
This project is open to all volunteers with an interest in conservation efforts.
Please note that the Turtle Conservation project requires participation for a minimum of 2 weeks and has an extra cost of US$65 (approximately AU$80) per week for supervision, materials and the logistics involved in the project. This amount will be included in the Program Fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply.
Construction and Renovation
As a volunteer on this project you will work alongside a local foreman who provides guidance and training to volunteers while they work on projects focused on home-building, school and orphanage renovation, as well as building playground and bathroom facilities.
This project is well suited to individuals who are ready to work hard and see the results of their work reflected physically in the structures they are working on.
Your tasks may include laying bricks, carpentry, painting, laying tiles, and landscaping/gardening.
You are not required to have experience with construction work, but a reasonable level of fitness and strong dedication to the work at hand will go a long way to ensure you get the most out of your volunteer project.
Please note that the Construction and Renovation project has an extra cost of US$65 (approximately AU$80) per week for supervision, materials and the logistics involved in this project. This amount will be included in the Program Fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply.
As a volunteer on our Eco-Agriculture Conservation project you will be based either in a coffee or macadamia nut farming community, which are located at the base of the Guatemalan Highlands, just outside of Antigua.
The coffee co-operative that volunteers work with was set up with the help of a non-profit organisation that focuses on economic development and sustainable agriculture in Guatemala. The farmers all work between one and seven acres of land that they own. All coffee is organic, shade grown, hand processed and sun dried. The high coffee harvesting season is from December until early March, but there is plenty of work to do all year round.
The local organisation planting macadamia trees seek to reverse global warming, assist communities in developing self-sustaining agriculture, and educate the public about the environment. They accomplish this mission by planting the trees, which introduces Macadamia seedlings to communities as an alternative to slash and burn agriculture.
If you’re someone who enjoys hands-on work and getting to know small local communities and their culture, this is a great project for you!
At both placements, volunteers will work side by side with farmers, providing support and participating in every step of the growing process. When working with the macadamia growers, the work includes weeding, nut picking, and processing the nuts into various items that can be sold in both the national and international market. Volunteers at the coffee plantation are involved with working in the nursery, coffee picking, harvesting, weeding, planting shade trees, and even roasting packaging of the final product for local and international sales. In addition to this, all volunteers may also be involved with community outreach and restoration efforts.
We recommend stating a preference for the placement you wish to work in, but we cannot guarantee preferences as volunteers are ultimately placed where their help is most needed.
As you will be volunteering alongside the local families, you do not need to have experience in coffee/nut production or farming to participate.
Please note that the Eco-Agriculture project has an extra cost of US$65 (approximately AU$80) per week for supervision, materials and the logistics involved in this project. This amount will be included in the Program Fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply.
Mayan Cultural Immersion
This project gives volunteers the chance to experience the culture of a typical Mayan Kakchikel-speaking family in a rural Guatemalan farming community. The village is located about 30 minutes from Antigua by bus and is most well-known for their exquisite woven handicrafts.
Volunteers will work side by side with the families working in the fields, learning how to cook traditional Guatemalan dishes from scratch, doing chores, and making textiles and other crafts from a type of reed that grows in a nearby lake. The goal of this project is to share in everyday life with the host family and community, this means that schedules and work can vary greatly.
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. Volunteers on this project will need to be prepared for basic accommodation and eating traditional Mayan food.
Please note this project has an extra cost of US$65 (approximately AU$80) per week for transportation, lunch, supervision, materials and logistics involved.
Animal Care/Animal Rights
The aim of this project is to meet the high demand for volunteer assistance in a range of animal-focused placements, including a dog and cat shelter, a veterinary clinic and an exotic animal refuge, populated by crocodiles, snakes, lizards and turtles. Culturally speaking, animals are not looked upon as integral members of the family in Latin America, as they are in more developed countries. Unfortunately, this often leads to animals being neglected or abandoned in the streets or rural areas, where their chances of becoming injured or ill are very high.
This project is well suited to individuals who love animals and are willing to help out wherever needed.
When volunteering on this project you can expect to help with cleaning cages, bathing or brushing the animals, helping with obedience training and veterinary care, walking and playing with the animals, or constructing small, functional structures at the animal care facilities. We recommend stating a preference for the type of placement you wish to work in, but we cannot guarantee preferences as volunteers are ultimately placed where their help is most needed.
This project is open to to all volunteers and a veterinary background is not required, although is highly advantageous.
Working with the Elderly
The aim of this project is to help create a compassionate and friendly atmosphere for the elderly. In the communities where we work, elderly people are from very low-income families and they rely on local service organisations even for their basic needs. Unfortunately, most of these organisations are extremely underfunded and international volunteers are a great source of manpower and support for these organisations and communities.
This project is well suited to caring volunteers who are interested in working with the Elderly in nursing homes and senior centres in and around La Antigua.
When volunteering on this project you can expect to provide one-on-one attention, basic healthcare, and socialise with senior citizens. You may also organise recreational activities or assist with medicine distribution and meal preparation. Some volunteers have even created exercise programs, song and dance activities, and arts and crafts projects.
This project is open to all volunteers, and prior experience working with the elderly is not required as you will be working alongside our local placement staff.
Special Needs Care
As a volunteer on this project you will work in homes and clinics for mentally and physically disabled children and babies.
This project is well suited to compassionate individuals looking to make a real difference while volunteering abroad.
Your tasks may include assisting with the personal care of the children, providing specialised attention and helping with physical therapy, feeding, clothing, bathing, and organising crafts and games for playtime. 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.
You are not required to have experience working in Special Needs Care to participate, as you will be working alongside our local team and placement staff.
Spanish Service Learning Course
Students from around the world have an opportunity to gain university credit while volunteering in Guatemala through the Spanish Service Learning Course (SPAN203SL), which is accredited by California State University, San Marcos. The purpose of the Spanish Service Learning Course is to foster a sense of civic responsibility and community, to expose students to local culture and language, and to create an opportunity for students to broaden their global perspective and identity. For further details, see our Spanish Service Learning Course page.
Students attend 5 guided reflections, write a daily journal and then complete a final reflection paper. The Spanish Service Learning Course and optional language lessons are offered in conjunction with the volunteer work and can all be included in your daily schedule as an IVHQ volunteer. The workshops and written assignments are conducted in English, however the remainder of the course and the entire volunteer experience offer total Spanish immersion. Volunteers choose their work from a range of options including: Teaching English, Childcare, Special Needs Care, Animal Care, Construction and Renovation, Eco-Agriculture and Medical and arranging the course accreditation is done through your IVHQ Program Manager and the local team in Guatemala after you have registered. When applying online, please apply for the Spanish Service Learning Course project and indicate your volunteer work preference in the ‘Comments’ section of your application.
The course fee is US$880 (approximately AU$1090) and is paid directly to IVHQ’s local team to cover all aspects of the course and accreditation. This course fee is in addition to the IVHQ Registration Fee and the Program Fee which volunteers pay to cover the volunteer section of the course requirements. Volunteers can join the Spanish Service Learning Course any time of year and it requires a minimum duration of 4 weeks. Attendance for the whole duration is mandatory.
The Guatemala Holiday Experience project is held during the weeks of Christmas and New Years and provides the opportunity to participate in a variety of different projects and activities in the local community. The project was designed by our local team as an alternative to the standard projects which have frequent public holiday closures over the Christmas and New Years period.
Volunteers on the Holiday Experience project assist in a range of tasks, such as working with underprivileged children, coordinating holiday parties for underprivileged children and elderly, working in an animal shelter and working on a sustainable coffee farm. On the major holidays that fall during this period, volunteers have the day off to explore La Antigua and the surrounding areas, which is a beautiful and unique experience during the festive season.
Please note, in 2018, this project is only available to volunteers who begin the weeks of 24th and 31st of December. Volunteers who continue on the program beyond these weeks will resume on a standard volunteer project of their choice.
The Holiday Experience project requires an extra cost of US$75 (approximately AU$95) per week for supervision, materials and the logistics involved in this project which will be included in the program fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply.
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. Australian travellers do not require a visa to enter Guatemala for a duration of 90 days. Your airport pick-up is included in your Program Fee.
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 – Introduction to Guatemala, Guatemalan Customs, Language Training Details, Rules and Expectations, Safety, Travel Opportunities in Guatemala, 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. Once your orientation is complete, you will be transported to your home-stay or volunteer house and introduced to the relevant hosts. Volunteers on the Turtle Conservation project will be transported to their conservation site on the first Tuesday of their program..
First Day: 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.
Weekdays: Volunteers will have a morning or afternoon shift, which will last around 2 to 4 hours. A typical afternoon schedule is as follows:
12.00 PM - Lunch at a local restaurant
1.00 PM - Volunteer leaves home and travels to the project. The volunteer joins with the local staff. You will be given a duty roster and a plan for your work. Work and hours is dependent on the project and location that the volunteer is participating on.
4.00 PM - Work at the placement usually ends. Volunteers are free to travel home, go sight seeing or do some shopping.
7.00 PM - Dinner with the host family.
Please note, this schedule can vary as projects take place in either the morning, afternoon or evening. If a volunteer is taking Spanish language lessons, he/she will usually volunteer for half the day and spend the other half (3 to 4) hours taking Spanish language lessons.
Volunteers are accommodated alongside other volunteers in either a homestay with a local family or a dormitory-style volunteer house. Living is comfortable in both the volunteer house and home-stays and all accommodation has electricity, running water and western bathrooms. Low pressure showers should be expected and the water is not always heated. Bedrooms are comprised of single beds and bunk beds with bedding provided. You can expect to share a room with two to six other volunteers of the same gender, but in some home-stays volunteers will have their own rooms.
The volunteer house does not have WiFi, however it is available in some of the home-stays. You will also have access to computers and WiFi at the local team’s office in Antigua.
Volunteers are provided breakfast and dinner at their accommodation. Breakfast typically consists of bread or tortillas, spreads, fruit and eggs accompanied with tea or coffee. Dinner commonly consists of meat, beans, starches and vegetables. Lunches are not provided to Antigua-based volunteers as they are typically away from their accommodation mid-day. We recommend budgeting between AU$4 and AU$6 per day to purchase lunch at local restaurants recommended by the local staff. When you apply for the program, please be sure to notify us of any special dietary requirements so we can make arrangements for you. 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.
“I certainly felt I was making a difference and helping the nurses and doctors out with such a large patient load in one clinic and with an understaffed problem in the other. My favourite moment was after washing a little girl’s feet and hands as a part of the healthy kids program at the clinic, she jumped up gave me a huge hug and said she loved me. It was very touching. It was an excellent learning experience and very rewarding.” - Leah Pagnozzi (Medical Volunteer in Guatemala)
During the weekends, volunteers have spare time and usually just relax or take the opportunity to explore other parts of Antigua and other areas in Guatemala. 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 most places (stores, restaurants) are closed on Sundays, as 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 unique and special experience for many volunteers.
See our Guatemala Travel and Tours page for more volunteer travel options in Guatemala!
|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 (Köppen Cwb) 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.
Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate, unless volunteering with a parent or guardian. All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check to IVHQ once registered for the program.
Fluency in Spanish is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Guatemala volunteer program, however on certain projects, such as Teaching English and Medical, volunteer work will be restricted with limited Spanish language ability. We recommend that volunteers take advantage of the very affordable language lessons offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers by our local partner in Guatemala. Past volunteers feel that taking these lessons helped immensely with day-to-day volunteer work and communicating with local people. Volunteers interested in taking Spanish lessons can arrange these directly with the local staff once in Guatemala.
Free Interactive Volunteer Training - All volunteers are encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training, which is available exclusively to registered IVHQ volunteers. The training is designed to build an understanding of important aspects that need to be considered before embarking on an IVHQ program. It helps volunteers to prepare in the right way by providing advice on what it takes to be a safe, responsible and valuable volunteer. Try a sample of the training here.
Volunteer Language Lessons
Fluency in Spanish is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Guatemala program, however on certain projects, such as Teaching and Healthcare, 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 local staff once in Guatemala at the program orientation. 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.
- 1-Hour Private Classes: US$55 per week (approximately AU$70)
- 2-Hour Small Group Classes: US$50 per week (approximately AU$60)
- 4-Hour Group Classes: $95 per week (approximately AU$120)
Volunteer Extra Activities - Surf in El Salvador
If you would like to compliment your volunteer experience in Guatemala with a 5-day/4-night trip to the coast of El Salvador for an incredible surf school experience, you can arrange this directly with our local staff once you arrive in Antigua! After spending the weekend in Antigua, you will head to El Salvador on Monday morning and arrive in time for your first one-on-one surf lesson. While staying at a local boutique hotel complete with a pool, hammocks and ocean views, you will enjoy three meals and 2 hours of personal surf instruction per day. Spend your free time on the beach, body boarding, enjoying the hotel facilities or exploring nearby caves. The local beaches have great nightlife with music and dancing! The cost is US$590 (approximately AU$730) and includes the following:
Transport to and from the beach in El Salvador
9 hours of one-on-one surf instruction
4 nights at a hotel
13 meals at the hotel dining facility (vegetarian options available)
3 additional nights with your host family in Antigua
Volunteer Extra Activities - Mini Adventure in Guatemala
Be sure to see all the must-see sites in Guatemala while you are in-country - the Mini Adventure combines the major hot spots in Guatemala into a one-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 program compliments your volunteer experience, without the stress of trip planning! If you would like to add a Mini Adventure to your trip, you can arrange this directly with our local staff once you are in Antigua. The cost is US$1095 (approximately AU$1415) and includes the following:
Pacaya Volcano hike
3 days/2 nights on the beach in El Salvador (surf lessons included)
2 days/1 night in Tikal (return airfare to Tikal included)