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Special Needs Care Volunteer Program in Guatemala - Antigua

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 personalized care and attention that can really make a difference to their lives.

  • Programs start every Monday
  • Affordable fees from CA$547 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

### Surf School (7 days/6 nights) - CA$1767 The Surf program is either in El Paredon in Guatemala or in El Zonte, El Salvador. Transportation to/from Antigua/El Zonte + housing for 6 nights in family-stay in Antigua and in dormitory-style housing at Surf School. Meals are NOT included, except with family-stay nights in Antigua, but there are various restaurants participants can choose from. Participants are led by expert instructors 2-3 hours/day. The surfboard is provided.

Key information

Provide care & connection for those with disabilities
Based in group homes and clinics in Guatemala
Homestay or volunteer house
Volunteers aged 18+
Fully hosted experience from CA$547 for 1 week
Durations from 1 - 24 weeks
Spanish language lessons available
Up to 5 hours volunteering a day

This program is ideal for:

Compassionate volunteers who enjoy interacting with and caring for children and people with disabilities. You’ll be working closely with the local staff so experience is not required.
Who is this program suited to?

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
Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #3: Good Health and Well-Being

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #3: Good Health and Well-Being

Good mental and physical health is key to sustainable development and building healthy and happy communities. Now more than ever, we must increase access to free healthcare and health education across the globe to achieve an acceptable standard of living and wellbeing for all.

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

Volunteer requirements

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.

Are you eligible to volunteer?

Submit a free application so we can confirm your eligibility and check availability for your preferred dates.

Apply For Free

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What recent volunteers said about their IVHQ experience

Anneliese Delgado-Cate
14 Feb 2024

There are always a million reasons not to go abroad – finances, time restraints, the unknown. But I would encourage anyone who is considering it to take the plunge and just say “yes.” Not only do I feel like I made a positive impact volunteering on an eco-farm in Guatemala, I also improved my Spanish, made new friends, played various sports in the evenings and experienced the rejuvenating tranquility that comes with traveling to a new part of the world.

Michelle Fox
18 Jan 2024

It was wonderful in many ways - the work I did was impactful, the people I worked with were friendly and welcoming. They became my good friends. Antigua was beautiful and safe. The local team provided many opportunities beyond volunteering - Spanish classes, excursions, and local activities like dance and cooking classes. I will give a huge thumbs up for IVHQ and the local team.

Manuel Garcia Estrada
18 Jan 2024

My experience of going to Guatemala to teach English was truly transformative. Not only did I have the opportunity to share my knowledge and skills with eager learners, but I also immersed myself in a rich cultural exchange that broadened my perspective on education and life.

One of the most significant gains from this experience was the deep sense of fulfillment that comes from making a positive impact on others. Teaching English in Guatemala allowed me to witness the power of education in empowering individuals and communities. The resilience and enthusiasm of my students were inspiring, and the bonds formed during my time there are cherished memories.

To those hesitant about embarking on a similar journey, I would wholeheartedly encourage them to take the leap. Teaching abroad is not just about imparting language skills; it's about fostering understanding, building connections, and embracing cultural diversity. The personal growth and the relationships forged during this adventure are unparalleled. My advice would be to approach it with an open heart, be flexible in adapting to new environments, and savor the rewarding moments that teaching and cultural exchange bring. It's an experience that not only benefits others but leaves an indelible mark on your own life journey.

Mohammad Mahi
15 Sep 2022

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.

Jessica Ribble
14 Jun 2022

It is an amazing experience that will stay with you for many years and it opened my eyes to many new opportunities for adventures.

Elizabeth Bryant
29 Jan 2021

I cannot put into words how amazing and humbling my experience in Guatemala was. I had some reservations about traveling to a foreign country by myself, where I barely spoke the language, but IVHQ and the local team helped me every step of the way. The Special Needs program not only tested everything I thought I understood about children with special needs but also showed me the power love and physical contact has on a child's life (I realize how incredibly corny that sounds but the 10 minutes spent holding or talking to one of the kiddos might have been the only loving contact they had that day). This program completely exceeded every expectation I had and was truly one of the best experiences I could have ever done. I mean, how many people can say that they spent their morning helping a child learn to walk and the afternoon hiking an active volcano and roasting marshmallows over lava??


To read all reviews, visit our reviews page.

Academic course credit through International Volunteer HQ and Intern Abroad HQ.

Academic course credit

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Volunteer Abroad in Guatemala with IVHQ


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 traveling 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 socializing.

Volunteer schedule example

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.


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 CA$4 and CA$7 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.


  • USD
Program Fee
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
  • USD
1 week CA$546 Equivalent to CA$78/day
2 weeks CA$901 Equivalent to CA$64/day
3 weeks CA$1171 Equivalent to CA$56/day
4 weeks CA$1433 Equivalent to CA$51/day
5 weeks CA$1696 Equivalent to CA$48/day
6 weeks CA$1958 Equivalent to CA$47/day
8 weeks CA$2484 Equivalent to CA$44/day
10 weeks CA$3009 Equivalent to CA$43/day
12 weeks CA$3534 Equivalent to CA$42/day
16 weeks CA$4584 Equivalent to CA$41/day
20 weeks CA$5635 Equivalent to CA$40/day
24 weeks CA$6685 Equivalent to CA$40/day
  • Accommodation
  • Breakfast and dinner
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • In-country program orientation
  • Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
  • Airport pick-up
  • Personalized 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

Learn more about what's included in your IVHQ Registration Fee and Program Fee.

  • All programs attract a Registration Fee of US$329 (approximately CA$467) 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 CAD.
  • 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.

Free-time experiences & tours in Guatemala

Take your volunteer experience to the next level with IVHQ's affordable activity and tour add-ons in Guatemala! Explore your options below and learn how to book them once you've been accepted onto the IVHQ Guatemala program.

Coffee Farm Tour (Half Day)
Coffee Farm Tour (Half Day)

Step into the world of coffee excellence in the lush highlands of Guatemala

Mini Adventure (6 days, 7 nights)
Mini Adventure (6 days, 7 nights)

See all of Guatemala’s major hot spots on this 1-week Mini Adventure tour.

Volcano Tour (Half day)
Volcano Tour (Half day)

Trek up Pacaya Volcano, a fully active volcano and national park. Enjoy breathtaking views and learn about Guatemala’s natural history.

Mini Adventure (6 days, 7 nights)
Mini Adventure (6 days, 7 nights)

See all of Guatemala’s major hot spots on this 1-week Mini Adventure tour.

Coffee Farm Tour (Half Day)
Coffee Farm Tour (Half Day)

Step into the world of coffee excellence in the lush highlands of Guatemala

Volcano Tour (Half day)
Volcano Tour (Half day)

Trek up Pacaya Volcano, a fully active volcano and national park. Enjoy breathtaking views and learn about Guatemala’s natural history.


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 CA$92 per week
  • 1-hour Private Classes: from CA$99 per week
  • 2-hour Private Classes: from CA$198 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 with IVHQ

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.
Learn more about IVHQ's safety

Essential country information

Capital Guatemala City
Population 15.08 million
Languages Spanish
Currency Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ)
Time zone UTC−06:00

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.

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How to get started

Pick a destination + project and apply for free
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