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Volunteer in Guatemala

Volunteer in Guatemala with International Volunteer HQ
Volunteer in Guatemala with International Volunteer HQ! IVHQ has a wide range of volunteer abroad projects available in Guatemala, including Teaching English, Childcare, Medical, Elderly Care, Animal Care/Animal Rights, Lake Conservation, El Salvador Turtle Conservation, Eco-Agriculture Conservation, Construction and Renovation and Special Needs.
Capital: 
Guatemala City
Population: 
15.08 million
Official 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 (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.

About the Guatemala program

LOCATION OF GUATEMALA VOLUNTEER ABROAD PROGRAM

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. The Lake Conservation project is based 3 hours from Antigua at the project site on Lake Atitlan, and the El Salvador Turtle Conservation project is based in Los Cobanos, El Salvador, about 4 to 6 hours from Antigua.

START AND DURATION OF GUATEMALA VOLUNTEER ABROAD PROGRAM

Volunteer programs begin every Monday. Volunteers can choose to volunteer for periods ranging from 1 week to 24 weeks.

GUATEMALA VOLUNTEER REQUIREMENTS

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's local team on arrival in Guatemala. Additional requirements apply for Medical volunteers, please read the project description below.

GUATEMALA VOLUNTEER LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS

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 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 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. Please note Spanish lessons are not available on the Lake Conservation or El Salvador Turtle Conservation projects.

VOLUNTEER AND EARN UNIVERSITY COURSE CREDIT

IVHQ volunteers are able to gain university credit by participating in a Spanish Service Learning Course (SPAN203SL) while volunteering in Guatemala. To take advantage of this unique opportunity, you need to be volunteering for a minimum 4 weeks and need to be studying with a university that accepts course credits accredited by California State University. For further details, see our Spanish Service Learning Course page.

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.

HOW MANY OTHER VOLUNTEERS WILL THERE BE?

Between 20 and 50 volunteers start on our volunteer programs in Guatemala each month, making us one of the most popular volunteer organizations in Guatemala! What does this mean for you? More people to socialize and travel with, more people to meet from different cultures, more people to volunteer with, more projects to work on, more staff support, better infrastructure for volunteers and lower fees! 

Guatemala volunteer reviews

"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 favorite 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)
Visit our Volunteer Abroad Reviews page to read more reviews from IVHQ volunteers in Guatemala.

Guatemala volunteer project descriptions

El Salvador Turtle Conservation

Turtle Conservation volunteers work alongside a local Spanish-speaking project director to assist with sea turtle studies and conservation, and help with sustainable egg protection programs. Living conditions are basic and volunteers must come prepared to work hard. Volunteer roles vary according to the time of year and the work involves both night and day shifts, Monday through to Saturday. General work includes night beach patrols, building hatcheries to protect eggs from predators, beach cleaning, counting and tagging sea turtles, locating nesting females, collecting eggs, releasing the hatchlings, and supporting education programs within the local community. Opportunities may also be presented to suitably qualified volunteers to assist in deep sea observation. Volunteers on this project first arrive into Antigua, Guatemala, where they will have orientation and spend their first few days before making the trip to El Salvador via shuttle bus. Volunteers will then be based in Los Cobanos, El Salvador for the remainder of their volunteer program. On the final Friday, volunteers will return to Antigua. Please note, the El Salvador Turtle Conservation project has a minimum duration of 2 weeks and an extra cost of US$49 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.

Teaching English

The ability to speak English gives Guatemalans a genuine opportunity to find work and build a career in tourism, business, or teaching. Volunteers play an integral part in providing free English lessons to adults and children so they can learn English. Volunteers work in a variety of settings, including English learning programs for the poor, public schools, community centers and public libraries. Work varies but generally consists of teaching small groups of children, providing tutoring local students, setting up workshops, assisting local teachers and organizing educational games and activities. Volunteers can also participate in cleaning and fixing up the teaching areas as well as fundraising, and collecting donations of books and other educational materials. Please note, volunteers do not need to be a qualified or experienced teacher but may need to plan and deliver an entire class as a primary teacher to small group of students. As volunteers work with the support of IVHQ's local team and placement staff, they do not need to be qualified or experienced teachers to participate. Our local team provide Teaching English volunteers with an ESL (English as a Second Language) “crash course” and educational materials to help get you started. To prepare before you depart, visit our Online TEFL course page to learn how to gain an internationally-recognized TEFL certification at a discounted rate.

Childcare

The Childcare project in Guatemala provides 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. Volunteers will work in schools, daycare centers, and orphanages. Work varies but generally consists of providing individual attention, playing with children, organizing games and activities, educating children regarding hygiene and assisting with homework. Volunteers play an important role in working alongside local staff to improve the educational, emotional, and hygiene conditions of the children.

Medical

The rural areas of Guatemala contrast sharply with those in large cities, especially with respect to medical care. Volunteers working on the medical project can get 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. It is important that Medical volunteers have realistic expectations with regard to the activities in which they will get involved. Pre-medical students, first year or 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 sterilizing 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 specialized departments, assisting doctors taking physicals and histories, giving vaccinations, taking records, drawing blood samples, providing basic assistance with physiotherapy. Volunteers should understand that their level of independence within their volunteer work will always be determined by their level of training, demonstrated expertise, Spanish level, age, personality, program duration and& ability to take initiative. Please note, the Medical project has an extra cost of US$49 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.

Animal Care/Animal Rights

Culturally speaking, dogs and cats in Latin America are not really looked upon as integral members of the family the way they are in more developed countries. This often leads to neglect and abandonment and therefore a high demand and need for volunteer assistance. The projects we work with protect these animals and provide human company, veterinary treatment and playtime for the animals. They also run spay/neuter programs, rabies vaccination clinics, fund-raising events and lead educational programs in local schools. Volunteers bathe and brush the animals, provide basic obedience training, clean cages, walk and play with the animals. Small construction projects (like building dog runs and creating fences), photography and fundraising are other activities that volunteers often do.

Construction and Renovation

Construction projects are focused on home-building, school and orphanage renovation, as well as building playground and bathroom facilities. A local foreman provides guidance and training to volunteers while they work alongside other volunteers and local families. Volunteers should come ready to work hard, as they will be laying brick, doing carpentry, painting, laying tile, and landscaping/gardening. Volunteers 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 they get the most out of their volunteer project. Please note, the Construction and Renovation project has an extra cost of US$49 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.

Eco-Agriculture Conservation

The Guatemala Eco-Agriculture Conservation project is based in a coffee farming community located at the base of the Guatemalan highlands, just outside of Antigua. The coffee co-operative volunteers work with was set up with the help of a non-profit organization 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. As a volunteer alongside these farmers, you will provide support and participate in every step of the coffee growing, harvesting, and marketing process. This includes working in the nursery, coffee picking, weeding, planting shade trees, and even roasting packaging of the final product for local and international sales. The high coffee harvesting season is from December until early March, but there is plenty of work to do all year round. In addition to the coffee co-operative, volunteers may also be involved with local agriculture and reforestation efforts. The farmers in this co-operative are also in the process of building a school for their community and some volunteers may be asked to help the farmers with the construction work on the school. Please note, the Eco-Agriculture project has an extra cost of US$49 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.

Lake Conservation

The IVHQ Guatemala Lake Conservation project works with a local organization founded to help preserve the natural resources of Lake Atitlan by raising awareness and educating the local population on the proper use of the lake and its basin. Lake Atitlan is located about 3 hours from La Antigua and volunteers live onsite in San Luis with a local host family. The Lake Conservation project can be broken down into three sub projects: Environmental Education, Natural Resource Management and Environmental Clean Up. The Environmental Education project focuses on the themes of recycling, proper trash disposal, water conservation, and pollution in the school system and targeting local populations. The Natural Resources Management project is dedicated to restoring the surrounding hillsides of Lake Atitlán through reforestation and increased soil fertilization. Finally, the Environmental Clean-up project is multifaceted and focuses on water filtration, recycling, waste management, and seasonal area clean-up. Once you arrive at Lake Atitlán, you will assist the environmental educators and/or conservation workers who are involved in managing the lake conservation activities. Please note, the Lake Conservation project has an extra cost of US$49 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.

Special Needs Care

Compassionate volunteers looking to make a real difference can join our Special Needs Care project in Guatemala. Volunteers work in homes and clinics for mentally and physically disabled children and babies. Volunteers assist with the personal care of the children, providing specialized attention and helping with physical therapy, feeding, clothing, bathing, and organizing 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.

Working with the Elderly

Elderly care placements in Guatemala place volunteers at nursing homes and senior centres in and around La Antigua. The focus of these projects 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 now late in life they rely on local service organizations even for their basic needs. Unfortunately, most of these organizations are extremely underfunded and international volunteers are a great source of manpower and support for these organizations and communities. Volunteers provide one-on-one attention, basic healthcare, and socialize with senior citizens. Volunteers also organize recreational activities, medicine distribution, and meal preparation. Some volunteers have even created exercise programs, song and dance activities, and arts and crafts projects.

VOLUNTEER ACCOMMODATION AND MEALS

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, but in some homestays volunteers get their own rooms.
 
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 US$3 and $6 per day to purchase lunch at local restaurants recommended by the local staff. Lake Conservation and Turtle Conservation volunteers are provided with lunch given the limited availability of restaurants in the rural settings these projects are placed in. 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 and El Salvador is not potable and drinking water is not provided for you in your accommodation, however bottled water is easy to purchase and inexpensive throughout El Salvador and Guatemala. Tap water can be used for showers and brushing your teeth.

VOLUNTEER ORIENTATION

Orientation is taken by our Guatemalan team at our offices 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 socializing. 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 Lake Conservation and the El Salvador Turtle Conservation projects will be transported to their conservation sites on the first Tuesday of their program.

VOLUNTEER WEEK

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 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.

VOLUNTEER WEEKENDS

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.

Volunteers on the El Salvador Turtle Conservation project work Monday through Saturday, however it is possible to have some Saturdays off, especially if you are staying for longer than two weeks. During your stay in El Salvador, snorkeling equipment can be borrowed from the local staff, small tourist agencies in the area can offer dolphin tours, sport or artisan fishing trips, diving (November to March), and whale and dolphin watching. Further along the coast, El Zonte and El Trunco offer great surfing. 

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.

2-Hour Small Group Classes: US$50 per week
 
1-Hour Private Classes: US$55 per week

Please note, Spanish lessons are not available on the Lake Conservation or El Salvador Turtle Conservation projects.

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 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$995 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)
  • Zip-line tour
Guatemala Volunteer Fees: 
Volunteer periodProgram fee US$
1 Week275
2 Weeks465
3 Weeks635
4 Weeks785
5 Weeks900
6 Weeks1015
8 Weeks1245
10 Weeks1475
12 Weeks1705
16 Weeks2165
20 Weeks2625
24 Weeks3085
To convert these prices to your local currency click here.
Please note: All programs attract a Registration Fee of $279 USD on top of the Program Fee. The Medical, Construction, Eco-Agriculture Conservation, Lake Conservation and El Salvador Turtle Conservation projects also have an extra cost of US$49 per week for supervision, materials and the logistics involved in these projects. This will be included in the fees quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply.

What do my fees pay for?

Registration Fee (refundable if you choose not to go*) – ongoing support from IVHQ staff, program marketing costs, information pack, administration costs, IVHQ Fund, travel costs to inspect programs and communication costs with volunteers.
Program Fee – airport pick-up, orientation, program supervision, accommodation, breakfast and dinner during volunteer program period, in-country 24/7 volunteer support and in-country administration costs.

What additional costs will I have?

Visa, flightstravel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, lunches while in-country, transfer back to the airport at conclusion of program, Spanish lessons (optional), souvenirs, in-country trips or tours and spending money. Volunteers in Guatemala generally find US$65 to be sufficient for basic weekly expenses.

* - Terms and conditions do apply.

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