Volunteer reccomendations in Xela & Lake Atitlan
Replies: 4 - Last Post: Sep 22, 2013 4:58 PM Last Post By: Freequebec2013
Sep 19, 2013 5:30 AM
Volunteer reccomendations in Xela & Lake AtitlanMy husband & I and our 17 year old daughter are headed to Guatemala for 2 months starting in early October. We plan to do spanish school but we would like a school that is well connected with volunteering with local kids. Can anyone recommend a school in Xela or Lake Atitlan that works closely with helping in the local community?
If someone has suggestions for voluntering opportunities not connected with a school I'd love to hear about it as well. It just seems like it would be easier if the school was involved.
Thanks in advance.
Sep 19, 2013 7:01 AM
1The Cooperativa school in San Pedro La Laguna has great connections with the local schools - I'd check with them. There's also a program for individuals with disabilities next to the municipal offices by the market, Somos Hijos del Lago, that was 1 of my 1st attractions to the school 7 years ago. I've been heading back to the Cooperativa almost every year since then - if you contact them, please tell them Stacey stays hi and misses them!
Note that the 'summer break' for kids in Guatemala is from mid/late October until mid January so school won't be in session most of your visit. We have a scholarship nonprofit and it's possible that some of the kids could use tutoring during the break, depending on your Spanish levels and teaching experience - you could ask about that, too. Beca Project
Hope you find just what you're looking for - keep us posted!
Sep 19, 2013 12:20 PM
2It may be worth bearing in mind that any organization worth volunteering at which puts volunteers in contact with children will have a series of safeguards in place to protect the interests of those children.
There have been enough horror stories for this to be deemed unfortunately necessary.
Exactly what the safeguards are vary from org to org, but they can include anything from not allowing unsupervised contact with children to requiring criminal background checks.
Another thing to bear in mind is that with 2 months and little Spanish you may not be considered such an asset to many organizations, and in fact short term, unskilled volunteers can often be a burden as they occupy resources while they are being trained and then once they are up to speed they leave.
All the above is not to discourage you, just to let you know that there's a little more to it than rocking up one day and playing some games the next.
Volunteering through a school is a good idea, particularly when looking for short term placement, although the other unfortunate reality is that many schools' involvement in social projects is more of a marketing decision than a humanitarian one - being that every other school in the country says they are involved in some sort of social project, would you pick one that wasn't?
It's not all that complicated to find your own volunteer position if you are prepared to do your homework. www.idealist.org has many thousands of positions in a searchable database covering the world.
Narrowing it down a little, www.entremundos.org has a comprehensive database covering mostly Guatemala's western highlands (where Xela and Lake Atitlan are both located). They also offer a variety of services for volunteer placement - check out the links under the "For Volunteers" menu.
Sep 19, 2013 12:30 PM
3Xela is rather cold and often rainy. You might be better off in Antigua at a school there for Spanish and then doing volunteer work at Herman Pedro hospital. Lots to see and do in Antigua. Up at Largo Atitlan lots of villages to see and wonderful views of the lake and the volcanos. Photos on wolfcalls.com
Sep 22, 2013 4:58 PM
4The majority of Spanish schools in Xela have their own social projects or are connected with a specific NGO for the purpose of placing potential volunteers. Xela is the second largest city in Guatemala after Guatemala City; it is large and interesting. If you are planning a visit to this part of the Highlands, don't forget to pack warm clothes. San Pedro at Lake Atitlan is also an interesting place, although it has a reputation for attracting hippies, and drugs are easily found there. You can avoid this culture, however, if it doesn't appeal to you. The scenery at Lake Atitlan is astounding, with the lake itself surrounded by three awesome volcanoes and a number of indigenous villages. The majority of serious NGO's are looking for volunteers that are a minimum of 18 years old; much of the time these charitable organizations ask the volunteers to donate money before they will offer them a placement. I agree with Braxman; if you are looking for a short-term volunteer placement for a teenager who is only 17 years old, volunteering via a local Spanish school is a good option. Personally, for many reasons, I prefer Antigua. Good weather, security and safety, cleanliness, quiet, and the size of Antigua all make it a more desirable place to be, in my opinion. It is a small city; everything of interest is within walking distance. Antigua is a cultural center, and there is always something going on there; it is difficult to be bored, whatever your age. There are many bars and restaurants, and live music, theatre, art...Antigua has it all. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and has many connections with history and many small museums to visit as well. The ambience of of Antigua is very charming. Antigua has a reputation as the home to many excellent Spanish schools, and it is also a place where it is possible to find a volunteer placement relatively easily. My wife worked as a volunteer with malnourished babies; I helped with a project that was associated with my Spanish school, working with children from the ages of 9 to 12, helping them with their homework each afternoon. There was a teenage girl Spanish school student who worked with these local children as well; the Spanish school offered her a placement as a volunteer within this "in-house" project. She was really happy to have had the opportunity to experience this sort of work; it was very satisfying to help the children, and we could see that our help was much appreciated. I hope that you have a great trip, and a memorable experience studying Spanish and volunteering in Guatemala.
(0 star Hotel)
From US$8.00 per night
(0 star Hotel)
From US$2.50 per night
Guatemala CityBook now
(3 star Hotel)
From US$95.00 per night