There are plenty of volunteering opportunities in Guatemala. While you may need to do some advanced planning, volunteering is a great way to personally experience the country and get to know its people and culture. The travel guide includes volunteering opportunities for each part of the country at the end of each corresponding section. Keep in mind that the guide is not an exhaustive list! Do some legwork, and you may find an even better opportunity than what is listed there.
Volunteers should do some serious research and reflection before committing to a project. Realistically, it is hard to be a productive, valuable volunteer in Guatemala without speaking at least a little Spanish. Voluntourism is a growing trend around the world, and Guatemala is no exception. Other things to think about are the project’s sustainability, whether or not you have the skills to make a difference, if your money could be used better in some other way. For example, building a school may seem like a great way to make a difference, and it usually is. However, do you have construction experience? Wouldn’t it make more sense to hire a Guatemalan to build the school, thus creating a new job?
This is not to say that first-rate volunteering opportunities are not available – among others, EntreMundos in Xela places skilled volunteers in positions that meet their skills and the needs of local communities. However, numerous abandoned school classrooms, composting latrines used as storage sheds, and forgotten chicken coops throughout Guatemala are clear signs that not all volunteer gigs have an impact. The point is to put in the extra time to find a rewarding opportunity for both Guatemala and yourself.
Many foreigners find work in Guatemala as English teachers or employees in bars or hostels in very touristy areas. Formal employment is highly competitive, so unless you’re a citizen or a development worker you should not move to Guatemala to look for work.
Photo Credit: Transitions Abroad