This program plays a critical role in a country where the precious natural resources are deteriorating. Due to the extreme poverty of the population in the Mayan highlands where this program is based, people have concentrated on simply surviving. The natural environment has suffered from unsustainable farming practices, climate change, alleged corruption and the exploitation of natural resources. This program aims to preserve the natural environment through a series of projects that raise awareness of the issues within local indigenous populations, teach sustainable farming methods, help to showcase the natural splendour by creating trails and eco-tourism initiatives to bring in new income streams and employment to the region and teach locals eco-friendly practices. Volunteers are essential to this project, proving an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and skilled workforce to pass their knowledge on to an impoverished population who need to protect their natural environment for a sustainable future.
Goals of this Project:
- Provide free environmental protection programs to locals in a region under threat
- Improve the long-term sustainability of impoverished indigenous communities
- Improve the future prospects by teaching sustainable practices and eco-friendly practices
- Help to create an eco-tourism market, thus promoting and protecting the area for future generations and creating an income stream to the impoverished area
Volunteers are the life-force of this program. With the help of international volunteers, the principles and practices of environmental protection can be brought to these marginalised communities, teaching them the importance of protecting their natural heritage. This program is suitable for volunteers who like the outdoors, are enthusiastic and don’t mind getting their hands dirty. Volunteers with a passion for wild flora and fauna and wholeheartedly believe in eco sustainability will be fabulous mentors and teachers. Participants must be physically fit and enjoy being outdoors, as there is a real element of ‘roughing it’ on this amazing project. This program is open to non-Spanish speakers, although a minimum of beginner lever knowledge is advised. Language skill levels should improve as volunteers immerse themselves in this important project, liaising with program staff and the local community. This program also plays a part in increasing cross-cultural understanding, with volunteers and locals learning much about the world and different cultures through their interaction.
Volunteers will contribute in a number of ways and in general can expect to undertake the following tasks:
- Make projects out recycled materials
- Help devise ecological solutions for resource management
- Help to build and maintain trails and work in organic gardens
- Help catalogue plant species
- Promote eco-tourism and present workshops regarding eco-friendly practices to locals
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Upon your arrival in Guatemala, you will collected at the airport (or bus station) by a member of the local project team and taken to your accommodation. Here you will be welcomed by your host family and settled into your new surroundings.
On Monday morning you will be collected and taken to the local team offices where you will receive a full project and safety orientation. A representative from the local team will fill you in on local and regional customs, traveling, rules and recommendations, and of course, what to expect from your volunteering experience. This is a great opportunity to get to know your hosts, meet your fellow volunteers, and ask any last questions you may have. You will then be taken to your projects site where you will be introduced to the onsite project team, ready to start work. Easy!
- Project Arrival Day: SUNDAY
- Project Departure Day: SATURDAY
- Arrival Airport: La Aurora International Airport, Guatemala City, Guatemala (Code: GUA)
Volunteers in Guatemala will stay with a local Guatemalan family which is a great way to be immersed in the culture. All families have been fully vetted by our local team and have experience hosting international volunteers. The home-stays are in safe neighborhoods, and are within a 15 to 25-minute walk or 5 to 10-minute bus ride from the project sites. All families have been fully vetted by our local team and have extensive experience hosting international volunteers. Depending on the time of year it may be necessary to share a room with other volunteers, but private rooms are often available upon request (additional fees may apply). Volunteers will be provided access to a shared bathroom. Host families are often happy to wash clothes for volunteers for a small fee to cover the additional electricity, though mostly volunteers will use a local laundromat. Wifi is available at most host family houses, however we ask volunteers to remember access to this service is a privilege and may be limited at times. A multitude of internet cafes are available throughout Antigua.
Breakfast and dinner will be provided throughout the placement, including weekends. Guatemalan food typically centers on the key ingredients of corn, chillies and beans. A traditional dish is tamale which consists of a starchy corn-based dough wrapped in a leaf and steamed. The sweets made in Guatemala are well known, containing condensed milk, nuts, fruit and honey, they are considered a delicacy. Volunteers in Guatemala have the opportunity to savor these and other delights in the homes of ordinary local people famed for their friendly dispositions.
Registration Fee: The registration fee is USD 299 for those volunteering for the first time or USD 149 for any subsequent volunteer placements. The registration fee includes: lifetime Alumni Membership, fundraising support & advice, dedicated pre-departure support, certificate of completion (on request), and exclusive access to the Trip Planner.
Requirements: We welcomes all those 18 years and over who wish to give their time and energy to help protect the natural environment of Guatemala. This ‘hands-on’ project is best suited to those who are either pursuing a career in conservation/environmental studies, or who simply wish to explore an interest in this field. However, the project is open to all and does not require participants to have specific education, qualifications or experience, as you will be shown everything you need to know by your local project leader. Importantly though, all applicants must first and foremost have a genuine willingness to help, show drive and initiative, and bring a positive ‘can-do’ attitude. If this sounds like you, we want you on the team!
Additionally, volunteers applying to join this program will be required to supply to following documentation:
- Emergency contact
Project Location: Lake Atitlán is a lake in the Guatemalan Highlands of the Sierra Madre mountain range. It is in the Sololá Department of southwestern Guatemala. Atitlan means “at the water” in Nahuatl. Ringed by steep, verdant hills, it’s known for its Mayan villages and volcanoes with striking pointed cones. The busy town of Panajachel, where vendors sell traditional textiles, is a popular gateway to the lake.
A short bus ride away you’ll find the wonderful historic town of Antigua! Antigua is famous for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque influenced architecture as well as a number of spectacular ruins of colonial churches. Antigua Guatemala means “Ancient Guatemala” and was the third capital of Guatemala. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Antigua is a growing tourist destination in Guatemala as it is close to Guatemala City but is much calmer and safer, with more tourist oriented activities. Central Park (Parque Central) is the heart of the city and is a popular gathering spot for locals and visitors alike. It is also possible to take buses from Antigua to many parts of Guatemala, many travel agencies offer shuttles to the main touristic places: Monterrico beach, Atitlan Lake, Coban, Lanquin (Semuc Champey), Tikal or even Copan in Honduras.
Start Dates & Duration: This project is available year-round and programs typically start every 1st and 3rd SUNDAY of each month. Volunteers can choose to participate for periods ranging from 2 weeks to 12 weeks.
A volunteer’s work day on this project will generally last between 4 and 6 hours and while we ask all volunteers to be flexible in this regard, a typical daily schedule is likely to go something like this:
7:00am Breakfast with host family
8:00am Walk or bus to project site
8:30am Pre-start meeting with project supervisor
9:00am VOLUNTEERING DUTIES
A tea break and lunch break will be fitted in during the day, but often the timing of breaks will change based on the needs of the local staff and number of volunteers on hand.
1:00pm VOLUNTEERING DUTIES
4:00pm Debrief with project supervisor
4:30pm Walk or bus back to home stay
6:00pm Dinner with host family
Evenings Free time to relax or explore the sights and sounds of this beautiful region!