Volunteering in Latin America: What is it like to teach little niños of Guatemala?

Volunteering in Latin America is on top of my bucket list for near future – however, I haven’t done it yet. In other parts of the blog you can read about my volunteering experience in Russia, USA and Thailand.

Today I invited Elise who volunteered in Guatemala as a teacher to share her story with us.  She got to help the kids with education, improved her level of Spanish language – and loved the experience!

Enjoy her story 🙂 And if you want to go volunteering too, check out the below guide:

How to volunteer abroad? Step by step guide.

Volunteer in Latin America, Guatemala as a teacher

volunteer in latin america guatemala

An organization as beautiful and sincere as Niños de Guatemala is one of the best things that has happened to me. 

My reason for volunteering in Guatemala came from an experience I had gained two years earlier (2016). Then I made a big trip through the whole of Central America. I started in Costa Rica and ended up in Mexico. I loved it, the culture, the people, the atmosphere and way of life, and the whole idea of ​​being on your own in a strange environment.

But, one thing bumped me to the chest.

The only thing I did was sleep, eat and enjoy the beauty of the country. Not saying that this is not allowed, because in those countries, tourism is number one when it comes to sources of income, but I wanted to give back. In addition, I wanted to improve my language: Spanish.

With this idea I traveled back to the Netherlands.

Two years (2018) later there was the moment that I wanted to implement this plan. I went looking for organizations in and around Central America, found Niños de Guatemala via the Internet, and decided to contact them. The rest is history…

Volunteer in Latin America, Guatemala: Costs

volunteer in latin america guatemala

I already liked the organization from the first moment. In particular, because there were no enormous costs involved. Niños de Guatemala asked you as a volunteer for a starting amount of 250 euros which sounded more than logical to me.

Firstly, in this way my environment gets in touch with the organization. Secondly, as a volunteer you have the feeling that you arrive at your destination with all the necessary effort and preparation.

For the Spanish classes I paid about 100 dollars a week and for the accommodation a bit more: 135 dollars a week. After doing good research, this price seemed more than reasonable. There are many organizations that ask a lot and a lot more.

And then we only talk about the money you pay for volunteering.

volunteer in latin america guatemala

My “homestay” always prepared three meals a day with great care and love. I knew that the money I paid went to the education of her children.

Moreover, the money I paid for the Spanish lessons went to the organization Niños de Guatemala. A nice collaboration between the language school and Niños. The teachers confirmed that they too chose to donate a large part of their salary to the organization.

Volunteer in Latin America, Guatemala: The trip

volunteer in latin america guatemala

On July 6, I flew to Guatemala. I would stay here for a total of two months. Niños de Guatemala had arranged all the supplies for me. As I indicated, I also wanted to improve my Spanish. In this way I was able to communicate with the Guatemalan children and adults.

Niños collaborated with the Spanish Language School called ‘Cambio Language School’. ‘Cambio Language School’ offers accommodation in addition to Spanish lessons. In this way you come into contact with the Guatemalan culture even more.

On the first day everything is new, things are exciting. That’s why I really liked that I had a personal meeting with the volunteer coordinator of Niños de Guatemala. I was told how the planning of my week would look like, what kind of volunteer activities there were and what the highlights of the (beautiful) city of Antigua were.

Volunteer in Latin America, Guatemala: An example of a volunteer day

volunteer in latin america guatemala

The alarm went at six o’clock. Shower on, ponder for five seconds about how cold it was, jump underneath, wash quickly, get out, dress up and enjoy the beautiful view. Breakfast was ready at seven o’clock. This differed per day.

One day we had pancakes with fruit and syrup, the other day omelet with tortillas, sausages and tomato. The food was always assisted by a cup of coffee or tea.

At a quarter to eight I left home. With the rising sun in my face, I walked to the bus stop, under the horn of honking cars. Then I stepped into the noisy, but always interesting, Chicken Bus and I was at my location in ten minutes.

Ciudad Vieja. The village, or town, where two of the three schools of Niños de Guatemala were located.

volunteer in latin america guatemala

I helped in class from about eight o’clock to half past twelve, reading aloud Spanish books, writing first words, and teaching English. I had Spanish lessons in the afternoon.

Around five o’clock I walked back home and had a delicious meal.

The woman behind this was called Doña Marielena. Together with her husband and three children, she has been providing adventurous tourists for 25 years. She knew something about every culture. This was her way of “traveling”.

volunteer in latin america guatemala

About the volunteer work itself.

You as a volunteer know how important this organization is to the kids. They don’t know that yet. They radiated an energy and freedom that I learned from every day. To the end they remained obsessed with my phone, earrings and nose piercing. It is difficult to describe exactly in words what kind of satisfaction it gives to help those children and to see their joy. That was wonderful to experience. I really do wish them the world and more.

volunteer in latin america guatemala

The fact that I had to say goodbye after seven weeks, touched me deeply. The children showed their appreciation and love for me as a teacher. One boy, Christiaan was his name, had even put on his suit, because he wanted to take a photo with me. Yes then you melt.

The whole experience lets you melt considerably.

volunteer in latin america guatemala

More about Elise:

My name is Elise Spetter (23), I live in Utrecht (the Netherlands). Last June I completed my internship in journalism, after having followed a Bachelor’s degree in Media and Culture Studies. My heart goes out to almost everything; I am very curious and eager to discover things that are unknown to me. I am particularly interested in topics related to Spanish and Latin American culture, sports and psychology. Next year I will go to Madrid for an extra load of Spanish language, culture and literature and hopefully an interesting internship at an international organization.

volunteer in latin america guatemala

I hope you feel inspired by Elise’s story and you’re ready to organize your own trip 🙂 Don’t forget to check the guide to organizing your volunteering experience and – have fun! 🙂

I also invited others to share their volunteering stories, you can read them here:

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