The country of Guatemala, well-known now as a place of beauty and safety, warmly welcomes visitors to discover its charm and diversity amidst amazing wildlife, friendly locals, and its ancient Mayan roots. Yet even amongst the intriguing Tikal allures and the unique flora and fauna of its rainforrests, Guatemala still remains a country with tremendous need. Huge population growth and migration have put a strain on resources all over the country. As a result, literacy rates are among some of the lowest in the world, and poverty is prominent. Low standards of living, poor sanitation, and even limited access to clean water are all daily challenges faced by many Guatemalans. Come work side by side with the locals on addressing needs they have identified.
Our staple activity in this location is the building of a cement floor for a family. The remaining project work is divided between the other projects listed below, and can often be changed (upon arrival) after discussions with the on-site coordinator. DO not hesitate to communicate whether you feel you are doing too much or too little work, our coordinators do their very best to meet the varying abilities of our volunteers.
- Installing cement floors in the homes of impoverished people (children crawling on dirt floors have serious problems with parasites).
- Working with children at a local community library.
- Teaching in an After-School Enrichment Program for 5-12 year old children from underprivileged homes.
- Working with local women’s group setting up home gardening (to introduce healthy greens into an otherwise carbohydrate heavy diet).
- Agricultural project creating a "forest garden" on the land of the Women's Center that was once planted with corn.
- Teaching English pronounciation to students and teachers of English who are learning how to write but not to speak the language.
Food and Lodging
Lodging is provided in a small, rustic but very quaint hotel situated on the shores of the quiet lake, accommodating two guests per room. A single supplement can be arranged. All beds are covered with mosquito netting, and include a private bath with a hot shower, flushing toilets, fans, and an outdoor patio area. You are provided with one towel and simple linens.
The hotel is located on Lake Peten Itza within a biological rain forest reserve. Because of this, everything flourishes here, including bugs. Expect that at least on an occasional basis, you will see a daddy long-leg, or ants, etc. You will hear the miraculous howler monkeys at times from your rooms. There are quite a few pleasant communal relaxation areas, such as the dock (look out for the naturally glowing organisms in the lake at night!) During the dry season, butterflies are literally everywhere. If you see something amiss (a door is jammed or fan doesn’t work, PLEASE notify the coordinator who will ensure it gets fixed.). Upgraded accommodations are available in the same hotel with A/C, better insulation (fewer bugs!). television, bathtub and outdoor suite area. The upgrade fee for the week is $240.
Breakfast and dinner will be served at the hotel each morning. Other meals will be taken at local restaurants and several special meals prepared by the families for whom volunteers will install the floors. Sample meal items: chicken tamales with black bean salad, fresh local whitefish with chicken or vegetarian alternatives, rice, beans, and fresh fruit. All meals have the option of meat, vegetarian or vegan. Bottled water is provided.
Leisure and Cultural Activities
Volunteers will have the wonderful opportunity to visit the world-famous Tikal National Park and Temple, though the park entrance is at additional cost to the volunteer and is paid upon arrival to your coordinator. Other optional leisure activities include participating in a class in tortilla making, enjoying a Mayan flute concert, studying the butterflies at the butterfly reserve, taking an herb walk in the jungle, meeting with an herbalist, as well as learning backstrap/loom weaving.
Other optional excursions, independent of Globe Aware but run by companies whose safety we have vetted, include Canopy/Zipline Tours and/or horseback riding, as well as the above mentioned visit to Tikal. Volunteers may also choose to take a boat tour and visit the zoo and museum at the nearby town of Flores. Your coordinator can arrange these activities for you, though note there is an additional fee involved.
Arranging Your Airfare
Mundo Maya International Airport is just outside Flores and is the only other international airport in the country aside from Guatemala City. There are two daily flights – morning and evening - to and from Guatemala City, which is a huge, modern airport.
Volunteers will meet at the Flores Airport exit (its small, guarded and out of the elements, near pay phones and has some dining options). Your coordinator will meet the morning flight on the Saturday the program begins, and this will be the official start to your program.
Since there are two daily flights into Flores, if you decide you would prefer to fly into Flores the night before, we can arrange for early pickup. The fee for the pickup is $40 for the group. We will send a trusted driver to pick you up at the airport if you arrive the night before. The extra night at the program accommodations is $40 per person in the regular accommodations and $70 per person in the upgraded accommodations. You may also choose to stay in Flores in which case you may arrange your own transport and accommodations. If you choose this option we ask that you communicate with our office to arrange pickup on Saturday morning.
Alternatively, you may choose to fly into Belize City, which can save you quite a lot on airfare. Please note that if you choose this option we recommend you fly on Friday to avoid missing important information and activities on your first day. You may then fly on to Flores or we can arrange for ground transport from Belize City to the program location, roughly a 4.5 hour drive. The transportation fee is $385 per group, each way.
Safety and Security
Travelers should always be vigilant of their belongings, especially when in major cities or tourist areas such as at Tikal and Guatemala City, due to occasional petty theft. We recommend locking your valuables and keeping your belongings close to you at all times.