Helping Out as a Volunteer in Guatemala
Jobs Are Readily Available in Antigua
My life has changed dramatically since leaving a comfortable and secure life in Canada to volunteer in the Child and Infant Nutritional Recuperation Centre at Hospital Hermano Pedro, located amid the myriad of Spanish language schools in Antigua. The free hospital serves the poor and primarily indigenous Mayan population of central Guatemala and the highlands. Some patients, abandoned there as children, grow to adulthood within the hospital walls.
Volunteering does not involve rigorous screening or selection processes. I entered the hospitals administrative office armed with only a rudimentary command of the language, a copy of my passport, two photographs, and good intentions. The secretary asked, When can you start?
The center was created to care for babies and young children suffering from malnutrition. With little formal training other than that provided by the hospital, the nurses are responsible for all aspects of patient care: medications, laundry, feeding, bedding changes, and the cleaning of the ward. Hospital volunteers spend countless hours playing with the children, assisting with feedings, changing diapers, cuddling and rocking. Babies from traditional indigenous backgrounds, accustomed to being wrapped in a rebezo (shawl) and carried on their mothers back, lose their sense of security when lying in a crib.
Most volunteers are language students from various parts of the world and groups of visiting missionaries with short-term commitments of two or three weeks. Seldom does anyone stay longer than a month. Several long-term volunteers and the hospital staff provide continuity.
For More Info
Antigua is the center of language study in Guatemala. Information on courses (with homestay and meals), regional information, tours, and discounted airfares can be obtained from: AmeriSpan Guatemala, 6a Avenida. Norte #40A, Antigua, Guatemala; 011-502-832-0164/4846, fax 011-502-832-1896; firstname.lastname@example.org, www.guatemalaschool.com.