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Volunteer in Guatemala

Work for the Good of Others and the Environment

With so many tour options to choose from in Guatemala, knowing which ones are nonprofit may make the decision-making process easier. The following companies work for the good of others and the environment. They also offer volunteer opportunities.

ARCAS, founded in 1988, is a nonprofit organization that focuses on animal rescue, forest and habitat conservation, research, and environmental education.

In the Peten region, near the town of Flores on Lake Peten Itza, ARCAS has an animal rescue and rehabilitation facility. The main goal is to take in animals rescued by government officials from the illegal pet market, rehabilitate them, and release them back into the wild. Injuries are attended to at the on-site hospital. Animals that are permanently disabled or are overly tame are kept and cared for indefinitely at the center.

The cheapest way to get to ARCAS Peten is to go to the boat launch next to Hotel Guacamaya in Flores. Take the boat (should cost 1Q, or 12 cents) across to San Miguel, follow the path/road up to the main road. Turn right. Walk 20-30 minutes until you see a conservation sign. Turn right. Walk 15-20 minutes until you see ARCAS sign. Walk through the property to the education facility down by the dock. A donation of 10Q($1.50) will get you a great 2-hour tour of the facility. You can also take either the ARCAS boat (8:30 a.m.) or hire a boat to take you directly to the ARCAS dock (about 20Q). Adventurous travelers can rent a kayak.

Volunteers are welcome at any time at ARCAS Peten. Cost is $100 per week (minimum one- week commitment) and includes all meals and lodging. The work is not glamorous—mainly feeding the animals, cleaning cages, chores, and construction projects. If your timing is right, you could possibly help with research or animal releases.

On the Pacific Coast, near the town of Monterrico, ARCAS has a second project called “Hawaii.” This project protects sea turtles and other animals and works on mangrove reforestation. There is a park for visitors, and volunteers are welcome for a minimum 1-week commitment. Cost to volunteer is $50 per week to cover lodging (kitchen available). Volunteers primarily patrol at night during nesting season to collect turtle eggs or release hatchlings, but they may also help with construction projects, research, environmental education, and planting mangroves. See website (below) for directions. Volunteers for both projects can usually show up without prior contact.

For More Info

Asociación de Recate y Conservación de Vida Sivilestre, ARCAS—Administration Office, Zona 8 Mixco, San Cristobal Guatemala; 011-502-478-4096; arcas@intelnet.net.gt, www.arcasguatemala.com and ARCAS—Peten Office, Biblioteca ARCAS, Barrio de la Ermita, San Benito, Peten, Guatemala; 011-502-926-0946; arcaspeten@hotmail.com.

Quetzaltrekkers, located at Casa Argentina Hotel in Quetzaltenango, is a nonprofit organization offering guided treks. All profits go to support Escuela de la Calle, a school for street children of Quetzaltenango. Approximately 150 children get free education at the school as well as support from social workers. There is a lot of interest in these positions and volunteers come from all over the world, so contact Quetzaltrekkers well in advance if you are interested in volunteering. Contact information: Quetzaltrekkers, Casa Argentina, 12 Diagonal, 8-37, Zona 1, Quetzaltenango, 011-502-761-5865; info@quetzaltrekkers.com, www.quetzaltrekkers.com.

LAURA CAMPBELL lives in Port Angeles, WA where she works as a wildland firefighter for the National Park Service and travels in the off season.

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