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Volunteer in Guatemala
Volunteer Programs in Central America

Volunteer in Guatemala City

At the age of 58 I’m to be on my own and traveling seems to be one of my ways of surviving. A career in PR kept me on my toes and challenged for many years, but somehow it was never rewarding in the sense of giving something back. So in retirement, with only me to worry about, it was time to do something about it. As my 2004 Christmas present to myself, I paid a deposit on a Cross-Cultural Solutions volunteer placement.

Guatemala was an arbitrary choice, as I had no knowledge of Central America or its people. But since Guatemalans speak Spanish–a language I love and have learned and mostly forgotten—I figured it was time to put that right and learn about a new country and a new culture, as well as offering my time and energy to CCS.

I requested a placement in an orphanage. I am not a qualified nurse, teacher, or social services expert, but I am a mother and grandmother and felt confident I could make a contribution by caring for and loving little ones.

Once in Guatemala, I felt immediately welcomed and comfortable. The driver met me at the airport and the country director was at the house—a clean, comfortable, and safe environment. This was my new family for two months.

My role was to support overstretched staff and give the babies and children stimulation and motivation to play, laugh, sing, read, skip, jump, blow soap bubbles, make paper planes, move forward in their development.

By accepting how things are, by not trying to change things I had no power to change, and by accepting that I was a volunteer in a chain of volunteers who make these tiny lives better in what small way they can, I was successful.

And yes—I cried when it was time to say goodbye to the babies and children! I found myself whispering in their ears that I hoped life would be good to them and that their futures held hope and promise. I realized that I may never see any of them again and yet they had become such an important part of my life.

I went to Guatemala wanting to give as much as possible. I think I did this—but I feel I have received much more in return: the culture, the people, the placement, the children, the visits, the Spanish lessons, and all the new things I saw and learned. And as a long-suffering English woman familiar with gray skies, rain, and cold weather, the “eternal spring” in Guatemala was another of the daily delights. I have my eye on Peru next year, circumstances permitting!

For More Info

Cross-Cultural Solutions offers three types of programs: Volunteer Abroad, Intern Abroad, and Insight Abroad. Volunteer Abroad and Intern Abroad programs operate year-round, and range from 3-12 weeks. Insight Abroad is a one-week program and is available in Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru, and Russia. CCS is in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations and in partnership with CARE, one of the world’s largest international humanitarian organizations. Volunteer placements are with CCS Partner Programs, local NGOs or community organizations within each country, and are based on an individual’s skills and interests. Contact: Cross-Cultural Solutions Headquarters, 2 Clinton Pl., New Rochelle, NY 10801; Tel. 800-380-4777; info@crossculturalsolutions.org, www.crossculturalsolutions.org .