Volunteering in Antigua with Niños de Guatemala
Make a Difference in the Lives of Children
Article and photo by Christina Liberati
|Both volunteers and children benefit and learn from each other.
Often, when people describe Antigua, they refer to the city’s beauty, the colonial architecture, and tourist amenities like yoga classes and
bagels. Antigua is seen as “Latin America Light,” a bit of cultural flavor without the unattractive bits. In other words, visitors to Antigua may easily avoid close contact with the poverty, trash, and crime that are often associated
with the rest of Guatemala.
Few realize that less than 15 minutes away from this idyllic destination the real Guatemala lies in places like Ciudad Vieja. Though tourists may not perceive surrounding communities such as this one as inviting as Antigua,
they are not the treacherous ghettos people fear. Nonetheless, there is a great deal of need. When travelers avert their eyes and avoid seeing the reality of daily life for the majority of Guatemalans, they leave the country without having experienced
a true taste of it.
Ciudad Vieja has a population of 30,000 and only two schools. A select few children have access to public education. Even without tuition fees, many working families cannot afford the uniforms and school supplies. Niños
de Guatemala (NDG), a Guatemalan-Dutch non-profit, has endeavored to improve access to education in Ciudad Vieja.
Niños de Guatemala was founded in 2006 with a mission to contribute to a better future for the people of Guatemala. The organization starts and supports small-scale community initiatives, with a focus on education
and youth. NDG’s first project, the Nuestro Futuro elementary school, opened its doors to underprivileged children in Ciudad Vieja in early 2009.
Since its inception, Niños de Guatemala has valued the work of volunteers as integral to the success of its projects. NDG subscribes to the philosophy that everyone can do something. Volunteers serve as teachers’ aides,
tutors, teach crafts, or lead games. Most live in Antigua and travel to Nuestro Futuro for the morning or afternoon school program. This allows volunteers to take advantage of some of the benefits Antigua has to offer (including Spanish classes
and, of course, the bagels), while also enriching their journey through volunteering where they are most needed.
By volunteering, travelers have an opportunity to get a true taste of a local community. They cease to be passersby and are able to make a valuable contribution. In the case of NDG, volunteers positively and significantly
impact the development of our young students. In return, volunteers leave Guatemala with an unforgettable experience and a lasting connection with the beautiful country.
NDG offers a weekly tour of Nuestro Futuro. The tour leaves from the Volunteer Center located at 6a Avenida Norte #45 in Antigua. Visit the website at www.ninosdeguatemala.org to
learn more about the volunteer opportunities available.
Cristina Liberati is a graduate student at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, currently living in Antigua. She is researching reconciliation
and peace-building in Guatemala and also volunteers with Niños de Guatemala.