[h4a] “Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” ~Elizabeth Andrew [/h4a]
This week we welcomed our latest group to Guatemala and to INLEXCA, all the way from Minnesota, USA! This wonderful group of six have joined us for ten days of volunteering and traveling, exploring the wonderful things Guatemala has to offer. This week, they started the week teaching English in a local reinforcement program. With a group of 20 kids, it wasn’t easy, so they split the kids into three groups and rotated between them, ensuring that all the children learnt all the English they were teaching, The children loved their ideas and creativity and enjoyed learning new things!
After this they spent some time in a local soup kitchen in Santo Tomas. The soup kitchen opens at 9am for the cooks to prepare a delicious meal for 90 undernourished children from the local town. Whilst the food was being prepared, our group got stuck into brightening up the play area by painting it yellow and blue! It was such a huge area it took all morning!
Just as they had finished, the kids started arriving for their lunch ‘Caldo de Gallina’ or chicken soup. First the children washed their hands, followed by a vitamin supplement, and finally, they sat down to a tasty lunch! After the hard morning our volunteers were invited to sit down and enjoy the lunch with the kids!
As I said, this group are with us for ten days and after a weekend relaxing on tour of Guatemala, they will visit a local health clinic next week before heading back to the US.
This group asked us to develop a custom-designed itinerary for their trip, keeping in mind the best way they can make an impact whilst allowing them to enjoy the trip as well. If you would like to talk to someone about your own personalized group volunteering plan, click .
[h4a]“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill[/h4a]
For those of you that are avid blog readers, you will remember my blog about our wonderful Chile group that are with us for one month. My first blog told of their adventures during the first two weeks of their experience. Sadly, they left us on Saturday, although whilst they were here, they really took full advantage of everything they could and went away sad.
Their third week with us started with a trip to the biggest artesian market in Guatemala in Chichicastenango. On Sundays this whole town transforms into one big market for tourists coming into town looking for souvenirs and our group weren’t disappointed, they got beautiful local, handmade gifts for all their friends and family.
After leaving the market they went onto Lake Atitlán; a beautiful lake located in the crater of a volcano. With endless history and beauty this lake captivated the group as they learnt about the town surrounding it and the history of the lake itself.
After this, they spent some time with some Guatemalan kids their age, sharing stories and playing games with them. They then went back out into rural Guatemala, visiting Montericco and learning the importance of preserving the turtles and their environment. As week four started, they moved onto Tikal, a huge ruins of a Mayan city and then onto Rio Dulce.
Before saying goodbye and wishing them a safe trip we gave them time to reflect on their experience, what they had learnt, what they would take away with them and what their favourite moment of the experience was. This is so crucial to a learning trip like this, so much happens in such a short time, it’s important to take time to reflect on the experience before leaving.
But, leave they must. And last Friday we had a goodbye lunch before safely dropping them to the airport nice and early on Saturday morning. Some of them threatened to ‘miss’ the private shuttle and stay longer but in the end we got them all safely on their way.
Experiential, service learning study abroad trips, whether faculty-led or not, are crucial for youngsters these days, to prepare them for the internationlised they will live and work in for the rest of their lives. If you would like a chat with someone about bringing a group to Guatemala, please fill in our online form.
[h4a] “A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money” – W. C. Fields [/h4a]
Our micro finance volunteer projects are some of the projects that we are most proud to work with in Guatemala and Costa Rica. Why? Because micro finance is one of the ways that people are given a unique opportunity to truly take control of their lives, their futures and their family. It’s empowering. It’s impressive. It’s life changing.
So, what’s the big ideal and why are we harping on about it? Well, take a look below at this Q&A session to find out why micro finance is such a great thing to be getting involved in.
What is Micro Finance?
Micro finance is a source of financial services for entrepreneurs and small businesses lacking access to banking and related services. Made famous by the Grameen Bank, known as the bank for the poor, they started offering loans to small businesses in rural communities in the seventies. Micro finance, simply put, is giving loans to poor people, with a low credit rating, with low interest rates and small repayments; a method that is know to work better for low income people.
Yeah…but what’s so great about it?
Micro finance got some bad press in the nineties due to it offering loans, that if the community couldn’t pay back, left them in debt. Done correctly however, it can allow a poor person or community (micro finance is typically offered in groups now so each loan recipient has a support network) take out a loan after all normal banks have rejected them. With this loan, they can invest in their business, grow their business, increase their profit, pay off their loan and pull their family out of poverty.
OK, sounds good, but where do I come in?
Small businessmen and women the world over have fantastic entrepreneurial ideas. They know what goods and services their local community needs better than anyone. What they struggle with is the knowledge of how to run a business efficiently, successfully and with a good structure. This is where you come in, with your business knowledge, you can help them focus, grow and succeed in business. You can also help the Micro Finance providers promote their loans and educate the local community.
So what role might I play?
You will be working with microfinance organizations and co ops that give loans and support to borrowers. You will help:
– present workshops to small community entrepreneurs; – manage borrowers’ budgets; – manage the IT system of the organization; – brainstorm new strategies; – sales at events like farmer’s fairs; – advise small community businesses; and anything more you can bring to the table.
Where would I live whilst I volunteered?
The work of micro finance organisations is in rural communities so you would live with an INLEXCA approved host family in a village or town in the highlands of Guatemala or the rural areas of Costa Rica.
What qualifications do I need?
Although no specific qualifications are required, a strong interest in finance and/or development, a business mind and good computer skills are requested for this work.
Who can do this project?
This project is open to individual volunteers, group volunteers (be it friends, family or colleagues), university groups, faculty-led trips, study abroad programs or service learning trips. It has a focus on academic ability with regards to business skills so is well suited to business students or graduates.
Where do you offer this program?
We have micro finance partners across Costa Rica and Guatemala.
How can I sign up?
You can apply on our website through an online form which takes about five minutes to complete. If you would like more information, check out our pages about Costa Rica and Guatemala or send us a message!
[h4a]“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”
H Jackson Brown Jr. [/h4a]
We have a wonderful group of volunteers with us in Guatemala at the moment, all the way from La Pintana in Chile. A group of high school students who were given the opportunity to travel to Guatemala and represent their country, town and school because they are the high achievers in their class.
And what a group they are! They are with us a month in total and have already finished two weeks of their experience; the time has flown by for us!
During their first week they received their orientation, moved into their new homes with their local families for the month, learnt how to make some traditional Guatemalan dishes and learnt how to make amazing things out of recycled materials. On Saturday they climbed Pacaya, an active volcano and roasted marshmallows on the hot rocks!
Week two started with a presentation to a group of youngsters about all the fantastic things Chile has to offer. They loved hearing about the culture and history of Chile so much that when they were tested at the end in the form of a quiz, they aced it!
After this they went to Guatemala City, the capital of Guatemala and visited some museums and the national palace and learnt about the history and struggle that Guatemala has suffered in its past. They also got to teach the locals how to cook like a Chilean!
This group of youngsters is really enjoying their time here and taking full advantage of their trip. Before they arrive, we ensure that their exact needs are taken care of and we produce their itinerary around their needs and desires for the trip. Keep tuning into our blog to see what else they get up to!
If you would like to organize a study abroad or faculty-led group volunteering trip to Guatemala for you and your chosen group, please contact us now for your very own, customized itinerary!