An internship in micro finance: an interview with three high school interns

Ever pondered over what it would be like to intern in the field of micro finance? Well, ponder no more! Three fantastic interns from Germany finished their time with us a few weeks ago and kindly spent a few minutes sharing their experiences with us! They spent four weeks working and living in a very rural community in the village of Solola in Guatemala and here they tell us what it was like!

Hello! Welcome back to Santa Lucia! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! First up, what was it like?

Group of interns with staff in Guatemala
Ole, Moritz and Emely with their certificates of completion

Emely: It was amazing! Best experience ever!

Mortiz: Yes! I agree!

What made you join our program?

Emely: Our school offers a study abroad program and although there are options all over the world, we chose Guatemala to learn Spanish and experience a different culture.

Moritz: And we certainly did!

Ole: The micro finance program really interested us as well, so, it was the perfect fit!

Ahh, that’s great! Can you tell me what your average day was like?

Two adults and two kids sitting and eating together
Ole and Emely with the kids in their host family in Solola!

Moritz: Well, we would get up at 7am…well Ole and I would…Emely…a little later than that… Breakfast was at 7.30am, a tasty meal of beans, eggs and tortillas generally, sometimes cereal, sometimes something else.

Emely: After that we would go to the project, around 8am and be there until 5pm. There we would hike up to see customers, read business and marketing plans or listen to their stories and problems. We learnt so much! At 5pm we would head home for dinner, some time relaxing and then to bed!

What businesses did they locals have?

Moritz: Lots of tortillarias (tortilla shops), textiles, artisans, shops, farms and sewing businesses.

Two volunteers drinking coconut water fresh from the coconut
Ole and Moritz enjoying some fresh coconut water

Were there things to do in the village?

Moritz: No, but we would be so tired we would go to bed at 8.30pm!

Emely: One night we found a little café so we went there a few times. We would play cards with the kids, they loved that, play football or basketball and cook dinner with the family.

Ole: On the weekends we visited Panajachel a few times where we stayed with another family that INLEXCA recommended. We also went to Xela, Chichicastenango and we went to some villages on Lake Atitlan.

Emely: We also went to church one weekend too. In the afternoon for three hours!

What was the family like?

Mortiz: The dad worked really hard, he left at 4am and came home at 9pm. The Mum worked as well but she was home by 6pm to be with us and her family.

Ole: The kids were great! We played with them a lot, which was fun.

Emely: The family were so kind and accommodating, they always helped us with everything! The kids hated vegetables!

What was the one thing that made you think ‘Yeah, I’m not in Germany now!’

Three people eating marshmallows on Pacaya
Ole, Moritz and Emily enjoying marshmallows that they toasted on Pacaya volcano

Mortiz: One night when we were hanging out our clothes to dry on the roof of the house and someone set off fireworks close by, the embers were landing on the roof, right by us!

Emely: Climbing an active volcano, I just thought, wow, I am definitely not in Germany now!

Ole: Washing our own clothes by hand, I haven’t done that before! Oh and a bucket shower in Santo Tomas! We had to warn them the night before if we wanted a shower and they would heat the water for us over the stove!

Moritz: The buses! In Germany everything is scheduled down to the minute but here, you just get on any bus you are pushed onto, there is no schedule, you just get on and hope it goes where you want to go! The crazy thing was it always worked! It looks so disorganised but they always got us there!

Ole: The carbs! Eating pasta and tortillas in the same meal was wild!

What was your highlight?

View of a dock on Lake Atitlan
A small town’s dock on Lake Atitlan at dusk

Mortiz: Everything! It was such a great experience! I wouldn’t change anything. Baking without any utensils was fun as well, and an experience!

Emely: Yeah, everything but I loved Pacaya, that was amazing. And the friendliness of the people in the village and Panajachel! We sat in a coffee shop once for three hours just chatting to people!

Ole: The trip to Xela was great! Going to hot springs..really nice!

Mortiz: On the last day we made a German cake for everyone at the project to say thank you! Just before we were going to serve it, they called us in and they had arranged pizza party, they gave us gifts, just to say thank you.

Three volunteers stood with Lake Atitlan behind them
Emely, Ole and Moritz with Lake Atitlan behind them enjoying the sunset!

What will you miss?

Emely: The people. We have no way of keeping in contact with the people and they were all so wonderful.

If you are interested in interning with us in Guatemala, Costa Rica or Nicaragua, please follow this link.

Culver Stockton University

[h4a]“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.” – Michael Palin[/h4a]

Group of faculty-led students
Here are the whole group on their orientation day!

We had the pleasure of hosting a group of University students on a faculty-led trip in Guatemala this month! With a flying visit through Guatemala then onto Belize, this group stopped in for a few days with us to hang out and enjoy some of the fantastic things about Guatemala!

Group of students in Spanish class
Studying in group Spanish classes

When they arrived we took them to their hotel in Antigua and gave them an orientation of the city and our plan for them over the next few days! They then had some Spanish classes in a local partner school in Antigua, enjoying learning some important phrases for their stay.

Group of people sat at a table ready to eat
Ready to enjoy their hard work!

The next day we took them on a coffee tour of a local coffee farm in Antigua where they learnt all about how to make coffee, one of the biggest exports! After this, they went onto a local cooking school and cooked up one of the best local dishes in Guatemala – Pepian! The great thing was that once they had cooked it, they got to taste the delicious dish for dinner, enjoying the meal they had sweated so hard over!

Group of students and local kids sitting in a circle playing
The students playing games with the kids!

After experiencing some of Antigua’s finest activities they were invited to one of our local projects in Santo Tomas Milpas Altas. It’s a project that provides a healthy daily meal to the children it serves as well as offering educational help and a place for the kids to feel safe and play for a while! Here they carried out some planned activities and played with the kids for the day!

Group of students in Spanish class
Students enjoying their group Spanish classes!

As I said, it was a flying visit so after another day in Antigua, eating at some local restaurants, taking some more Spanish classes and enjoying what the city has to offer! We enjoyed a final goodbye meal with them and safely got them onto their next day of travel – to Belize!

Group of students laughing with kids
Practising their Spanish with the kids in the project

It was an absolute pleasure hosting the group from Culver Stockton University, showing off this beautiful country and all that it has to offer! If you are interested in talking to us about your own, personalised, faculty-led trip, please take a look here for more information.

Group of students counting out sweets
Counting out the sweets for the piñatas!

The Burning of the Devil

Each year, on the 7th December, all across Guatemala, towns set a devil on a stone and burn it until just ashes are left. In Antigua Guatemala, the biggest and closest town to where our volunteer base is, they place their devil between two gas stations, on the outskirts of town and people gather round at 6pm and watch the devil burn.

As the market stalls fill with paper-mâché devils for families to burn in their houses, and the buzz around town turns to talk about the burning of the devil, it makes me wonder why? Why burn a devil? Why on this date? And, why between two gas stations? (I don’t know if I can answer that last question!)

The tradition of burning the devil is an old tradition in anticipation of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the patron saint of Guatemala City. In previous times, those who could afford it decorated the fronts of their houses with lanterns. Those who couldn’t began gathering garbage and would burn that in front of their houses. A tradition that developed into the burning of the devil to clear the way for the feast, burning all the bad things of the previous year.

This year, things are a little different in Antigua. Disappointed with the new female mayor that took over control of the town this year, the devil has been turned into a female devil (La Diabla) and has been dressed up to look just like her, the idea being that they can show their dissatisfaction of her decisions in local Government by burning her. Seems a little harsh don’t you think?

However, female or male devil, at 6pm across Guatemala devils will be burning in all the little towns, clearing the path for Mary and a New Year!