Volunteering in Sea Turtle Conservation in Central America

The sea turtle conservation program is great for volunteers looking to help marine Eco-systems by protecting one of its most vulnerable species as well as spending time outdoors. Sea turtles are endangered due to many factors like pollution, sea turtle nest poaching, plastics, by-catch, and injury due to motorized vessels. Sea turtle numbers are decreasing at a shocking pace, and that is why many projects around the world have been created to help slow down or hopefully stop this decline. As a volunteer in sea turtle conservation in Central America you will encounter these species:

Leatherback sea turtle:

The Leatherback sea turtle does not have a hard shell, but instead has a rough rubber-like skin that protects it along bone plates giving it a leather-like look. They are the largest sea turtles with an average size of 5 feet 9 inches to around 6 feet 3 inches in length and weighing 550-1650 pounds. They also have large migrational patterns crossing Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Leatherbacks’ diet consists mainly of jellyfish helping control the population.

Their lifespan usually ranges around 50 years, although more exact numbers are not yet known. The leather back turtles usually nest in the same area where they were born or may choose another one in the region.

Sea turtles info-graphic

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle :

The Olive Ridely sea turtle has the largest population of all, and it gets its name from its olive color. It ranges from around 4 feet to 5’6 in length and weighs no more than 100 pounds.

This sea turtle returns to the beach where it was born to nest and only nests in a few places around the world, making it more vulnerable to changes in its habitat.

The Olive Ridley sea Turtle eats Jellyfish, crab, shrimp and occasionally algae. Volunteers in the sea turtle conservation program will encounter this turtle more often.

Hawksbill Sea Turtle:

The Hawksbill Sea Turtle lives mostly in shallow water making it more susceptible to predators and human harm, in fact, this turtle is now critically endangered.

The Hawksbill gets its name from its pointy nose, and is omnivorous but prefers eating sea sponges. They average a size of this turtle is around 3 feet and weighs around 90-150 pounds.

Volunteers working in the sea turtle conservation program can expect to task like :

-Support in cleaning and keeping in good appearance the installations.
-Support to the staff with activity planning.
-Help with building infrastructure as necessary
-Assist visitors to the project. (explaining turtles life and cycle, answering questions, etc)
-Help monitor hatchery and night turtle patrols (only during sea turtle season)
-Help in Mangrove conservation
-Assist to the staff with the egg donations in the mornings.
-Assist the staff with the activities for the release of turtles.

The turtle season ranges from July to December.

If you like simple living, being outdoors and love wildlife the sea turtle conservation program is for
you!

Exploring the Mayan ruins of el Mirador – A Brief Overview

While volunteering in Guatemala we encourage all of our volunteers to travel as much as they can
while in the country. For the more adventurous folks we recommend visiting this jewel of in the
middle of the Jungle, the Mayan Ruins of el Mirador.

Why go there?

If you truly love adventures, going to el Mirador is a must. El Mirador boasts “La Danta”the largest
pyramid of the Mayan civilization with a bigger volume than the Egyptian pyramids! .

Not totally uncovered El Mirador has mystic feel to it , as opposed to other parks that have been turned
in to more popular archaeological sites.

El Mirador is unlike anything we have visited before, along the hike you will see many wild animals
including toucans,foxes, coaties and more. The hike itself is challenging but quite worth it. The Mayan
ruin complex is amazing with a nice mixed of dug structures and untouched ones. The most amazing of
all the structures is the massive pyramid of La Danta, that travelers can go up to and gaze at the sunset
in a very untouched and magic environment.

The park rangers are very knowledgeable and helpful and will gladly show you other parts of the
complex.

volunteering in Guatemala

How many days will you need?

When you are volunteering in Guatemala, most of your week is spent working at your project so this
trip is better off after your project work or during a long holiday.

We recommend at least a week , the hike itself is 4 or 5 days depending on your pace .

Day 1-Travel to the city of Flores
Day 2- Transport to Carmelitas village
Day 3- Hike to Mayan Complex el Tintal . Camp out at el Tintal
Day 4 -Hike to Mayan complex el Mirador.Camp out at el Mirador
Day 5-Time to Explore el Mirador.Camp out at el Mirador
Day 6-Hike back to Carmelitas. Over night stay or camp in Carmelitas.
Day 7- Transport from Carmelitas to the city of Flores

How to get there?

While you are volunteering in Guatemala, you will be lodged around Antigua Guatemala. We
recommend booking the hike in advance either from Antigua and/or a reputable tour agency. There is
also the option to book this hike once in Flores, which is the starting point for this adventure.
To get to the city of Flores first as it will be your starting point for this adventure. The city of Flores
can be reached by bus or shuttle from Antigua Guatemala in about 10 hours or it can be reached by
short 45 min flight from Guatemala city.

Once you have booked your guided tour you are set to go. I would not recommend this hike on your
own as the logistics are quite daring. The tour will assure you have water, food, tents, and support
through the trip.

Mayan ruins of el Mirador

A few things to consider:

• Go during the dry season(late Oct-May), unless you like hiking in really tough and muddy
conditions.
• Mosquito repellent is your friend.
• Boots are must. Bring an extra pair of shoes or sandals to walk around el mirador as most likely
your boots will be very muddy and dirty
• There is no water in the hike, so you must bring all of the water for your trip. The good thing is
that if you booked a tour your guide will most likely have a donkey where you can carry your
stuff.
• Bring red-filters for your lamp and backup lamp. It’s good if you spot some wildlife and don’t
want to scare them off.
• Bring a first aid kit. There is nothing on the hike.
• Hydration is key as the jungle can get very hot, so bring some hydration salts that you can mix
in your water.
• Pack as light as you can.
• If you booked a tour, they will give you food, but bring some extra as there are no stores on the
whole trek.

Medical internships abroad with INLEXCA

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Medical Internships abroad: Esther’s story

Medical internships or medical volunteering hours are a key to starting your career in medicine. Every year thousands of medical students and pre-med students go abroad to take part in a medical program because of:

 

  1. Hands on experience:  Not every medical internship is the same. In Central America qualified interns are usually given more tasks and responsibility than in their home country. This is due to the amount of patients and lack of extra qualified personnel.
  2. Spanish: A lot of interns and volunteers come with the idea of improving their Spanish. This is very important to interns coming from the U.S  as the amount of Spanish speaking patients rises each year.
  3. Cost: The cost can be important when choosing an internship abroad. Luckily the Central American region has  low cost of living making making  the programs affordable.
  4. Other conditions: Medical interns find that a lot of the conditions that they treat in Central America are conditions that they would rarely find in a developed country, so the experience to treat this conditions adds an extra layer of learning.

Don’t take our word for it, see what Esther has been doing in her medical volunteering trip in Guatemala.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mDUqrdS9JU

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Volunteering abroad and packing light. A small guide.

Packing light for your trip abroad as a volunteer

 

When traveling abroad it’s best to pack as light as possible, this will not only be easy to carry but will help you avoid costly fees charged by airlines. Here are a few things to consider when preparing for your volunteering abroad trip:

1. Type of luggage

During your volunteer trip you will be traveling through many types of transports, walking and moving through different conditions. Avoid boxy rigid luggage ,what we know works best is a good hiking backpack or travel backpack. We recommend one ranging from 45-75 liters in size.

Here a few reasons why backpacks are best for traveling:

  • You can be hands free !
  • It’s flexible so it can be crammed more easily in to spaces , and can be made smaller if it’s not completely full.
  • They are sturdy.
  • They are often waterproof of water resistant.
  • They have lots of pockets.
  • They don’t attract attention.
  • Some have wheels if you really need them.

Some of the cons is that they are not as rigid and protective as their boxy counterparts, but surely they make this up by a lot of other positive features. Check some quality packs here.

Hiking backpack

 

2.Pack only what you need

Sounds easier said than done, right ? Often we find that volunteers bring so many things thinking they won’t find them here, but the truth is most stuff can be found through Central America. Pack what you need and maybe one or two things more, but remember that you can always get it at your destination. So before you pack a second charger in case you loose one , remember: pack light.

 

3.Bring dual purpose items

When trying to save space for your volunteering trip, bringing stuff that has two uses or more can be a huge space saver. Pants that convert in to shorts? Great! Boots that also looks casual? Perfect !.

 

4.Keep electronics simple.

Do you really need your laptop , tablet ,phone and camera? So why bring them on this trip? Really ask yourself what you will actually use and take this as a chance to disconnect a little from electronics.

 

5.Leave extra space

Always leave a little space in your bag ,so when you return you can stuff some souvenirs in there.

 

6. Pack dark colors

Try to lean your wardrobe towards dark colors as they tend to look cleaner for longer and will give you the chance to have more time in between washes while volunteering .

 

7.Pick the right shoes

While volunteering abroad, you will certainly do a lot of walking , so shoes are probably the most important items in your bag . Pick shoes that are comfortable,sturdy and that can go with pretty much anything . A good winning combo is: Everyday boots or sneakers, nicer but compact shoes, and flip flops. That way you will only pack two pair of footwear at a time.

 

8.Look at camping gear

Camping gear is great when traveling. It’s usually designed to be light, resistant and functional. For example camping towels are light, easy to dry and roll in to small pack.

 

So now you know! Less is more sometimes, specially when traveling. Not only will your back thank you but in the long run you will realize that you can make it with a lot less than you are used to.

 

Top 10 must try food in Guatemala- Traditional food in Guatemala

Top 10 must try traditional food in Guatemala

Food is an essential part of culture. One of the most exciting parts about traveling to a new destination is to try the widely different cuisine and new flavors available. Guatemala has many influences culinary influences, some from Spain, Mayan descendants, Mexico and the Caribbean to mention a few. Here are some of our favorite picks for traditional food in Guatemala:

Pepian

This traditional chicken stew comes from the central region of Guatemala and comes served with veggies and rice . Brownish-red in color, this stew is made out of various types of chilies(Ex.Paprika) and spices and served with a piece of chicken, baked potatoes, veggies and rice. Always served with traditional corn flour tortillas.

Pepian

Learn how to prepare it here.

Rellenitos

This food is served as a dessert. Rellenitos are balls of fried plantain pudding filled with black beans ,chocolate and cinnamon. A perfect on the go food or something to finish your meals.

Rellenitos
Bowl of rellenitos

Tostadas

This list could not be complete without the mighty tostada! This fried tortilla is usually topped with guacamole, salsa or black bean paste and topped with cheese , cilantro and onions. A simple but delicious .

Arroz en leche

Although also found in other Latina American Countries, arroz en leche is a delicious beverage that resembles a rice pudding flavor. Garnished with cinnamon.

Enchilada

This is not your Mexican Enchilada, but rather a tostada on steroids! This tasty snack (or full meal?) is topped of with beats, hard boiled sliced eggs,lettuce, onions, cheese, lots of other veggies and towers with magnificent taste.

Enchilada
Enchilada

Champurradas

If you ever had coffee at a Guatamalan’s house you were probably offered one of these. The champurradas are like big cookies with a biscotti type of flavor. A must have for coffee time!

Gallo en Chicha

This is quite literally a rooster! A rooster prepared in a sweet and sour stew that softens the meat until perfection. Not available everywhere, but one of our favorites.

Tapado

A delicatessen of the Caribbean, Tapado is a savory stew mixing coconut milk and coconut oil with crabs, plantain, rice, fish, shrimp and sometimes octopus.

Tapado
Tapado

Learn how to prepare it here

Chuchitos

A very common street food is Chuchitos, which is corn dough lumped in to ball filled with tomato sauce and chicken ,and boiled to perfection. Chuchitos come wrapped in corn stock leaves , keeping them ready for consumption.

Chuchitos
Chuchitos with coffee

Tamal

The big brother of the Chuchitos, a tamal is mostly made around christmas but are available year round. The tamal is made of viscous corn dough with various types of meat and tomato sauce, what makes it different it’s the plantain leaf wrapping which gives it a distinct taste and texture.

Tamal
Tamales !Black and red

Culture Shock:Stages of cultural adaptation

New cultures are a challenge to understand. When exposed to a new culture we go through a series of changes to help us to adapt to a new environment . These adaptations often come as a roller coaster of situations with these phases.

The Honeymoon Stage:

This stage is all about expectations. Everything is new, exciting and fun. This is what you came for to begin with, however this stage does not last. This stage lasts anywhere between a week to a few months.

Culture Shock: Hold on. What is this? All of the sudden you start to ask yourself what are you doing here and why is everybody so strange. The difference in cultures will become more evident and suddenly you don’t find the new culture as exciting as you thought you would.

Stages of cultural adaptation

Some indicators of culture shock are: Homesickness,compulsive eating/drinking, headaches, irritability, boredom, desire to sleep in excess, inability to concentrate, crying ,and others.

Not everyone experiences severe culture shock or experiences these symptoms. Don’t be surprised if you experience culture shock, it’s normal!

Adjustment: During this stage culture shocks gradually disappears and you start to make more friends and pickup cultural clues more easily . Suddenly you the unfamiliar become familiar and you manage to avoid the pitfalls that made you feel culture shock in the first place.

Unresolved problems: There are some things that you might never get used to and this is fine. You are not going to like absolutely everything. This could be small things like food, weather , your commute, anything really.

Adaptation: You made it! Now you are able to function comfortably in your host culture and your own. Remember there are always new and exciting things to learn!

What immunizations to get for traveling to Guatemala?

Many volunteers and teachers ask us what vaccinations should they get when visiting Guatemala. There are no big epidemics in Guatemala at the moment of writing this article, but here are a few pointers from us:

Malaria : Malaria is not a big issue in Guatemala, but if you are going to be visiting the tropical regions of Guatemala or are going to be spending a lot of time outdoors we recommend using mosquito repellent and avoiding getting bit by mosquitoes.

Hepatitis vaccines A/B: If you are working in healthcare program and haven’t already had immunizations for hepatitis A and B , we recommend that you do so before starting your time as volunteer as clinics can receive patients that are infected with Hepatitis.

-Flu-shot: Not a must have immunization but it certainly helps while traveling as you will be meeting many people along the way.

Zika and Dengue: Both are diseases transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that are mostly found in the coastal and jungle regions of Guatemala. While both diseases are not extremely common and usually have mild consequences if treated correctly, we recommend using mosquito repellent and a mosquito net at night to drastically reduce mosquito bites.

Remember to practice good hygiene, only drink filtered or bottled water and avoid eating in street food stands.

 

 

More in depth information and recoommendations can be found at the CDC’s website.

 

 

 

Are you an animal lover? How about saving turtles in Central America

Are you an animal lover? How about saving turtles in Central America

Do you love animals, the beach, and want to volunteer? Saving turtles and working in a Wild Life Project might be the right thing for you!

saving turtles in Central AmericaCentral America has a very diverse ecosystem and many rich natural resources which makes it a perfect place for  people who love to spend time in nature. At INLEXCA we do work with different local projects where volunteers can take action in a nature reserve, park or an environmental project. Depending on your placement you will have the chance to interact with sea turtles, iguanas and alligators, and other tropical climate species.

In our turtle projects for example, volunteers have the possibility  to get up-close and personal with one of our favorite marine species, working side by side with the experienced conservationists who have made it their life’s mission to protect them. One of the most emotional and rewarding experience volunteers always talk about is watching baby sea turtles emerge from their nests, carefully collecting them into buckets of sand, and helping them make the arduous trek to the beach, where they can be released to the relative safety of their vast ocean home.

Why are sea turtle projects so important?! Sea Turtles are in danger of extinctvolunteer saving turtles in Central Americaion and there are many threats to Central American Sea Turtles, like poaching for human consumption, being struck by boat traffic, getting eaten by domestic animals, being caught accidentally by industrial fisheries, and ingesting trash in oceans and beaches.

Sea turtles are also essential for the ocean and the beach as they leave vital nutrients for dune vegetation through their unhatched nests and leftover egg shells. As for the ocean, sea turtles help to control the jellyfish population, including stinging jellyfish!

Sea turtles have been around for 110 million years, so participating in sea turtle conservation will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

International Internship with INLEXCA

International Internship with INLEXCA

Are you recently graduating and would like to gain some work experience or are you a student and required to do an internship for your studies? How about considering an international internship in Central America!

Through project-based internships abroad, you can build a strong resume, experience foreign work cultures first-hand and build a global network to support your professional growth.

International InternshipOne of the most popular reasons to intern abroad is to gain professional experience. Our Internship programs place you in real-world work scenarios, matching the position to your  interests or field of study. This way, you can develop professional knowledge of a field you might pursue in the future. For instance, here at INLEXCA we do offer medical interns to work in rural medical posts where they work alongside with doctors and nurses and gain first hand experience in treating patients and what it is like to be a doctor.

Another reason to do an internship abroad is that it could be a great way to acquire skills and knowledge that can be useful in the modern workplace, like learning to be flexible and open minded. You also might develop useful soft skills, such as communication, project management and more which you can test drive within your trip and then implement once you return home.

Of course we have to mention that interning abroad with INLEXCA is a perfect opportunity to study Spanish and practice your language skills. You could take an intensive one to one Spanish class for a few weeks during which you would learn specific language skills you need for your intern position.International Internship with INLEXCA

The best about our intern abroad programs is that you can combine the possibility of gaining professional experience with traveling and having a great adventure.

Please contact us with any question you might have!

Medical volunteering abroad

Medical volunteering abroad

Are you a doctor, physical therapist, dentist, nurse or other healthcare provider that wants to travel and serve a community ? Are you a pre med student or aspiring medical professional looking to enhance your skill set and/or gain first hand experience in Central America through a medical volunteer abroad trip?

If this applies to you, medical volunteering may be the perfect way for you to volunteer abroad putting your specialized skills to use!

Medical volunteer abroad trips can be extremely rewarding and an unforgettable experience!

Here at INLEXCA to participate in a medical volunteer abroad program, you don’t necessarily have to have a medical degree, but you do need to be at least enrolled in medical school.

In Central America low income communities have very limited access to good health services and medical volunteers play an important role in health projects. Access to good medical services and treatments is one of the main reasons why people get stuck in poverty. Not being offered free medical help can stop you working, saving, paying for education and attending school. INLEXCA partners with rural clinics that provide free or very accessible services where volunteers can work with local doctors and nurses.

Depending on your experience in the medical and health field , the level of responsibility and involvement during your volunteer placement will vary. Typical activities you could perform are:

  • Conducting health and hygiene workshops in rural schools.
  • Helping doctors by measuring patients vital signs.
  • Helping doctors and nurses with daily tasks at clinics.
  • Helping in state pharmacies to provide services.
  • Participating in medical outreach campaigns if one coincides with you service time.
  • Teaching indigenous families in rural areas about basic health measures and nutrition.

Did we wake your curiosity ?!But still are not convinced yet? Get inspired by this VIDEO of two medical volunteers in Guatemala and their testimonial!