Turtles are very close to extinction which is why it is vital we have volunteers heading to our turtle conservation projects in Guatemala. Our turtle conservation volunteers work with local biologists to assist in turtle studies and protection work along the beautiful beaches of Guatemala. As a volunteer, you would live in basic conditions, working day and night, work including: beach patrols, building hatcheries, protecting and burying eggs and beach cleaning, amongst other things. It is a really rewarding and frankly vital volunteering experience. Unsure? Then take a look at this video of our previous volunteers spending time volunteering on a turtle project in Guatemala. After this, you can take a look at our website and get applying through our short, online application form. See you on the beach!
[h4a]“He who would travel happily must travel light.” – Antoine de St. Exupery[/h4a]
Once you sign up for your volunteering adventure with INLEXCA you will be given an extensive packing list to help you prepare for your particular project, location and service. However, when preparing to travel it can be tempting to get all the latest gadgets and fill your bag with travel essentials that once you get traveling, you end up just stuffing into the bottom of your bag and forgetting! The best advice we can give you is pack light, here are some top tips to help you pack light!
1. Keep all your important documents in one place
You will be carrying a lot of important documents with you when you travel. Passport, visa, residency, travel insurance, flight information and more. So, make sure you have one bag or folder for all this information and keep it together. No one wants to be in the airport pulling everything out of their bag looking for their passport!
2. Prepare your carry-on
Your carry-on needs to hold the essential things you need for the flight and nothing more! Don’t use it as a place to carry extra things for your travels, if it doesn’t fit in your backpack, don’t take it! Use your carry on for your travel documents plus your entertainment, a book, an e-reader, your iPad, whatever you need to pass the long-haul flight you are taking!
3. Lay out all your clothes, then leave half behind
We always pack too many clothes whenever we go on holiday! If you are just going to a resort or hotel it doesn’t really matter but, when you have to carry all your clothes on your back, every item will matter! The strict rule is lay out all the clothes you want to take then throw half of them away. Do it. You will thank me later.
4. Toiletry bag
You will need a toiletry bag and this will probably be the heaviest single item you have to carry. Don’t bring lots of perfumes when deodorant will do. Be strict with yourself and only bring really essential items that you can’t live without. If there are two similar things in there, take one out.
4. Hair dryer or straighteners?
Neither is the right answer of course. At home, drying and straightening your hair seems so important. But, when traveling, it loses all importance and is replaced with experiences, people you meet, places you go. You don’t need to style your hair, just buy a headscarf! And don’t even talk about make-up. Ever.
5. Shoes or boots?
Shoes. Always. Unfortunately we are not all hobbits so we can’t get away with no shoes at all, otherwise we would! But, boots are just too heavy to even consider traveling with so don’t! And keep to a minimum number of shoes as well, most travelers live in one pair of flip flops so don’t bother taking much more than that!
6. Which camera?
Just one. Just one camera is enough. Trust me. Take one good camera that takes good enough photos for you to show to friends and family when you get home and keep as memories but no more. If your phone has a camera then that is the one you use, any more than that and you are wasting weight.
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?
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?
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.
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!’
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?
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.
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.
[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]
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
“What’s your full name?”
Hello! I’m Tanya Castro
“What is your role at INLEX/CA?”
I’m the volunteer coordinator in Costa Rica and I am also a Spanish teacher for some of the volunteers too!
“What three things are on your bucket list?”
I want to do a parachute jump, live in another country, try ayahuasca, take part in the Dakar Rally, walk the Camino a Santiago in Spain and go and visit previous volunteers in their homes! I would also like to finish reading the bible and find my true love hahahahahahah (am I asking too much!!).
“Why do you love your job?”
Working with INLEXCA is a really fun job actually, I love always meeting new volunteers and see how they develop and contribute to the development of Costa Rica.
“If you could have any one superpower, which would you choose?”
I would love to be able to read minds. (watch out volunteers!)
“What is your favorite thing about Costa Rica”?
The thing I like the most about my country is that we don’t have an army! As a people, we are really relaxed and carefree and I also like the variety of nature here, it’s beautiful.
“What is your favorite project?”
Ooh…there are many but I really like La Mission, firstly because of the great work that they do, and also because of who they are, They are incredible people, completely committed to the children they help.
“Do you have any pets?”
I have a pet cat!
“If you were making a movie of your life, which famous actor would play you?”
“Can you play any musical instruments?”
No, I have never learnt to play an instrument but I would love to know how to play the guitar!
“What do you do in your free time?”
In my free time I take care of my family, read and do exercise.
“Let us sacrifice our today so that our children can have a better tomorrow.” – A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
Working with children can be one of the most rewarding volunteering opportunities out there. If you are passionate about giving all kids the attention, care, guidance and education they need and want to volunteer your time in communities abroad to help them, then keep reading!
Our childcare programs help less advantaged children have a chance to be just that, children, in a place where perhaps they otherwise have to grow up pretty fast. We work in community centers, schools, daycares and orphanages and have varying roles in each place.
The volunteers help the generally overworked staff with tasks like food preparation and feeding, games, chores, teaching basic lessons, reading, mentoring and, perhaps most importantly, showing the kids attention and that they are important.
At INLEX you can be sure that you will have a meaningful, rewarding impact during your volunteer experience. The experience will be a a two-way cultural exchange between our volunteers, children and staff at the projects.
However, working with children requires oodles of patience, an abundance of energy, tons of motivation and a caring personality, so why do it? Let’s see if we can convince you!
You may think this is a poor first argument but it isn’t, they are just great! They are open, interested, caring and adorable, simple, adorable! They will make you play like a kid again, simplify life down to what’s important again, make you laugh, make you cry and show you great love and affection, and all they ask in return is time.
They need your help
There are so many kids in the world that, for various reasons, don’t get the love and attention they need and so desperately want. This is where you come in, you can give them that extra attention, love, education, time that they can’t get elsewhere and for a child, that is priceless!
They keep you young
When was the last time you played ‘Duck duck goose’ or jump rope or played with marbles? When you were a child right? What if you work with kids? You can play these games all day long, you can feel free of the stresses of life, get back to the simple things and laugh and have fun all day long!
They show you patience
Kids don’t listen, you didn’t, I didn’t, and it’s not a thing that kids do well. When you are the kid, you don’t care but, when you’re the adult, the instruction giver, it can be incredibly frustrating! Working with children will teach you the greatest level of patience, which will serve you very well in the future!
They make you great at explaining things
Kids don’t always understand what you want them to do, of course they don’t, they are kids! But, if they don’t understand, you can’t just tell them to check the dictionary or Google-it, or use common sense! You have to sit down and explain it in the simplest terms, this can be hard to do but something that will help you throughout your life when you are explaining things to friends, family, your boss.
I could keep going, tell you a million more reason why working with kids is great! But, how about you just find out for yourself? We have opportunities in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Peru working with children and young adults just waiting!
“Peace begins with a smile.” Mother Teresa
INLEXCA are proud members of the Federation EIL, a non-profit organization that actively sends volunteers around the world as part of the Experiment in International Living movement. This month, they are advocating ‘Building Peace through Understanding’, a month of action for global peace. As we believe this is an incredibly important message, we were excited to be a part of the movement here in Guatemala.
Federation EIL has partners all around the world and each partner is doing something in their local community to talk about and share ideas about peace. If you would like to see what Federation EIL has done around the world, search #FEIL4Peace.
As I mentioned in my last blog we took our wonderful group of Minnesota volunteers to a soup kitchen in Santa Lucia to paint a wall. This wall will be painted over the next few weeks by the local project with something that, to them, symbolises peace. The project are going to talk to the kids about global peace, how to build it and what it means for the future. Once they understand the idea, the kids will be given the chance to paint something on their new wall that, to them, symbolises peace. Every time they come in to get a healthy meal and at soup kitchen, they will be able to look at the wall and think about peace. Keep an eye on my future blogs to find out what the kids decided to paint!
This week, continuing the theme, we also took some volunteers to a local education project in Santo Tomas. Here they received a similar chat to the one given to the kids in the soup kitchen. They were taught about peace in their local community and global peace. The kids from it really interesting and engaged in the conversation, sharing their ideas of peace. Once the discussion was over, the children were asked to do different drawings that, for the, symbolised peace. It was a really nice activity which allowed the children to think about an important subject, something I think the world will agree, we desperately need to be talking more about.
[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.