Group Volunteering: Minnesota comes to Guatemala!

[h4a] “Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” ~Elizabeth Andrew [/h4a]

Group of volunteers arriving at their project
Our group’s first day volunteering, teaching English to a group of 20 children in a reinforcement program.

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!

Two volunteers working with a group of children
The volunteers split the children into three groups, rotating and working with each group, ensuring all the children learnt everything taught that day

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!

A volunteer painting with three little boys helping her
A lick of paint added to a grey wall to brighten up the soup kitchen.

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!

A group of kids waiting for their lunch
The kids lining up for their lunch and receiving their vitamin supplement

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 .

A group of volunteers and children standing in front of a newly painted wall
The group with some of the kids in the project in front of their newly painted wall!

Group Volunteering: Chile comes to Guatemala, part two

[h4a] “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill [/h4a]

Group of volunteers posing with volunteer manager
Our fond farewell to the Chile group of volunteers, reflecting and saying goodbye over lunch

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.

Volunteers on a boat tour at Lake Atitlan
Exploring Lake Atitlán by boat

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.

Group of people with Chilean flag
Sharing stories and playing games with some Guatemalan youngsters

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.

Four girls holding their turtles waiting to release them
Waiting to release their turtles into the sea at Montericco beach

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.

Group of volunteers standing in front of a Mayan temple
Hanging out in the ancient Mayan city Tikal

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.

Group of volunteers with the Chilean flag
Hanging out at the Macademia Farm close to Antigua

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.

Micro Finance: What’s the big deal?

[h4a] “A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money” – W. C. Fields [/h4a]

Two women sitting with local, hand made textiles
Volunteers work with women just like this lady to help her grow her business.

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?

Two people standing in a workshop
Isabel, a volunteer with INLEXCA helping a client with his textile business.

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.

A group of indigenous women sat with a volunteer
Ein Freiwilliger befragt Mikrofinanzkunden, um herauszufinden, wie er ihren Unternehmen helfen und sie unterstützen kann

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?

A group of volunteers applauding a client, building her self esteem
A group of micro finance volunteers building the confidence of a client, helping her believe she can be a success

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?

Du kannst 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 und Guatemala or send us a message!

Group Volunteering: Chile kommt nach Guatemala!

[h4a]"Denken Sie daran, dass die glücklichsten Menschen nicht die sind, die mehr bekommen, sondern die, die mehr geben."

H. Jackson Brown Jr. [/h4a]

Eine Gruppe von Freiwilligen in einem Museum
Eine Gruppe von Freiwilligen aus Chile besucht eines der Museen in Antigua Guatemala namens Casa de los Gigantes

 

 

Wir haben im Moment eine wunderbare Gruppe von Freiwilligen bei uns in Guatemala, den ganzen Weg von La Pintana in Chile. Eine Gruppe von Gymnasiasten, denen die Gelegenheit gegeben wurde, nach Guatemala zu reisen und ihr Land, ihre Stadt und ihre Schule zu repräsentieren, weil sie die Leistungsträger ihrer Klasse sind.

Und was für eine Gruppe sie sind! Sie sind insgesamt einen Monat bei uns und haben bereits zwei Wochen ihrer Erfahrung hinter sich; die Zeit ist für uns wie im Flug vergangen!

 

 

Eine Gruppe von Menschen auf einem Vulkan
Eine Gruppe chilenischer INLEXCA-Freiwilliger erklimmt den aktiven Vulkan Pacaya

 

 

Während ihrer ersten Woche erhielten sie ihre Orientierung, zogen für einen Monat mit ihren einheimischen Familien in ihre neuen Häuser, lernten, wie man einige traditionelle guatemaltekische Gerichte zubereitet, und lernten, wie man aus recycelten Materialien erstaunliche Dinge herstellt. Am Samstag bestiegen sie Pacaya, einen aktiven Vulkan und brieten Marshmallows auf den heißen Felsen!

 

 

 

 

Eine Gruppe chilenischer Freiwilliger stand bei einer Gruppe guatemaltekischer Jugendlicher
Gemeinsame Zeit mit einer Gruppe guatemaltekischer Jugendlicher. Als Teil ihres Programms hielten sie jeweils eine Präsentation über ihr Land und ihre Kultur.

 

Die zweite Woche begann mit einer Präsentation vor einer Gruppe von Jugendlichen über all die fantastischen Dinge, die Chile zu bieten hat. Sie liebten es so sehr, etwas über die Kultur und Geschichte Chiles zu hören, dass sie am Ende, als sie am Ende in Form eines Quiz getestet wurden, mit Bravour bestanden!

Danach gingen sie nach Guatemala City, der Hauptstadt von Guatemala und besuchten einige Museen und den Nationalpalast und lernten etwas über die Geschichte und den Kampf, den Guatemala in seiner Vergangenheit erlitten hat. Sie durften den Einheimischen auch beibringen, wie man wie ein Chilene kocht!

 

 

 

 

Eine Gruppe von Freiwilligen steht hinter einem recycelten Tisch und Stühlen

Diese Gruppe von Jugendlichen genießt ihre Zeit hier wirklich und nutzt ihre Reise voll aus.
Vor ihrer Ankunft stellen wir sicher, dass ihre genauen Bedürfnisse berücksichtigt werden, und erstellen ihre Reiseroute nach ihren Bedürfnissen und Wünschen für die Reise. Schaut weiterhin in unserem Blog vorbei, um zu sehen, was sie sonst noch so treiben!

Wenn Sie ein Auslandsstudium oder eine von der Fakultät geleitete Gruppenfreiwilligenarbeit organisieren möchten Guatemala für Sie und Ihre gewählte Gruppe, bitte kontaktiere uns Jetzt für Ihre ganz eigene, individuelle Reiseroute!