My volunteering experiences in Guatemala
Overall my experience was very positive. I had a lovely ‘home’ with a ‘mum’ who was a great cook. I worked for 3 weeks on 2 different projects which gave me the opportunity to experience even more. It suited me well, although I can imagine that not everybody would be happy with it, as it takes longer to familiarise oneself with the people and the work in the projects.
In 1 project I painted a mural with 5 and 6-year-old boys and girls in their classroom. The wall preparations I did alone in the afternoons when they were off; I magnified drawings they had prepared; the painting was done with all the children in a couple of mornings – these were quite mad mornings but very much fun and very satisfactory. The finishing off (where they couldn’t reach) I did alone again in some afternoons. It was brilliant to see how proud they were of ‘their’ wall. And the nuns of the school were almost equally excited!
In the other project I assisted in a soup kitchen where twice a week a lunch was prepared for around a hundred children of a very poor area. Although it initially was a bit unclear to me what I was expected to do as the 2 cooks were perfectly able to do the work without me, it was still lovely to help and get to know the project. A typical work (half) day started with tortilla making, then, when the children were coming, play games with them. Next handing out the lunches and finally help clean and wash everything. Before going down to this ‘job’ I would have Spanish tuition.
I regretted that I didn’t speak better Spanish. Although I didn’t come totally unprepared, it wasn’t enough to be able to have a bit of conversation. As a result, it sometimes was a bit lonely as I didn’t work with other volunteers, nor did I meet any.
I also realize that 3 weeks is a very short time to volunteer and ideally one should go for a longer time – I am convinced that everybody profits more from a longer volunteering period.