Want to give something back to a local community whilst traveling through Central America? Why not volunteer with us and make a difference in the lives of up to 250 children! Who...
Casa Guatemala :)
Submitted by Emilie Logan - Auckland | February 15, 2016
Volunteering at Casa Guatemala is really hard to write about, it is something you just have to go and experience. I was there for three months at the end of 2014, looking after the varones pequenos as an orientadora and teaching English during summer school. The kids are the most amazing, funny, loving, (and just to inject a bit of Kiwi slang) - hard case characters you will ever meet. They are beyond loveable and totally stole my heart in ways I never expected. Some aspects of life at Casa Guatemala are challenging and frustrating, but I felt this amazing sense of purpose during my time there that is pretty hard to explain or compare with anything else. I never expected to get so attached to the children, to learn so much from them, or to leave the place with such a focus on going back. For me this was much more than something to just tick off a bucket list of travels/experiences. Casa Guatemala taught me so much and put the whole way we live in the western world in perspective. Seeing the amount of joy that can be had from so little (who thought the remnants of a plastic water bottle could be turned into multiple super hero accessories ...?!) - sounds cliche - but honestly, it changes you and makes you realise what is really important. Living and working with amazing people from all over the world in itself was incredible - (you will have so much fun!) I will never forget the friends I made there. While the living conditions are basic, and there are aspects that will be hard (for me, it was the constant rain and mould getting into my clothes!! - consider this if you go in the rainy season - for others it was the bugs, or the lack of electricity, or the limited food) it will teach you so much about yourself and push you outside of your comfort zone, in the best of ways. The hard things are balanced out by experiences that again are so hard to describe here - for me it was waking up to the sound of the monkeys, the sunrise boat trip to Fronteras, reading by candlelight at night, the awesome crazy nightly cumbia prayers coming from the Brisas church, the night sky in the jungle, hammock bed time stories and lullabies with the little boys... to name a few. There are different roles and responsibilities at Casa depending on how many other volunteers are there at the time and depending on your strengths - if you have skills in a certain area or a particular project idea there is a lot of freedom to be creative. Everyone brings different things to the table and planning and organising activities with the other volunteers was heaps of fun, even if you're like me and don't consider yourself particularly creative, you realise everyone has something to offer and the dynamic of different cultures and backgrounds all putting heads together to come up with crazy ideas is great :) It was also a great experience to work with Guatemalan teachers who are there year round and learn about their culture and day to day way of life. Go there with sensitivity and an open mind and realise that some things will be very different to what you know/think is best. Volunteers come and go and these kids need stability and consistency.. again another great exercise in realising that you are part of the bigger picture and it isn't all about you, but how you fit in to that community and how can make things just a little bit better for these kids that need so, so much. It is constant teamwork and compromise but extremely rewarding. Go there with an open mind, positivity, lots of flexibility, and you will have an awesome time. It is hard work and not for the faint hearted, but likely the most incredible job you will ever have. I am going back in a few months and can't wait...honestly, if you're thinking about it, just pack your bags and go :) !!!
A life-changing experience
Submitted by Scott K - Philadelphia | April 30, 2015
I came to Casa Guatemala in August of 2013. I had read every review, every blog and every mention of it I could find. I had studied Spanish and researched the area around Rio Dulce. But nothing can truly prepare you for life at Casa Guatemala.
This remote "Children's Village" is a truly special place. Not only do they care for abandoned, abused and orphaned children, but also many children from the surrounding communities who do not have access to quality education. Roughly 100 children call the project home during the school year and many others from nearby villages will walk through the jungle or arrive by hand-made wooden canoe each morning and depart in the same manner each afternoon. The project provides a free medical clinic that is open to all, and for many surrounding communities it is the only way they can have access to medicine.
Life at Casa Guatemala is not for everyone. For starters, forget about electricity in the volunteer house because there is none. For another, there's no hot water for showers. The food served by the project (included with your donation) is almost exclusively rice, black beans and corn tortillas. The kids have access to vegetables and fruits during the day and will also supplement that with wild berries or other fruits that grow in the area. Volunteers have access to the nearby town of Fronteras once a week to buy their own food and supplies as well as take advantage of computers with internet access.
But instead of modern comforts, a Casa Guatemala volunteer will find nights spent around a cramped wooden table and candle-lit conversations taking place in several languages ranging from English and Spanish (the two most common) to Italian, French, German, Hungarian and others. Instead of everyone on their cell phones, everyone is talking and laughing and meeting people they will never forget. We talk about crazy things the kids did or said that day, the plans for the weekend activities, ideas to solve problems and a million other things.
The kids will amaze you. They will be challenging but once you get to know them, you will see how smart, capable, hilarious and fun they are. There are times when you want to pull your hair out, but in the end the experience is extremely rewarding. It is not a perfect place, and money is always a concern for the project, but for 30 years they have gotten through each and every day, morning to night, and provided the children of Casa Guatemala with an education and the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty that has plagued the region for centuries. It is a safe place where the often neglected children of Guatemala are free to have a childhood that so many are denied.