A Guide to Volunteering in Guatemala

Guatemala is often seen as a very un-safe destination to visit but we wouldn't let this put you off, most of the country is very safe and they need all the international help they can get especially if you have any specific skills or experience. Around 50% of the population live below the poverty line which is quite a shocking statistic but there are local organisations on the ground trying to help and this is a country very much looking forward.  

You can find free and low cost volunteering programs in Guatemala, we also list organisations and large sending agencies who offer inspirational projects and volunteer holidays where you can help children and communities. Placements are really fun, you'll meet people from all over the world and be able to interact and socialise with locals. This is also a great way to improve your Spanish skills. 

There are a wide selection of opportunities available where you can give back and make a difference in this naturally beautiful country, Summer and group programs are popular and are a great way to travel and give back. You can choose how long you participate for, some placements can last a week or over 6 months and don't worry you won't need any previous experience. Accommodation is usually basic including house shares with other participants and also home stays where you will get to live with a local family. 

You might like to read information about going to volunteer in Mexico or volunteer in Belize.


How You Can Help

You can find rewarding opportunities with animals, childcare, community development, conservation, environment, construction, renovation, education, teaching, sports, medical, health & more.

NGO & Community Development Volunteering in Guatemala

Some local organisations recognise the barriers to success, meaningful employment and quality educational experiences faced by low income individuals and their families. In Guatemala, opportunities are not being seized, chances are not being taken, and people are unable to move forward.

They strongly believe that all people have the right and should be offered the chance to participate in a sucessful life, become citizens for international change, and most importantly be allowed to make a positive impact whether big or small, near or far. You can work to improve life and living conditions in Guatemala, there are lots of community based initiatives available where you can help local people improve skills on business and education programs.


Childcare & Orphanage Volunteer Programs in Guatemala

You could apply to teach English in Guatemala at schools or help at outreach centres. When working at schools local children will really love having you there and its great to see the positive effect you will have on them. Usually these teaching placements start early at around 8am and you will assist a local teacher in daily routines which include drawing pictures and writing on chalk boards. Schools usually finish in the early afternoon and then you are free to relax or explore the local area. Participants will need to be pro-active in organizing activities and leading daily activities, you might be helping with maths, science or sporting lessons.

You can get involved with community life in a Guatemalan village, you can make a big difference by helping out with a range of tasks from teaching the children English, maths, computing or crafts to assisting with healthcare. As a volunteer teacher you will be able to help out where you are needed most and in the areas you are most interested in, the areas you will be able to help with include: You can opt to assist with a number of projects; the main focus will be on educating and supporting the children teaching subjects such as English, computing, mathematics, physical education and handicraft. These types of projects are popular with people on gap years in Guatemala.


Volunteer with Animals in Guatemala

Beauty spots and nature is under threat in Guatemala due to de-forestation and new building projects. This as a result has had a very negative effect on wildlife. There are also problems with the illegal wildlife trade and poaching. Places you can help include the Laguna del Tigre Park and at wildlife rescue centres, if you have a background in veterinary this is beneficial but there are normal placements available where you can help working hands on rehabilitating and caring for animals. There are also sea turtle research and release projects available on the coast which are a really amazing way to help this species.


Building & Construction Volunteer Projects in Guatemala

You could join structured construction and building programs which always need help, some communities don't even have schools and lack even the most basic facilities like chalk, chairs and tables. These types of programs are usually very structured where there will be a set itinerary and group efforts where you can help build new structures and make a difference to the lives of people in villages. There are also projects helping with farming, agriculture and local businesses. 

Some trips allow you to stay with a local family in Antigua, you’ll get an insider’s view of life in Latin America and assist with really hands-on with building work. Each house takes around 6 days to complete; starting with digging footings and laying foundations, the spending around 3 days on the fabric of the building and a couple of days finishing your masterpiece before you get to see the finished results and hand over the keys to a very happy family!


Medical Volunteer Progras in Guatemala

Work hands on helping people who really need assistance. There are skilled and non-skilled programs available so if you are in this profession or not, you can apply. Types of projects include dentistry, nursing, working as a doctor, joining awareness efforts or providing general assistance with daily life making sure the right people get help. Sometimes you might be working as part of an outreach team travelling to remote areas working with remote communities and raising healthcare standards.

You can help give children and their families a better standard of care and access to essential vitamins and food. You’ll help to ensure that children receive nutritious food and drinks, such as carrot juice and fruit every day, clean their teeth and take their vitamins. You may be needed to help with social work with the families of the children and increase awareness within the community of the importance of healthcare and education. There are also care projects available where you can work with elderly and vulnerable members of society.


How to Apply

Generally everyone over 17 can apply as long as you qualify for a tourist visa which is granted on arrival. You will not need to know Spanish to apply but it is highy recommended you learn to make the most of the experience. Sometimes you might need to have a interview either over Skype of in person.

There are structured, free & low cost volunteer opportunities in Guatemala and placements usually need to be booked in advance. By applying through a sending agency you will need to pay a fee but they provide everything from placements, transfers, accommodation, meals and in-country support. View our Central America volunteering programs for more options.


Volunteer in Guatemala for Free

There are also free local non-profits and NGO projects available where you might need to pay a small donation or just give your time. Recommended organisations which offer free (and low cost) volunteer programs in Guatemala to international participants include Animal AWARE, Maya Pedal, Ninos de Guatemala, Mayan Families, Safe Passage, Trama Textiles and Quetzal Trekkers If you would like to recommend a free volunteer organisations in Guatemala get in touch.

"I went to volunteer with animals in Guatemala for 2 weeks which was an amazing experience. I applied through IVHQ who offer safe and affordable programs which are very organized. You will love Guatemala!" - Laura, Canada