Hannah's Story of Volunteering with Local Communities in Guatemala
I traveled to Guatemala with Spanish Marks in the summer of 2019. I worked at an organization serving the neighborhood of Las Rosas, where a majority of the families are at or below the line for extreme poverty. The organisation serves this community by providing free after-school programming, which both supports the child’s education and allows their parents to work longer, lunches, scholarships, school supplies, and most importantly, a place where children can play and be free of their worries. I loved my time working here. In the morning, I worked in the office writing grants, communicating with donors, and writing the annual report. In the afternoon, I got to work with the children and help out with the daily activity.
I chose a homestay, because this was the most economical option and I wanted to be able to practice Spanish. I lived with Mama Cony, Papa Carlos and their children. It was amazing and really made my whole trip that much better. The food was always delicious, and Mama Cony is one of the nicest people I have ever met. She was always willing to listen, help me when I need, and show me Xela. She even came with me to a store where I bought souvenirs for my family and helped me get a discount.
"The whole process was so easy"
I loved living in Xela. It is a beautiful city. I was able to travel to many other cities in Guatemala, but Xela was definitely my favorite. While Antigua might be objectively more beautiful, Xela has a better warmth and authenticity about it. I can’t wait to come back.
I am so happy that I chose Spanish Marks. The whole process was so easy. Rustom found gave me 5 options of places I could work. Rustom also found my homestay. With the program, I was given 25 Spanish lessons, and my teacher, Karina was great. She is a great teacher, both in person and through Skype. I learned a lot with her.
"I want to work in public international law... This internship shows that I am dedicated to community service, willing and able to travel"
I got a lot out of this experience – both personally and professionally. Professionally, an internship in economic development will help me because I want to work in public international law, for an organization like the United Nations. This internship shows that I am dedicated to community service, willing and able to travel, and that I can work in other cultures. Additionally, my increased Spanish skills (I went from very basic to comfortably conversational in 7 weeks thanks to this experience) will be a huge benefit to me.
Personally, I was nervous to go to a developing country with a lot of crime. But, I did it. I didn’t feel unsafe once the whole time I was there, and I traveled alone almost every weekend and walked alone at night a lot. Close relationships were developed with amazing people and I learned a lot about myself. I even helped a few kids learn how to ride a bike.
I loved this experience, and I intend to go back to Guatemala as soon as I can.