Field report

What I particularly liked about the project was that I was able to help the children and quickly realized that I had a direct impact on their lives and education. In my 5 weeks, I really made a difference to the children and that makes me very happy in retrospect.
July 2022 - August 2022
Participant Laura
Laura supported the teaching project in Antigua, Guatemala, as a volunteer for five weeks. She had an unforgettable time with the children at the school and learned a lot about the Guatemalan way of life and culture. She shares her impressions with us in this experience report.


My preparation time

I've always wanted to do volunteer work in South and Central America. However, due to the pandemic, I temporarily put my plans on hold and postponed them until "sometime later". When the situation eased and travel restrictions were relaxed, I spontaneously decided that I wanted to get away before I finished my studies and take this experience with me. I registered my trip with WanderWorld around 6 weeks before departure. It felt like everything went very quickly: booking flights, collecting and printing out documents, checking vaccinations, etc. Before departure, it was important for me to be as well prepared as possible for everything and every situation, so that I could really just enjoy my time there and not have to worry about insurance, credit cards, etc.

The first days

After a 20-hour journey, I arrived in Antigua in the evening. The next day, Alejandro picked me up at my accommodation for the introductory day. He gave me my first tour of the city. We had lunch together, went to the supermarket and the bank. I was able to withdraw money and got my SIM card straight away, which I could use to make phone calls and access the internet outside my accommodation. In the first few days, I was totally thrilled with Antigua. Everything was so exciting and thrilling and I really liked it! I quickly got to know other WanderWorld volunteers from other projects, so I was never alone.

A day in the teaching project

I got up at 06:30 every day for my project at the school in San Lorenzo El Cubo. At 07:00, I went to the bus terminal, where the bus left at around 07:25. The bus ride usually took 30 minutes because of the morning traffic and then I had to walk to school for about 10 minutes. Once we got there, we had lessons until 09:30. During this time, we did different things: learning letters and numbers with the children, reading, painting, arts and crafts and computer lessons. Then there was a half-hour break and all the pupils, teachers and volunteers were given a hot meal with a drink and dessert. The food was freshly prepared every day by the mothers of the schoolchildren and tasted very good. After the break, we continued with our lessons. We often had 60-minute English lessons after the break and then continued learning. The children were picked up by their parents at 12:00. I often stayed longer after class to help the teachers prepare the materials for the next day. I was usually back in Antigua around 2:00 pm. I really enjoyed working with the children. The children were happy every day and enjoyed learning new things. I was welcomed openly on the very first day and the children always wanted to play with me or for me to sit next to them and help them. The staff at the school were very kind and helpful. I was accompanied to school by a member of staff for the first few days so that I could get to know the way. In general, the teachers were very friendly and very grateful for my help. They told me a lot about life in Guatemala. I learned a lot about the living conditions and circumstances, which made me feel like more than just a tourist. I learned a lot about life there and I am grateful for that.

My free time in Antigua

Antigua is a very diverse city and a great starting point for weekend excursions. I was out and about with friends every weekend and was able to travel (almost) the whole of Guatemala during this time. For example, we visited the Mayan ruins of Tikal, the large market in Chichicastenango and the beautiful Lake Atitlán. We also highly recommend spending the night on the Acatenango volcano. It was very special to see the active volcano Fuego erupting about 3 km away as the crow flies. But there is also a lot to experience in Antigua itself: I attended a chocolate workshop and made the famous "Quitapenas" (worry dolls) at a Guatemalan woman's home. I also made tortillas myself, strolled through the market in Antigua, went souvenir shopping and took a yoga class. I also went barhopping with friends in the many bars, went partying and visited the nearby village of Hobbitenango. In Antigua, you can also eat really delicious food in one of the many restaurants and cafés. I never got bored during my time there.

What I was able to give my project

I was with the teaching project for 5 weeks and realized in this short time how much I helped on site. The teachers were incredibly grateful for my help and the children really took me to their hearts. The living conditions there are very different to here in Germany. As the children and their families are poor, they were grateful to have the opportunity to attend this school. This is precisely why the work of volunteers is so important. The children need support in almost all areas, as they hardly have any time at home to study or revise for school. Sometimes they have to help with household chores, work, look after other siblings or similar. As a result, they have gaps that need to be filled in at school. At this point, I was able to help a lot and, for example, work specifically with children who had more difficulties than others, while the teacher continued to work with the other pupils. On my last day in particular, I had the feeling that the children had become accustomed to my presence. They all thanked me for my help and patience when I said goodbye. Many of them told me that they had learned a lot from me and were looking forward to my return. What I particularly liked about the project was that I was able to help the children and quickly realized that I had a direct impact on their lives and education. In my 5 weeks, I really made a difference to the children and that makes me very happy in retrospect.

My accommodation

I was accommodated in a guesthouse in Antigua and had my own room there. It consisted of an anteroom with a small sofa and a shelf. The second room had a large bed, a window and another shelf. The bathroom was directly opposite my room and was shared with 2 other rooms. There was also a large kitchen where you had everything you needed and where I often cooked. The guesthouse had a beautiful courtyard with lots of plants and a great painting. But my personal highlight was the roof terrace, where you had a view over the whole of Antigua and the three volcanoes. I spent a few afternoons there in the sun. Another volunteer also stayed there for a longer period of time, otherwise most of the other guests were only there for a few nights.

Security on site

I felt safe most of the time in Antigua. It's a very touristy city, which means it's not noticeable that you're not from Guatemala. I never went home alone in the evening, but was always out with at least one other person. In everyday life, I made sure to carry my valuables close to my body. I always had a fanny pack with me containing my cell phone, cash and keys. I always left my credit card in my accommodation, except when I went to withdraw money. In general, the same safety tips apply there as everywhere else: don't walk the streets alone at night, take good care of your valuables and don't behave in a particularly conspicuous manner. Antigua is generally a safe city and with these tips there is hardly anything that can go wrong.

My tips for future participants

In my opinion, a stay abroad in Latin America is always a good idea. The mentality of the people, the landscape, the customs and traditions are completely different to here in Europe and that makes it a really exciting experience. What particularly struck me was the friendliness of the locals. Everyone was helpful and always helped if you had a question. That's not a given, at least in Germany, and that's why I was impressed. Everything was more relaxed and everyone was more at ease. You don't worry so much and just do what you feel like doing. There are so many tourists from all over the world traveling to Latin America that you meet new people everywhere. As an open-minded person, you hardly have any problems getting into conversation with others. I would like to visit many more countries in Latin America in the future, as each one is special in its own way and therefore unique.

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