After schooling in Argentina, I was really keen to further my Central American travels and improve my Spanish along the way. As an Anthropology/Sociology, and International Relations major I have taken a real interest in learning about different cultures and societal interactions. I love the experience of building relationships and learning from people who come from different backgrounds than myself. I had done a little research, both on Guatemala and The School of Hope and envisioned a little less industrialisation and a lot less Americanisation than Argentina and a similar schooling style to the United States. And my experience proved similar!
Guatemala is so beautiful and I was very lucky to be able to live in Antigua, just a ten minute drive from the school. Although taking a Tuk Tuk or the chicken bus helped on days I was running late, or caught in the rain, I enjoyed walking to and from school, popping into local tiendas, and being amongst the bustling early risers of the city. Antigua was made an UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, so as you can imagine it is absolutely breath taking. Among many Spanish colonial building sites of traditional architecture and beautiful colours, The University of San Carlos (1676) was one of the first universities in Central America and now houses the Museum of Colonial Art.
I interned as a teacher’s assistant in one of the fourth grade classes for three months. I also had the opportunity to sit down and interview numerous foundation staff, who run the school and contribute to its success. This experience was really insightful and I learned all the ins and outs of working for an NGO.
I assisted Seno Carmen with her 26 students. My favourite memory from the school is most definitely my students. I grew to know each of them, who they were, what their family was like and what made them laugh. Each kid had some type of inside joke with me that made them feel special, whether it was a secret handshake, a staring competition at random, or little drawing exchanges. I grew very attached to them during my months at the school and hope to return to see their progress and success which I know all of them will achieve! I would 100% recommend the volunteer programme at The School of Hope. Between working with the students, fellow faculty/staff and learning so much from them, to my outside school life within Antigua and adventures throughout Guatemala, my experience is one I’d like to repeat. I had the opportunity to explore the incredible landscapes, eat delicious traditional dishes, and meet fellow travellers and workers. I think it's something everyone should do.
My top tip for prospective volunteers is to learn some Spanish. Being fluent is not necessary to participate, but I was proficient going in and it helped me greatly whether it was asking directions, ordering food, travelling or meeting fellow Spanish speakers and making bonds with them. Being able to say hello, how are you… or my name is… are such easy phrases to learn and they open doors for you on the streets, with your co-workers, and in your social life within the city. Even learning just a few phrases can go a long way in connecting with people and showing others that you care to learn. I promise you it can only make you experience more rewarding. And my final tip? Don’t drink the tap water. That is a real warning that your gut (and housemates) will thank you for later.
If you are interested in volunteering at the School of Hope, find out more on our volunteer page or contact our Volunteer Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org