Our experience in Guatemala was incredible and so impactful! We had the opportunity to work in an 'orphanage' (truly a shelter for girls) with teenage moms and their babies - victims of rape or abuse. We held babies, changed babies' diapers, consoled mothers and in all ways helped these young women with their babies. They needed our help and we greatly appreciated the opportunity to be of assistance. The second week we made 2 cookstoves for two impoverished families who now can cook safely for their families. (One family was cooking all meals in the rim of a wheel and had previously scarred/burned a child from the cooking method). The work was very labor intensive and involved mixing cement, laying bricks and cement and filling the cookstove with dirt and adobe bricks under the direction and with the help of a local contractor/coordinator.
While in Guatemala, IFRE Volunteers also placed us with a host family and we had the opportunity to 'live like a local' and see firsthand what the living conditions are in Guatemala (this is not a shack like some Guatemalans live in, but a home with electricity and water and a family who provided us with meals in addition to our rooms). IFRE Volunteers also provided us with immersion Spanish lessons for two hours each day which greatly helped us communicate while working on our projects. IFRE Volunteers was great to work with as we prepared for the trip (Kim and Customer Service) and was very helpful in identifying and lining up options for excursions over the weekend (we hiked a volcano and went to a hot springs). Oscar, the in-country coordinator, was also very critical in organizing our activities and providing us with all the opportunities to make a difference.
This is not the 'volunteer tourism' that many people worry isn't really helping others - it is truly volunteering that makes a difference in the lives of the people in Guatemala. They NEED your help and while this is a 3rd world country and you will sacrifice the comforts of home in order to participate, it is affordable and the work you do will make a difference. I highly recommend IFRE Volunteers. I also appreciate that there were no hidden fees or additional costs sprung upon us once we got to Guatemala. We felt and were safe the entire time we were in the country. We had free time in the evenings and were able to take advantage of modern options (i. E., McDonalds) near the main central park in order to have wifi and share pictures with our family/friends back home.
The office is located close to the host family and projects and we were able to safely walk between most activities which further enabled us to see the people and the culture and further enriched our experience.