Volunteering in Guatemala at the Antigua Childcare and Community project was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve been on several different volunteer trips to different countries in Latin America, but Guatemala is truly one of the most special places I’ve visited. Everyone who has been to Antigua will tell you the same thing: there’s just something very special about this place that’s inexplicable with words that you simply must go and see for yourself.
During my time in Antigua, I volunteered at an after-school program called “Mi Escuelita”. Mi Escuelita is located in San Pedro Las Huertas, which is about a 10 minute car or motorcycle ride from Antigua, or a 30 minute chicken bus ride from the bus station in Antigua. San Pedro Las Huertas is a small community with a beautiful view of the Volcano “Fuego”. There is a group of students that come in the morning and a group that comes in the afternoon. I was assigned to the afternoon group, which was made of 10-15 boys and 2 girls. A few of the boys could not come every day because they had to help their parents with work.
Once I arrive around 2 P.M., I usually help the kids get settled in and have them pull our their homework. They always finish their homework within an hour so around 3 P.M., the volunteers start their English lessons. We taught them all different kinds of things such as numbers, letters, colors, months, days of the week, and phrases in English. Then at 4 P.M., the church bell would ring, which signals recess. The kids would all start running around, looking for where the teacher hid the soccer ball, then run to the cancha (basketball/soccer court located right next to the local elementary school). After about half an hour, the teacher tells the students it’s time to leave, and we all walk back to Mi Escuelita. They receive a milky drink made from powder then the kids do some clean-up tasks and head home around 5 P.M., which is when I take a bus home.
This is basically what my schedule was like from 1:30 to 5:30 every weekday afternoon. Fortunately, I was able to spend lots of time with the kids during my 6 month stay, so I got to know each and every one of them really well. To be honest, I learned more from them than they probably did from me. They taught me that less can sometimes be more, that happiness doesn’t come from what you own, and that I should never stop smiling. Most importantly, they taught me true friendship by letting me into their hearts and accepting me as one of their own.
Not only did I make friends with the kids at Mi Escuelita, this trip gave me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. During my first day in Antigua, I met 5 lovely boys from Cleveland who immediately became great friends of mine. A couple days later, I met an Irish girl who became my best friend. Even though I only knew her for 2 months, we continued to stay in contact after she went back home to Ireland and now she’s visiting me in Chicago in 2 weeks and we’re going to see the boys from Cleveland next month! Many of the people I met here have become very close friends who I definitely plan on seeing again in the future.
Antigua is also a very magical place. I’ve met many people in Antigua who I have mutual friends with from back home in the U.S. and even from other countries. In fact, I met a girl who graduated from the same university as me on the same exact day, but I have never talked to her or even heard of her before I met her in Guatemala. This kind of thing happens all the time in Antigua and every single time it surprises me in a very delightful way.
I definitely recommend Antigua, Guatemala, for anyone who is looking for a truly amazing experience. You won’t be disappointed with what Antigua has to offer!