Volunteering as an International Intern in El Triunfo, Guatemala The Location



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Volunteering as an International Intern in El Triunfo, Guatemala

The Location:

El Triunfo, Guatemala is an aldea (a small village) located in south-eastern Guatemala, just outside of the larger city of Gualan, in the province of Zacapa. The town itself is comprised of about 250 families, and an estimated 1500 people living in El Triunfo. El Triunfo has an eight-room elementary school, buildings for a small health and dental clinic, a day care center, a soccer field, three churches (one Catholic and two Evangelical), and several tiny stores that sell mainly snacks and drinks.

The families of El Triunfo live in small, one room houses that are made of either wood or cement blocks. Most houses have cement floors, yet there are still many people who have dirt floors. Most houses have running water, electricity, and an outdoor latrine. Only a few houses have toilets, the average house has only a pit to use as the bathroom. There are also very few showers in El Triunfo, almost everyone uses “bucket showers” to bathe, fully clothed. Although there are varying degrees of poverty within the town, the poorer residents tend to reside up on the hill behind the town. These houses often have no running water or electricity; many people in this area bathe and wash dishes and clothes in the nearby river. There are no washing machines in El Triunfo, everything is hand washed. With that said, it is not recommended that you bring your favorite clothing, as hand washed clothing tends to stretch out a bit.

Volunteers will be housed one volunteer per family in El Triunfo. All families have children, in fact, most have three or more. The main diet of the families consists of beans, tortillas, and eggs. While you are a part of the family, in addition to the standard meal, the family will be providing you with nutritious meals such as salads, fruit, cooked vegetables, and chicken. Volunteers will eat all three meals with the family, and will also hopefully have the opportunity to assist the family in household chores. These chores vary from making tortillas to collecting wood for their “stoves.” The mother of the house will hand wash the volunteer’s clothing, yet you will be responsible for your intimate apparel.

There is no internet in El Triunfo. However, there are many internet cafes in nearby Gualan. Gualan is relatively small town of about 10,000 residents and is approximately three miles away. There are two mini busses that enter El Triunfo every half hour and will bring you to Gualan. The ride takes around 15 minutes and will drop you off at the central park. In Gualan there is a central market where they sell fresh vegetables, as well as a small supermarket, ATMs, and a few restaurants. The cost of a one way trip is Q3 (Q 7.90 = US $1).

Cell phones are relatively cheap in Guatemala; for around US $20 you can purchase your own. The carrier TIGO currently has the best coverage in El Triunfo. They are all pay as you go; you buy a card of 25, 50, or 100 Quetzales worth. The current cost of a call to the United States is Q4 a minute, which adds up quickly. Incoming calls cost you nothing, so friends and family can call you from home.

The weather during the summer months of May, June, July and August is extremely hot and humid during the days. Although the weather is warm, it is also the rainy season, and you can expect rain almost every day starting in May and ending in September. During these months, light clothing is recommended, however, we request that you dress in modest clothing. The summer/rainy season is also prime mosquito time, and it is recommended that you wear light pants and use mosquito repellent, especially in the evenings. In December and January, the weather can be cold, so if you are visiting us during that time please bring along something to keep you warm such as a sweatshirt. The rest of the year the weather is moderate, t-shirts and shorts are worn virtually all year long.
What to Bring:


  • Bug Repellent (this can also be bought in Gualan)

  • Toiletries and a bag to carry them in (as well as something you can use to take back and forth with you from the bathhouse)

  • Waterproof sport sandals, rubber flip flops, and tennis shoes

  • Two towels

  • Shorts (modest please!), pants (light pants to use at night), and t-shirts.

  • A flashlight with extra batteries

  • Camera

  • An alarm clock (although the roosters will probably wake you at 5am!)

  • A pocket knife (can come in handy when peeling fruit)

  • A good water bottle

  • Tampons (they cannot be bought in Gualan) and other sanitary supplies

  • A small medical kit (Tylenol, Alka-Seltzer, Imodium, topical antibiotic cream, Band-Aids, antihistamines such as Benadryl, eye drops, hydrocortisone/anti-itch cream, aloe vera gel, etc.)

  • All Prescription medication you will need for your trip, as well as a written copy of your prescription if you think that you might run out

  • Backpack

  • A journal

  • Books and other reading material

  • Sunglasses, a hat, and plenty of sunscreen

  • An extra pair of eyeglasses and/or contacts in case of loss, as well as your prescription from your eye doctor, as you may need to obtain another pair in Gualan.

  • Your ATM card (it is recommended that you can your bank to request an extra ATM card)

  • Passport

  • Medical/Travelers Insurance

  • A small gift for your family (something from where you’re from such as a mug, chocolates, etc.)

  • An open mind!


Medical Preparations:

Luckily, we have had relatively few medical incidences among visitors here in the past. However, it is common to have traveler’s diarrhea. To prevent diarrhea, avoid tap water unless YOU know that it has been boiled, filtered, or chemically disinfected; only eat fresh fruits or vegetables if cooked or peeled; be wary of dairy products that might contain unpasteurized milk; and avoid eating food from street venders, or any food that you suspect may have been exposed to flies. Drink only bottled water (agua pura) or other bottled beverages while you are here in El Triunfo. The family will provide you with enough bottled water to drink and carry with you during the day. If you develop diarrhea be sure to drink plenty of fluids and notify the director of the Guatemalan Project immediately.

The project recommends that you are vaccinated against (are up to date with) before your arrival: typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus (a booster is needed every 5 years), measles, mumps, rubella, meningitis, and DPT. Rabies vaccinations are optional, yet there are many street dogs around El Triunfo. Currently, there are no known cases of Malaria in this region, yet we can never be 100% sure, so taking the pills is optional. We recommend that you check the current Center for Disease Control (CDC) website for current updates and recommendations.

Especially during the rainy season (June through November) it is imperative that you protect yourself against mosquitoes. We recommend wearing long pants at night, and repellent throughout the day. So far we have had no reported cases of Dengue Fever within El Triunfo, yet it does exist in nearby towns and cities. Dengue Fever is transmitted by mosquito bites, it is a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes that bite primarily during the daytime and are usually found close to human habitations, often indoors. Keep your eyes open, if you see any artificial water containers that contain dirty water in your homes, please notify us immediately. Dengue usually causes flu-like symptoms, there is no treatment for dengue or vaccinations against the infection, yet symptoms usually resolve themselves uneventfully in a few days.

Nearby, in Gualan, there is a community health clinic that the Project uses for minor illnesses, as well as a private hospital that we also use in case of emergencies. Many doctors and hospitals expect payment in cash, regardless of whether you have health insurance. If you develop a life-threatening medical problem, you’ll probably want to be evacuated to a country with state-of-the-art medical care. Since this may cost tens of thousands of dollars, be sure that you have insurance (such as MedJet) before you depart.

Many pharmacies are well-supplied, but important medications may not be consistently available. Be sure to bring along adequate supplies of all prescription drugs.


Money:

The name of the currency in Guatemala is the Quetzal (Q). Please check the current exchange rate, but as of June 2010 it was US $1.00 = Q 7.90.

While most of your costs are included in the program fee, we recommend that you carry some extra money for expenses such as trips to Gualan, internet, restaurants, and any side trips your may want to partake in. There are several ATMs in Gualan, they do charge a US $2-3 fee every time you use them. Cash is also very easy to exchange, yet it carries obvious risks. They will only accept crisp, new US bills with no markings. Credit cards are accepted in all large cities such as Antigua and Guatemala City, yet they are of no use in El Triunfo.

Do not leave money or valuables in plain view in your room. If you would like, upon arrival you can give the director of the Guatemalan Project your passport and she will place it in her safe. Neither the Guatemalan Project nor your host families are responsible for lost or stolen property. Like anywhere, most people are honest, but let’s not try to tempt anyone!


The Cost of Your Stay:

The cost of your stay is US $20 which includes a donation to the Guatemalan Project, as well as room and board. Room and board includes the following:



  • Housing at a selected family

  • A typical Guatemalan breakfast, lunch, and dinner (preparation of any special type of food will entail an extra expense paid by the volunteer)

  • Purified water

  • Clean linen and laundry service

  • A mosquito net for your stay here


Safety Recommendations and Basic Expectations:

  1. An adequate supply of drinking water should be kept readily available

  2. Always go in pairs. Never go anywhere alone.

  3. Never take the bus away from El Triunfo without first informing Dr. Campoverde or another member of the group.

  4. Intoxicating beverages are prohibited during all program related activities.

  5. All volunteers are expected to be familiar with materials and instructions in this manual.

  6. All volunteers are expected to be ready to work, be on time for all activities, treat others with respect, and to communicate with Dr. Campoverde in case any problem arises.

  7. Make sure to learn a lot and have fun along the way!


Behavioral Guidelines and Procedures for Leaving Prior to the End of the Program:

Dr. Campoverde reserves the right to determine that a volunteer’s behavior requires that a student terminates participation in the program. The following are among the grounds for dismissal:



  • Severe difficulty adapting

  • Consistent inability to get along with others

  • Not completing work as part of a team

  • Consistently not following instructions when asked

  • Participating in excessive drinking or alcohol

  • Participating in ANY drug use

  • Developing serious problems with Guatemalan families that threaten the integrity of the program

In the event that Dr. Campoverde feels that the volunteer is not performing and behaving as required above, he/she will first receive a warning and if actions further continue he/she will be dismissed from the program.
A Note from the Director, Dr. Cecilia Campoverde:

“As you prepare for your experience, you are likely to feel excited and anxious. That is a natural reaction to facing the unknown. Part of undertaking cross cultural work is the process of coming to understand you. Gaining that type of self-knowledge is facilitated by taking yourself out of your ordinary, everyday context. Try to explore your concerns as you prepare for your experience. What are you excited about? What makes you anxious? What are you imagining will happen? What are you afraid of? Ask yourself these types of questions. If you have any questions or concerns about living and studying abroad, please feel free to contact us!”


“When you enter a different culture, you are likely to feel slightly disoriented. Again, this is a natural condition when faced with new situations. Your first goal is to begin the process of adaptation to your new environment. Some of the initial difficulties that you can expect have to do with the ordinary tasks of everyday life: food, shelter, establishing a schedule, finding companionship, etc. Since you are staying in El Triunfo, small villages with a known host family, most of these difficulties are half solved for you. Still, you will have to adapt to life in a new place, the new flora and fauna, the sights, sounds, and odors of the Guatemalan village. You will have to adapt to an unfamiliar bed, different foods, insects, no air conditioning, no running drinkable water, no shower heads, and intermittent electricity. You must begin adapting to the human actors in your new landscape; these include local villagers, your host family, the organization, and fellow visitors. Frankly, it is a lot to deal with all at once. Hang in there by being patient, tolerant, kind, and by actively remembering the social work values that honor all human beings as unique and very worthy.”
How to get here:

Once you know your travel schedule and your flight information please email a copy to guatemlanprojectcc@gmail.com so that we will be alerted of your arrival.

The Aurora Airport in Guatemala City is small. At the airport, after you exit customs but before you exit the airport, there is an ATM machine to your right. We recommend that you use this machine before you leave the airport. When you exit the airport take a deep breath, things can be a little chaotic out there. Never leave your things unattended. To the right there are taxi drivers waiting by the curb. White taxis are airport authorized and safe.

Ask the taxi driver to take you to the Litegua Bus Station on Calle 17th. The taxis charge approximately Q70 or US $10.

At the Litegua Bus Station you will purchase a ticket to go to Gualan or to Mayuelas (these cities are only one kilometer apart for each other). Every bus that goes to Puerto Barrios stops in Mayuelas, yet there are only a few busses a day that stop in Gualan, which is closer to El Triunfo. After you’ve bought your ticket, please make a telephone call to Dr. Campoverde at 40066392 to inform her of the time of arrival so she will be ready to welcome you. Please never take your eyes/arms/legs off of your luggage during this process. The bus trip takes approximately 3 ½ hours. Unless you take a Litegua Plus bus, there are no bathrooms onboard, and the first rest stop is not for 3 hours, so we recommend that you use the bathroom at Litegua before you board.

Once you arrive at Gualan or Mayuelas, we will gladly be there to pick you up! If we are not there within 15 minutes, please call Dr. Campoverde.

Upon leaving Guatemala, you must pay a US $3 tax at the airport before departing. Be sure to save US $3 cash for this tax or you will be stuck in Guatemala.

If your plane arrives in the evening, or if you have an early flight in the morning we recommend that you spend the night in Guatemala City. For a slightly cheaper option we recommend Hostel Dos Lunas. You can book online at www.hosteldoslunas.com. They are located right next to the airport and provide free airport pick up and drop off. Their number in Guatemala is (502) 2261-4248. For a nicer option we recommend Mariana’s Petit Hotel, they offer the same airport transportation. Their number is (502) 2261-4266, and their website is www.marianaspetithotel.com.


Contact Information:

  • The best way to contact us from the United States is through email:

guatemalanproject@gmail.com

  • Cecilia Campoverde’s number in Guatemala is: (502) 4006-6392

  • If you for some reason cannot get a hold of her when you arrive, you can call Rosa Santos Vega, President of the Asociacion Proyecto Guatemala, who does not speak English, at: (502) 5004-8163 or (502) 4006-6342

  • Note: Please double check before arrival that these numbers are up to date! Email us and check our web page at www.guatemalanproject.com

  • If you would like to contact a former volunteer for information, advice, or are just having a tough time getting a hold of Cecilia, feel free to email Lindy Sherman at LindySherman@gmail.com

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PLEASE FILL THIS FORM OUT AND BRING IT WITH YOU TO EL TRIUNFO
Print your Name ______________________________________________________
Address_____________________________________________________________
City, State, Zip Code____________________________________________________
Phone__________________________ Cell Phone____________________________
Email________________________________________________________________
Emergency Contact’s Name_______________________________________________
Emergency Contact’s Phone Number________________________________________
Please list any Allergies___________________________________________________

I have read the Volunteering as an International Social Worker in Guatemala Manual and I understand the nature of the program, the activities and behaviors expected of me, and I agree to abide by the guidelines set forth.


Signature_____________________________________________ Date______________

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