With a blend of Spanish and Maya people, Guatemala is a multicultural, multilingual, and multi-ethnic nation, with 25 ethnic groups and the same number of languages. In Tecpán, you’ll be immersed in a community made up of 90% Kaqchikel Mayas, who speak their native dialect in addition to Spanish. The rich history and cultural traditions of the Maya people translates to the colorful fabrics you’ll see in the clothing of women and the delicious food flavored with local spices. As you explore the Maya Highlands, you’ll find lush farms dotted with volcanoes located between the colonial town of Antigua and magical Lake Atitlan.
Guatemala has been one of the strongest economic performers in Latin America in recent years, yet it has the highest economic inequality in the region with some of the worst poverty, malnutrition, and maternal-child mortality rates, particularly in rural and indigenous areas. In nearly half of the country’s rural municipalities, 8 out of 10 people are living below the poverty line.
On average children attend school for fewer than 6 years in Guatemala, and 26% of children between the ages of 5 and 14 work instead of attending school. Maternal mortality is high in part due to hesitation to give birth in clinics or hospitals with the cost of private health services. Adolescent pregnancies in both rural and urban areas are common and increasing, often impacting women already vulnerable due to poverty and lack of education.
Volunteers in Guatemala greatly contribute to improving the quality of education that every child deserves. Primary schools and organizations that support vulnerable children are under resourced and understaffed. Volunteers assist teachers, conduct educational and recreational programming, teach English language skills and provide children with much needed one-on-one attention.
Guatemala’s health care system is struggling and the country still ranks low on critical health indicators such as malnutrition and maternal-infant mortality. Through outreach, education, and care, you will provide much-needed support to vulnerable children and adults in low-income communities. In addition you will be spearheading multiple public health projects in Guatemala including vision screening for children, oral health campaigns and the promotion of hygiene in schools.