Free (or Cheap) Volunteer Work in Guatemala
Those looking to stay longer in Guatemala will find the country a real volunteering hotspot, with a diverse range of options to choose from.
Grassroots Volunteering in Guatemala
The organisations listed below have either got in touch with us to add their details to this or another of our websites, or we otherwise have reason to believe they are actively looking for international volunteers and charge reasonable or no fees to join in, live and work with them:
Nature lovers will enjoy the challenge of working as a volunteer guide leading trekkers on hikes near Quetzaltenango. Duties also include recruiting customers and cleaning the equipment. With the money they make from leading tourists on adventurous hikes Quetzaltrekkers help to fund an organisation that takes care of local street children. Guides must commit to three months, should have a love of the outdoors and be in good physical condition, have first aid certification and intermediate Spanish. Before you are accepted as a guide, you will need to successfully complete a two week orientation period. Volunteers can also help out at a children’s dormitory and a street school.
Accommodation & Costs: Volunteer guides pay around $30 to $60 per month to live in the guide house. All expenses are covered when guiding. Remember also to factor in the cost of the trial week.
Camino Seguro’s mission is to empower the children of families working in the Guatemala City garbage dump. Depending on the time commitment and skills volunteers can assist in the kitchens, in the garden, or work with Guatemalan teachers in grade level classrooms as tutors, co-teachers, classroom aides, and special activities leaders (ie art, music, theater, etc). Classroom assistants should be able to speak Spanish and commit for longer than five weeks. There are also a variety of options available for qualified applicants interested in making a commitment of six months or more.
Where: Guatemala City.
Accommodation & Costs: A non refundable $50 application processing fee is requested, plus a $100 admin fee. Food and accommodation with a homestay in Antigua is available for $75 to $90 per week. Otherwise volunteers arrange their own accommodation. Volunteers are also asked to contribute $13 a week to the cost of Camino Seguro’s private volunteer bus (used to insure the safety of their volunteers) to and from Antigua to the project in Guatemala City.
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Tucked away on a quiet shore of Lake Peten Itza, the village of El Remate is home to around 250 families, surrounded by the luscious rainforests of northern Guatemala and an absolutely breathtaking array of wildlife. Howler monkeys, toucans, capuchin and spider monkeys are just some of your potential neighbours.
Year by year, Project Ixcanaan develops in new ways, working with everyone in the local community, from young children and grandparents to the town mayor and business leaders. The clinic is a staple to the village, as is the dentist surgery, women’s centre and brand new children’s development centre.
They welcome self starting, enthusiastic volunteers of every age and background; families and volunteering groups are very welcome, as are solo travellers, students, professionals – any and everyone who has something to offer and wants to make a difference. Spanish language ability is advantageous but not necessarily compulsory. They can especially find roles for doctors, physiotherapists, nurses, acupuncturists and other medical workers in their clinic, and speech therapists, dentists and teachers in the child development centre.
Where: El Remate, Peten.
Accommodation & Costs: There is no charge to volunteer here and while they don’t have the budget to offer free food or transport, they provide a number of very low cost volunteer houses in the town. Rent for these varies between $5 per person, or $30 per house, per week. There’s an outdoor shaded relaxation area with hammocks, lots of beautiful plants and creatures, and the chance to really get back to basics and experience life as a local. Food is very affordable locally and we like that they felt it important to pass on the information that beer is $1 per litre at the local tienda.
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AWARE operates the largest No-Kill animal shelter in Central America, and could not continue without volunteer help. With over 300 dogs and nearly 100 cats they always need help with anything from building dog runs or putting up fences to bathing, brushing, or walking dogs, providing some human company for both the dogs and the cats, or helping out with educational programmes. The more time you can commit to the better: the animals get to know you, and you get to know the animals and the routine. They ask a two week minimum commitment for volunteers staying on site.
Where: Near Sumpango. a village in Guatemala’s Central Highlands.
Accommodation & Costs: Basic accommodation is provided for $5 per day. Food is not included. There is no charge to volunteer if you provide your own accommodation.
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Long Way Home
Long Way Home is a nonprofit that uses sustainable design and materials to construct self sufficient schools that promote education, employment and environmental stewardship. LWH seek many talents from fixing engines or laying concrete to playing games and horsing around for periods of one week to three months.
Where: San Juan Comalapa.
Accommodation & Costs: $75 a week covers the cost of accommodation in the volunteer house. Typically food costs and preparation duties are shared by everyone in the house. Volunteers can also opt for homestay or hotel accommodation for a little more money each week.
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Funded by their Hotel Backpackers, restaurant and volunteer contributions, Casa Guatemala runs several projects for the benefit of local children, including an orphanage and school. Responsibilities for long term volunteers include activities that require consistency and more direct relationships with children. These include teaching positions (English, art, physical education, and more) as well as administrative positions at Casa Guatemala.
Where: Rio Dulce in El Relleno.
Accommodation & Costs: Short term term volunteers contribute US$300 per week but those over 24, with a basic grasp of conversational Spanish, and able to commit to three months only have to make a one off $300 donation. Long term volunteers live onsite at Casa Guatemala in a special living area exclusively for volunteers.
Hostel Work Exchanges
Many hostels use help exchange networks (see below) to find volunteer staff but the following either advertise on their websites or are particularly noted for taking on volunteers:
Over the years Finca Ixobel have had many volunteers and some have gone back over and over again. Their volunteer programme is available to anyone speaking Spanish and English who is able to spend at least six weeks with them. Room and board is given in exchange for work and on your days off can join in on one of the activities or tours that Finca Ixobel offers. They look for volunteers who can help out in the restaurant and reception, a handyperson with carpentry skills, and somebody with experience in horsecare and riding.
More Hostel Work Exchanges
Earth Lodge is an eco friendly lodge, restaurant, avocado farm and yoga destination seven kilometres and 6000 feet into the mountains above Antigua. Their volunteering page is currently not found but we have seen them using their social media to seek reception/bar volunteers who should be fully bilingual in English and Spanish and available for at least six weeks. Lies Ouwerkerk also checked them out for this article in Transitions Abroad.
Our source for whether Zoola is receptive to work exchanges is an old BootsnAll article and a TripAdvisor review mentioning Israeli volunteers. Referenced in the same article is La Iguana Perdida, where according to the defunct HostelTrail: “The staff is made up mostly of English-speaking volunteers from overseas. Volunteer positions are available for blocks of at least two weeks, and involve working regular shifts in exchange for dorm accommodation (upgrades available), a daily food budget, and half-price drinks. If you are taking Spanish lessons or a diving course, you may be able to work your schedule around them, depending on the shifts available.” We have seen several shout outs to their volunteers – far more recently – on TripAdvisor.
Based on the hearsay of a Reddit discussion, and depending on their needs at the time, El Retiro, in Lanquin, is said to take in volunteers. Once again TripAdvisor confirms this. Livingston’s Casa de la Iguana used to pay people to work there but they’ve changed hands so we’re not sure what the deal, if any, is here now. Sadly, the change of ownership means we will no longer see “the permanently drunk manager running around naked.”
In the jungle, 20 minutes away by boat from Livingston, try Hotel Finca Tatin, where Chaya Sheppard worked in 2011 with her ten month baby in tow. More recently they were said to have an “insufferable German volunteer.”
Help Exchange Networks in Guatemala
Volunteer Latin America – https://www.volunteerlatinamerica.com/volunteer-abroad/guatemala
Workaway – https://www.workaway.info/hostlist-GT.html
Hovos – https://www.hovos.com/host/Central-America/Guatemala/
More Volunteering in Guatemala Resources
EntreMundos – Based in Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela, EntreMundos has been an intermediary between volunteers and host organisations since 2001, and over 150 volunteers use their services every year. Currently, EntreMundos offers volunteer placements with roughly 100 different organizations in Guatemala, the majority of which are based in the Western Highlands. These organisations work in a range of fields like health, education, micro-credit, the environment, small-business support, agriculture, and community development, among others.
Other Ways to Travel or Stay for Free in Guatemala
Stay for free in return for caring for local residents’ homes or pets. Join Trusted Housesitters to live rent free as a house sitter (Americans may prefer this link). You can also get a free Airbnb credit from us here.
Volunteering in Guatemala – Mykal and Nico worked on various projects in Guatemala. They helped to build an Earthship style home on the hillside in Comalapa, a bamboo reciprocating roof on a pyramid by Lake Atitlan, and with a bicycle project in San Andres.
Guatemala: Volunteering in Xecam – Tyrel Nelson and Team Leader Ernie discuss chickens with women from poor Mayan families in Central America.
San Juan La Laguna Photo Diary – Gabby Boucher shares her photos from her time volunteering for a paddle boarding company in Lake Atitlán.
* not all these volunteer experiences are with grassroots NGOs or low cost organisations
Image courtesy Caleb Phillips