Thursday, August 18, 2011

Volunteering in Guatemala: Entremundos- a volunteer placement program

1. Who are you and how did you get interested in Guatemala?
My name is Jocelyn Bates and I am the managing director of the NGO EntreMundos in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. I first came to Guatemala 5 years ago for a break after a job managing educational projects in Belize, and I never left!

2. How did you get in contact with EntreMundos?
I found out about the organization during my first few years working in Quetzaltenango as they produce a free magazine and offer conferences and workshops to NGOs but I first starting working with the organization in 2009 when I volunteered to organize a forum for environmental NGOs.

3. What is EntreMundos’ goal in their community?
EntreMundos strives to connect NGOs and grassroots organizations with
resources. These resources can be human resources such as connecting
them with volunteers who can assist them, but we also offer low cost capacity building workshops and computer courses to NGO and community group members, the idea being that we can help to strengthen the organizations and empower their members develop effective projects to help their communities. We also produce a bimonthly and completely bilingual free magazine designed to raise awareness about human rights and development issues.

4. Where are you located?
We are located in the city of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala’s second biggest city, but the groups we work with are all around the country.

5. How could future volunteers get involved?
We offer a volunteer placement service for people interested in getting out and assisting the NGOs and grassroots organizations of Guatemala. Our database contains the contact details of 120 organizations looking for assitance and is free to access at www.entremundos.org. If you are interested in setting up your volunteer placement in advance and require our assistance, we offer a service doing just that for a donation of $40. We also offer assistance with setting up learning and volunteering trips for groups too.

6. What is one experience that you remember the most?
There have been so many great experiences during my time here, but one image I think I will always take with me is that of seeing a group of 30 Guatemalan NGO and community group members at a workshop, intent on
improving their organizations through gaining skills, each one of them completely dedicated to their work of helping and improving the neediest Guatemalan communities.

7. What is something you learned from volunteering in Guatemala?
Always be patient and flexible and it’s important to keep a sense of humour!

8. What advice would you give someone wanting to volunteer with your
organization?

Be realistic about your expectations for volunteering. Use your skills wisely and be honest about what you can offer to an organization. Never make promises of things you can’t deliver and be realistic about your language skills – very few people speak English here! If you really commit yourself to the volunteer work you will be amazed at the real difference you can make to an organization or group, and you will no doubt have some amazing stories to tell too.

9. Do you have any extra thoughts you'd like to share?
Guatemala is the not the highly dangerous country you have heard
about. It is unlikely you will come into contact with any violence worse than petty theft (this is a developing country after all). You just need to take the same precautions you would when traveling in any major city. The majority of Guatemalans are incredibly welcoming and warm to foreign visitors and if you take that ‘risk’ of coming here, you will find a beautiful and unique country but one that is in much need of assistance.


Jocelyn Bates
Directora

Entremundos
6a Calle 7-31, Zona 1
Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.
(502) 7761-2179
(502) 4228 3816
http://www.entremundos.org

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