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Volunteers are an essential part of our program. We provide the educational support necessary to empower our children to break free from the cycle of poverty that surrounds them. We work with and learn from this incredible urban community each and every day.
At any given time during the year we have 20-40 international volunteers working at Safe Passage and a similar number of Guatemalan volunteers. International volunteers are mostly from the US with several volunteers from Europe, Canada and other areas. The average age is early twenties but ranges from 18 to 80. Some volunteers stay for just our 5 week minimum and others stay for years and become vital parts off the Safe Passage community. We hope you will join us!
If you have 5 weeks or more to volunteer (and have a general command of Spanish!), we’ll place you in a classroom as a Classroom Assistant where you will be helping our classroom teachers and supporting our learners. Classroom Assistant volunteers are essential to our program. Many volunteers enjoy this option because they get to know all of the students in their classes extremely well and have a direct impact on the academic success of their students. Classroom volunteers accompany their classes to English, Creative Expression, Sports, and Health classes which allows you, as a volunteer, to participate as English tutors or Art Teacher Assistants for example.
In addition to the normal duties of a Classroom Assistant you will be encouraged and employed by the Volunteer office to bring your skills backgrounds and interests into the classroom to create new and interesting educational activities for the students of your classroom. Being a Classroom Assistant will give you real life teaching experience under the supervision of experienced Guatemalan Teachers while enhancing your Spanish abilities and providing true, empowering and unique assistance to your students.
In general Classroom Assistants:
· Directly support at least 25 students in their daily activities (homework, classwork, classroom structure and guidance.)
· Practice their Spanish language skills.
· Participate in all classroom activities (going to activities with Health, English, Creative Expression, and Sports!)
· Build relationships with students and staff
For qualified applicants interested in making a commitment of 6 months or more (with an advanced command of Spanish!), you can teach English, lead Creative Expression classes, tutor our little learners in the Escuelita, and support our older students in the main building with academic reinforcement. If you are planning your volunteer experience in advance please ask our Volunteer Coordinator to put you in contact with the coordinator of the program you wish to work with and they will let you know if the possibility of an open position exists for the time you are planning on coming to Guatemala. Our program coordinators love to have the positions filled in advance so planning ahead is always a good idea!
Most of our volunteers live in or near the city of Antigua. Antigua is a beautiful colonial town of around 40,000 people with a spectacular backdrop of volcanoes and lush green foothills. Antigua attracts visitors from around the world who come to experience its unique Guatemalan culture, study at one of the many Spanish language schools, or simply relax and immerse themselves in the laid back atmosphere of this small town. Antigua is much more developed and a slightly more expensive place to live than the rest of Guatemala (yet still quite a bit less expensive than the cost of living in Europe or the United States.)
Antigua has many of the same “luxuries” that most of us have in our home countries. There are several banks/ATM´s to access money, a post office, many internet cafes, a large grocery store, laundry mats, beauty salons, and gyms. You will have the opportunity to experience a taste of Guatemalan cuisine and other favorite foods in one of the many restaurants that are here. There is also an active nightlife that entertains the many locals and tourists that want to unwind and relax at the end of the day. We strongly suggest reading up on Antigua and Guatemala in general before coming.
Many of our volunteers rent rooms in the homes of local families within Antigua. These “Home-stays” usually provide 3 meals a day (except for Sundays) so some volunteers do bring a boxed lunch with them each day. The cost for a home-stay generally ranges from approximately $75 to $85 a week for a room with meals. Most long-term volunteers, after making friends and getting to know Antigua, opt to leave their home-stay and find an apartment or a room in a house shared with other volunteers.
If you would like assistance with reserving a home-stay please let us know on the application form and we will send current information to you regarding home-stay locations and other housing options that have been used by our volunteers in the past. On the last page of the application form, there is a box you can check if interested in staying with one of our home-stays.
Please note that Safe Passage does not offer volunteer accommodation. Volunteers pay their home-stay families directly.
However, Safe Passage will make home-stay arrangements with trusted home-stays that Safe Passage has worked with for years.
One of the things that make volunteering with Safe Passage so unique is that the organization truly values the work and time volunteers bring to the organization. Volunteers provide invaluable service to the students and families that Camino Seguro works with. For this reason the organization as a whole does not require it’s volunteers to contribute substantial amounts financially like many other organizations do. We ask our volunteers to contribute substantial amounts of their time and skills instead.
However, some fees are asked of the volunteer by the Volunteer Office to help cover costs that are directly associated with Volunteer Office and the coordination of volunteers.
· $50 (USD) Application Fee
o This fee goes towards processing your application, processing the required background check we do on all our volunteers and providing you with services such as arranging your home-stay, airport pick-up, Spanish courses and assistance and guidance during the application process. The fee can be paid online here
· $50 (USD) Administrative Fee (paid for on the day of Orientation)
o This fee goes towards your Volunteer Orientation and two tours that you will receive as part of your Volunteer Orientation. The first tour is a project tour, where you will get to know every aspect of Safe Passage, visit each of our buildings and the see the Guatemala City garbage dump to further your understanding of the community within which we work. The second is a walking tour of Antigua where our International Volunteer Coordinator will get you orientated on the city, help you buy a cell phone, show you where the grocery store is, point out the different restaurants, laundry mats, etc. where Safe Passage volunteers receive discounts. Also included in the tour is an in-depth explanation of how to keep yourself and your belongings safe while living in Guatemala.
o The fee also helps us cover the costs of providing you with the Safe Passage uniform. You will receive 3 t-shirts and a name-tag on orientation day.
o Safe Passage volunteers are coordinated by a 24-hour on-site International Volunteer Coordinator, which this fee helps make possible.
· $52 (USD) monthly Volunteer Bus fee
o In order for Safe Passage to provide a private bus for all of the volunteers to come into and out of the project every day from Antigua we ask our volunteers to contribute to that cost.
o The Volunteer bus is used to insure the safety of its volunteers. The bus makes no extra stops; only Safe Passage volunteers and staff are allowed to ride the bus and the bus is registered and insured. We have also used the same driver for the last 2 years.
o Here is how we came up with the $52 USD per month. The famous Chicken Buses of Guatemala travel to and from Antigua to Guatemala City for 9 Quetzales one way or 18 Quetzales round trip. We ask the Volunteers to pay approx. 20 Quetzales a day for the private Volunteer Bus.
Please note: Volunteers who have applied for specific volunteer positions, been accepted for one and will subsequently receive a housing allowance will have the Administrative Fee and the monthly Volunteer Bus fee waived. These volunteers however will have to buy their uniform. T-shirts cost 35 Quetzales each (roughly $4.50 USD).
Fortunately, we have never had a serious incident occur to a volunteer while at Safe Passage's facilities. However, incidents such as robberies can occur to volunteers during their free time and for your safety and for the well-being of the project it is important that you take a proactive role in reducing your risk while here. We strongly encourage this first for your safety but also for the security of our volunteer program. Therefore, we ask all volunteers to adhere to the following safety precautions and procedures:
When traveling to the project sites, all volunteers are required to take Safe Passage’s private yellow school bus. Never walk in Guatemala City alone. Volunteers are not allowed to leave the project sites and walk through the surrounding neighborhoods. If you need to leave the project sites in Guatemala for any reason, contact the Volunteer Coordinator and he/she will help arrange transportation for you.
Avoid walking after dark in Antigua, even in groups. We STRONGLY recommend that after dark, volunteers always travel in a taxi or a tuk-tuk (Never get in a tuk-tuk with more than one driver).
When on buses (even the bus arranged by Camino Seguro) be aware of your belongings and get off as close as possible to your destination. Never use unauthorized forms of transportation, such as pickup trucks or unmarked taxis.
Do not carry large amounts of cash and be very discreet when taking money out of your purse or wallet. Do not wear expensive jewelry or watches or carry expensive electronic equipment (iPods, BlackBerrys, etc...)
In general, we discourage volunteers from bringing expensive items such as laptop computers or iPhones to the project since these are significant temptations for the children. If you do bring such items, please make sure that they are secured in your lockers when they are not being used. In order to stand out as least as possible we ask that volunteers refrain from using listening devices that involve earphones on the volunteer bus.
Do not carry your passport with you. Keep it in a secure location. Do carry a copy of your passport for identification purposes.
Do not regularly carry your credit or ATM cards with you. Only carry as much money as you will need and divide it up into different places.
Since late 2010 Guatemalan ATMs (universally) have been identified as the source of bank fraud. Many volunteers have had their ATM cards skimmed and their bank information fraudulently used. We recommend that you withdraw your money from a bank branch rather than an ATM, however if you choose to use and ATM do so at a time of day when there are other people around, and avoid putting your card into ATMs that take your card (only use ones where you can swipe and remove your card.) Be sure to monitor your bank account closely and notify your bank of any suspicious transactions as soon as possible. Banks are busiest around the 15th and end of every month (this is when people are normally paid) and should be avoided around this time if possible.
If you are approached in a robbery situation, do not resist or attempt to fight back. Instead, turn over whatever money you have. Throw your wallet or bag away from you and run in the opposite direction. If the assailant has a gun, it is recommended to run in a zig-zagging way.
If you feel that the situation is leading to a rape or abduction, do begin screaming as loudly as you can and run. It has been shown that people respond more to “FIRE” than “HELP.”
If you are involved in an assault or serious emergency you should call your home embassy. The embassy can provide you with assistance in navigating the police and legal systems as well as refer you to adequate medical facilities. Check if your embassy recommends registering with them. (This is recommended for US citizens and can be done easily at www.travel.state.gov.)
Safe Passage Volunteers must be 18 years or older.
Safe Passage Volunteers must be able to commit to at least 5 weeks of volunteeering.
Volunteers are encouraged to come with some command of the Spanish language prior to volunteering.
Volunteers will be required to submit a background check prior to volunteering. For the safety of our students, staff, and volunteers, we now ask that all volunteers successfully complete this screening.
You’re hooked right? Great! Here’s what you gotta do:
Step 1: Complete and send the volunteer application found here (en español) along with your resume, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also ask 2 references to fill out the forms available here (en español) and send these along to us. We’ll respond quickly and keep you up to date on the status of your application!
Step 2: Please pay the non-refundable $50 application processing fee online here. Please note that this payment is for your volunteer application.
To pay by check, please make your check payable to "Safe Passage," indicate on the memo line the reason for your donation, and mail to our US Office at 81 Bridge Street, Suite 104 / Yarmouth, ME 04096.
Step 3: Once we receive your application, resume, and two completed reference forms, you’ll receive a form asking for some information for a background screening. For the safety of our students, staff, and volunteers, we now ask that all volunteers successfully complete this screening.
Before starting at the project we recommend:
- Planning your start date to allow for maximum volunteering time! Please note that all volunteers must participate in Volunteer Orientation before starting at the project. Volunteer Orientations are only offered on the first or third Monday of each month.
- Preparing to work with an urban Guatemalan community! Before coming down, please read up on Guatemalan history, culture and education. You can also listen to some Reggaeton music, check out some break dancing videos, and print out some cool graffiti pictures. By putting in the time before coming down, you’ll be able to connect a lot easier with our students, especially the older ones!
- Learning Spanish! While we do have some opportunities for motivated volunteers who don’t have a strong command of Spanish, we really recommend taking some time to learn Spanish before making the trip down! We promise, you’ll be able to have an even bigger impact and build better relationships with students and staff si puedes hablar español!