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GVN - Guatemala Volunteer Program
Kimberley Gardiner, 32, is from Melbourne, Australia and holds an Honors Degree in Political Science. She has been traveling around the world for the last 7 months. This was Kimberley's first volunteer project and the first time she has worked in construction.
GO: Why did you decide to volunteer with GVN in Guatemala?
Kimberley: I have always wanted to visit Guatemala. I had never traveled in Central America before and didn't speak any Spanish so the idea of living, working and studying in Antigua for a couple of months sounded like a real challenge and a great way to get a better understanding of a country so different to my own. I always liked the idea of doing volunteer work overseas but didn't think I had any skills or qualifications, like being a nurse or a doctor, that would be useful in a developing country. GVN made the whole process really easy and ensured I had all of the information I needed.
GO: Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer in Guatemala.
Kimberley: Each morning I would walk to the bus stop to catch a 'chicken bus' to my construction project in Pastores, about 15 minutes from Antigua. This was followed by the trek up a pretty steep hill and saying 'buenos dias' to everyone we passed on our way to the project. Most mornings our project foreman, Fredy, would run through what we would be working on that day, explaining what preparation was needed and who we would be working with. Then we would get to work. Some days the work was physically hard, sometimes it was incredibly tedious. We mixed a lot of cement, shoveled a lot of rocks and sifted a lot of sand! Somehow I always managed to go home filthy dirty, no matter what we'd been working on. Most of us were also learning Spanish so conversations and questions to Fredy were always an interesting, and often hilarious, mix of Spanish and English.
GO: What made this experience unique and special?
Kimberley: When I chose to volunteer at a construction project I really wasn't sure what I would be in for. I have never worked in construction before and I was pretty worried that I would be completely useless. But working in a team with like-minded people from all over the world, and an incredibly patient project foreman, made my volunteer experience really fun. Being able to help build something concrete like a school, which would be used by disadvantaged kids as well as the family that looks after them, was a truly wonderful experience. And I wasn't expecting to make life-long friends volunteering abroad in the process but I am super pleased to say that I have!
GO: How has this experience impacted your future?
Kimberley: Working as a volunteer in Guatemala has definitely made me re-evaluate things. I am planning to take a TEFL course and teach English either in Australia or abroad because I enjoyed learning Spanish so much and I can see how a second language can open up opportunities for people, particularly in developing countries.
Our vision is to connect people with communities in need. We do this by supporting the work of local community organisations in countries through the placement of international volunteers.
At GVN we align with the idea of 'local solutions to local problems', so we work with local community organizations in each country. We believe that local communities are in the best position to determine their needs, and we provide volunteers to help them achieve their goals.
The Global Volunteer Network (GVN) is a New Zealand Charitable Trust (non-profit NGO) based in Wellington, New Zealand.
Why do we do it?
"We believe in inspiring learning, innovation, and action to unlock the potential of vulnerable communities around the world."
GVN places volunteers in Asia, South America, and Africa and has fundraising treks to Everest Base Camp, Mt Kilimanjaro, and Machu Picchu; along with specialist tours such as the Youth Tour for 15-17 year olds, and our Young At Heart Tour.