Vida Medical, Dental & Veterinary Programs in Guatemala

Provider: VIDA

Join Vida in Guatemala as a volunteer in their field clinics! Experience the culture and history of Guatemala, its beautiful mountains and gorgeous southern coast! Vida Programs in Guatemala are typically 1-2 weeks in length.

Participants in the medical programs will gain experience working with patients while learning basic medical examination techniques. Volunteers will work alongside a staff of licensed doctors to provide communities with the services they need. Volunteering with Vida will give you a chance to learn more about public health and experience the rich culture of Guatemala.

There are also opportunities for volunteers interested in dentistry to help facilitate mobile dental clinics. Volunteers can shadow experienced dentists. Depending on their level of experience and education in dentistry, volunteers may even have the opportunity to perform procedures under the supervision of mentors.

Visit the Vida website to learn more!

Program Info

Location: 
  • Guatemala
Volunteer Types: 
Health
Medical
Education
Service Learning
Veterinary Service
Program Length: 
1-2 weeks
Cost: 
See site for details.
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Languages: 
English
Housing: 
Home-stay
Hostels
Application: 
Online Application

Program Reviews (29)

96%
Positive
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  • Impact
    97%
  • Support
    97%
  • Fun
    91%
  • Value
    97%
  • Safety
    93%
  • John Smith
    Age: 25-30
    Male
    New York, New York
    Columbia University
    Worthwhile, Eye opening
    10/08/2014

    We travelled to many different towns and villages. Clinics were about 8-9 hours a day, but the patients made time fly. The doctors were knowledgable and loved to teach. Side trips were great too. Cliff diving in Lake Atitlan, zip lining, etc.

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  • Shelly Shamir
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Davis, CA
    University of California- Davis
    Guatemala!!
    07/24/2014

    I've been doing VIDA trips for 5 years now.. This has been my fourth trip, and my first in Guatemala... all I can say is it was amazing! We had our homestays in Ixtahuacan for only 2 nights, and I wish we could have stayed longer. We also visited Panajachel and Antigua. The country is breathtaking, the people are extremely nice and hospitable, the shopping opportunities are endlessly filled with beautiful textiles, the food is delicious, and the program was fantastic.

    How could this program be improved?

    I wish the homestays in Ixtahuacan were longer!

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  • Elizabeth Montgomery
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Davis, California
    University of California- Davis
    Simply amazing!
    07/23/2014

    I've been on two VIDA veterinary trips--last year in Costa Rica and this year in Guatemala--and I have to say that this year was even better than last year! The areas that we went were spectacular and had enough patients to keep us busy, while the recreational days were beyond amazing. Can't wait to go next year!

    How could this program be improved?

    I would like to have even more patients than we had this year. Towards the end of every day, most of us were just sitting around with nothing to do.

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  • Logan Hood
    Age: 18 or younger
    Male
    Spartanburg, SC
    University of South Carolina, Columbia
    VIDA will take you on an amazing adventure!
    07/02/2013

    I am a pre-med student who went to Guatemala with the VIDA med team. We had six clinic days and several adventure days. Clinic days consisted of 8-hour clinics where we analyzed patients' concerns, history, symptoms, etc. and then worked directly with the doctors to diagnose and treat their conditions. On the adventure days we did things like tour the lake, cliff jump, zip line, and other things that I wouldn't have been able to do on my own. We always stayed in very nice hotels in somewhat touristic areas that were safe to explore. We always had to be with at least one other person, but we were frequently given free time to explore the area, go to bars and restaurants, dance clubs, etc. Overall it was an amazing experience. Very safe and definitely worth the money. All the fun of discvering a new culture in a beautiful country plus the experience of providing medical care and the joy of helping people in need.

    How could this program be improved?

    Sometimes the patients would have to wait a long time because there were only two doctors. They were always very thorough and made sure that we and the patient understood everything. These are all good things but they make the process slower, so they should have at least one more doctor at each clinic site. Homestays would have been a very interesting experience also, but these have not been set up in Guatemala yet as they have been in some of the other countries in which VIDA operates.

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  • Anna
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Minnesota
    College of Saint Benedict
    Guatemala
    06/23/2013

    Got to do everything a vet would do on a daily basis with their supervision so it was both a challenging yet amazing experience. I learned so much and got to spend time in the country that I love.

    How could this program be improved?

    If possible, more clinic days. That was by far my favorite part

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  • Michelle Lim
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Madison, Wisconsin
    University of Wisconsin
    Great Experience for Possible Med Students
    06/17/2013

    It was amazing to meet such a welcoming staff with the programs and meetings set up so that the participating students are prepared for the clinic days. The clinic days are also a great opportunity for students to both experience hands-on medical work as well as learn in detail how to diagnose patients. Clinic days are mixed in with recreational days for participants to explore the country as a group.

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  • Megan Karwand
    Age: 18 or younger
    Female
    United States
    University of Wisconsin
    VIDA Medical, Dental, and Veterinary Programs in Guatemala
    06/15/2013

    I would recommend this trip for any pre-health student because of the opportunities you can explore. I was involved in the Veterinary program and I can honestly say it was the most eye-opening experiences of my life. I was able to personally help with surgeries and do consults for many dogs and cats. I have no idea where else you'll be able to be so involved and learn the amount of information I did in only two weeks. It was a life-changing experience for me and I want more than everything to go on another VIDA trip. You'll also form close friendships with your fellow trip members because you share a common purpose and I can guarantee you'll absolutely not want to leave!

    How could this program be improved?

    While in Guatemala I don't think I would change anything. I wish that we had been given more information prior to the trip though.

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  • Jaime
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Appleton, Wisconsin
    University of Wisconsin
    Awesome
    06/13/2013

    Doctors challenged us to think critically in solving problems as well as allowed us to do many hands-on things that enhanced our learning experience. The ability to diagnose patients helped us learn the uses of different medicines and how they impacted people in different situations based on pregnancy status, age and other medical issues.

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  • Clemsonstudent2013
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Columbia, S.C.
    Clemson University
    Ineffable Experience
    06/13/2013

    There are no words to describe how positive an impact this VIDA trip had on myself and the poor communities in Guatemala. The six clinic days were the most rewarding days I've ever experienced in my entire life. One lady walked two hours up a mountain just to get her teeth cleaned because she couldn't afford a dentist. Another man had a blood sugar level of 28, which is extremely high and I didn't know someone could function at this level. Unfortunately he couldn't afford medicine so he was so thankful that we could provide a free referral for him. We experienced tuberculous, Down's syndrome, fractures, and Lupus. There were a lot of common cold cases but no matter the specific case, the hands on patient experience (2 or 3 students with an interpreter and patient) was incredible. It confirmed by beliefs that I want to be a nurse practitioner. The non clinic days were fun too. We did ziplining, a boat tour, and got a explore Antigua which was beautiful. This trip was definitely worth all the money and time put into it.

    How could this program be improved?

    Do not do a boat tour of the lake near Panajachel. It was a waste of a day. Instead let us hike a volcano or make chocolate in the chocolate factory in Antigua.

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  • Katherine
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Chicago
    University of Wisconsin
    GO ON A VIDA TRIP!
    06/13/2013

    This was honestly the best two weeks of my life. You get so much patient interaction and form close relationships with medical doctors from which you learn a LOT. You also get to see gorgeous parts of Guatemala and experience lots of different aspects of the culture. All of the staff was awesome and I'd go back in a heartbeat.

    How could this program be improved?

    I would change the town our free day was in to Panajachel since there's a lake there!

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  • Tina Rowland
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    United States
    Clemson University
    Life Changing Opportunity
    06/13/2013

    Interacting with the locals and making new friends were wonderful. You walk away with the irreplaceable feeling that you have helped someone, no matter how small the difference. This is the first time I've ever been out of the country and I can't wait to leave again, hopefully on another VIDA trip.

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  • Gwhatsup.
    Age: 19-24
    Male
    Minneapolis, Minnesota
    University of Wisconsin
    Life Changing
    01/19/2013

    I was so worried to travel down to Central America and I thought I was getting myself into something I would regret, but as we progressed into the trip in Guatemala, I realized this is something I want to do again. I enjoyed spending time in the clinic helping all of the people that came to get dental help. I liked how the dentists I shadowed wanted to teach me something while I watched what they did. I learned more from the 4 clinic days than I did by shadowing dentists here in the USA. The friendships I made on the trip were strengthened by the experiences that we endured together. Not everything on this trip was perfect, as 8 of my travelers got Salmonella, but this experience makes you realize that there is a whole world out there to be discovered. I am happy to have helped the people I helped. I really feel like I made a difference in their lives because VIDA gave me a chance to interact with them and learn about their lives. This trip has ignited the flame in me to really work hard to get into Dental School so that I may help others in this world.

    How could this program be improved?

    More time for interaction with the people and children that come to the clinic, I never got to really hang out with them.
    Have places to eat in mind for us, rather than just have us walk around and find a place.

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  • cynthiakay
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Minnesota
    University of Wisconsin
    Wonderful!
    01/19/2013

    I had a terrific time on this trip. I learned so much, not only about patient interaction, but about disease and medicine itself. The staff was patient, knowing that each student was at a different level in their education, and always teaching with every opportunity. I felt safe, but not smothered by the trip leader. Every problem that happened on the trip was handled wonderfully by the leader. Activities were planned during our time off so we weren't wandering aimlessly, but free time was also given.

    How could this program be improved?

    More time to get to know the staff outside of clinics would have been nice.

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  • SarahElizabeth
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Eau Claire, Wisconsin
    University of Wisconsin
    Not What I Expected
    01/19/2013

    I went to Guatemala not expecting much, but what I experienced while I was there was beyond anything I could have imagined. The VIDA staff was wonderful and all of the people that went on the trip were amazing. I arrived there not knowing any of the other volunteers personally and we all left as good friends. I would go on this trip again tomorrow if I could.

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  • happyguatemalantraveler
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Eau Claire, WI
    University of Wisconsin
    Best Experience of My Life
    01/18/2013

    The only bad part of the trip was when nine students got Salmonella from eating pink hamburgers in Antigua. Also a different student lost his passport. Both situations were handled really well by the staff. The rest of the trip was amazing. It made me appreciate what I have. In Guatemala toilet paper can't be flushed because of the bad plumbing system. I love the people there. They are so much more friendly and accepting than Americans. I had fun ziplining in Panajachel and going to the bars in Antigua. Edo was a great team leader, Luis was a great assistant team leader, the doctors were fantastic, and the interpreters became good friends. If you have a chance to go on this trip, do it, no matter the cost, because it's worth it, even if you don't know if you are for sure going to med school or dental school. JUST DO IT!

    How could this program be improved?

    More meals with VIDA maybe, it's hard to find good meals on your own. Also, more time to settle in when we first arrive.

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Alumni Interviews

  • Getting dental/medical experience while volunteering

    Morning: We woke up early everyday and we'd get ready. Wear scrubs, tennis shoes, packed our day bag and filled up our water bottles. Then we'd head down for breakfast. The first part of the week we ate at the orphanage and the other half was at a hotel.

    At the orphanage we had fruit, toast, cereal, orange juice, and coffee. At the hotel we ate fruit, eggs, toast, beans, juice, and coffee. Then after breakfast we'd head out for the day to work with patients!

    Afternoon: After lunch we'd still have a few hours left of working with patients, for me it was cleaning, scaling, and pulling teeth. After we finished for the day we would clean up our materials and sanitize our chairs and tools. We'd heave all the tools and totes onto the vans and head back to the orphanage/ hotel.

    Evening: After getting back to the hotel I would shower and change clothes to get ready for dinner. When we stayed at the orphanage we would eat with all of the kids and answer all of their questions. They'd ask things like how old we were, what the U.S. is like, and funny things like how to say certain words.

    They would also try to teach me how to speak Spanish since I didn't speak a word of it. When we stayed at the hotel we would go for a walk and find a fun place to eat in small groups so dinner wouldn't take too long. It was a great time filled with great music, wonderful weather, and laughter. Sometimes the doctors and translators would come with us and we would learn great things about the local culture.

    Highlights: The best part of my trip was getting the chance to assist Dr. Vivian, the dentist and learning valuable assisting and scaling skills. I hadn't ever gotten that chance before so it was very exciting to say that I got to actually assist and clean teeth. The experience really showed me that I truly want to be a dentist and will love my job once I get there!

  • Guatemala has spectacular scenery

    Highlights: The highlight of my volunteer experience was seeing how much the towns-people appreciated us being there. They thanked us over and over again when we gave them the medication they needed. The patients confided in us about things I never thought they would, such as problems with their home life. It was a very emotional and rewarding experience I would do over a million times. The highlight of my overall experience was zip lining.

    On the last full day we were in Panajachel, we went zip lining in the mountains. It was the scariest, most exhilarating experience I have ever had. We had to walk up the mountain on a path to the top zip line, which was beautiful. When zip lining, we got to see the most beautiful views of Lake Atitlan and the volcanoes around it.

    Morning: On days we went to clinic, we had to be to breakfast by around 6:30AM. We ate breakfast at the hotel we were staying at every morning. They consisted of fruits, scrambled eggs, pancakes, bread, and, of course, Guatemalan coffee. One morning, in Panajachel, we woke up at 5:00AM and walked down to Lake Atitlan to watch the sunrise behind the volcanoes! At around 7:15AM, we would get on the bus to travel to clinic.

    The drive was about 45 minutes long, but the scenery was gorgeous. Even if I was tired, I stayed awake on the bus to take in the scenery of Guatemala. Once we got to clinic, we split into pre-medical, pre-dental, and pre-veterinary groups. Each would set up whatever they needed for the day. For pre-medical, we would set up the pharmacy area and the stations for patients and volunteers to sit at during clinic hours.

    Lots of historic streets to explore

    Afternoon: Early in the afternoon we were still in clinic, asking patients questions and taking all of their vitals. Clinic usually ended around 4:30PM. Once it ended, we would pack everything up on the busses and head back to the hotel. Clinic always burnt me out, so I usually slept on the bus during the drive home. When we got back to the hotel, everyone split up and usually took a shower or just relaxed for a little while and talked about our day.

    Evening: After we relaxed in the hotel, we would go out and explore the city. In Antigua, there was so much to see. The old-town feel to the city, with the ruins and the streets, was amazing. It was very hard to walk on the streets because they were all cobblestone, so you had to wear tennis shoes.

    In Panajachel, we had to stay on the main street, but it was full of life. The street was lined with little shops and restaurants all the way down, so there was always stuff to do. Everyone was busy bargaining and buying stuff every night in Panajachel. Everyone went to bed pretty early, because every day was extremely busy.

  • VIDA medical volunteers

    Highlights: My favorite part about volunteering would definitely be the patient interaction and learning about medical illnesses. It really helped me put the puzzles together to try to find the cause of the problem and also trying to find a remedy for the problem. Traveling to the villages was extremely eye opening because it allowed me to see how grateful I am to live in America compared to living in third world countries. It made me appreciate my life much more than before. Now that I am back in the United States, I will certainly think twice before buying unnecessary things.

    Overall, my favorite part about the trip was definitely traveling to a country that is less developed. Learning about their culture and how they operate is very different. It really gave me more things to think about, especially about life and who I want to become when I finish school. I loved the culture in general. I am so passionate about going back to Central America that I am now learning Spanish again.

    Morning: Breakfast starts at 7:30am, so most of the time we had to get up around 6:30am to get ready. Depending on which hotel you were staying at, sometimes you would have to travel to a different hotel to eat breakfast. When we were staying in Princess Hotel in Guatemala City, we ate breakfast inside of the same hotel. However, when we were in Antigua we had to walk to another hotel (which was only 1 block down) in order to eat breakfast.

    After breakfast, we took off to our clinical VIDA site. Every location was different so the driving time was different. On average, it took about 45 minutes to drive to our clinic location. Once we got to the clinic site, we helped unload the bus and started to set up the clinic. Once all the clinics were set up, we started to accept patients and the day began. Clinics usually started around 9-9:30am.

    Guatemala scenery

    Afternoon: Every location is different. The first 2 days at the clinic was very busy. We went to a village where we had many patients and we were constantly working. However, we took a break once every 2 hours to keep the stress down and also to grab a few snacks. Lunch was provided by VIDA and we usually ate at noon- 1pm

    Evening: Once we got back to the hotel from being at the clinic all day, everyone would usually shower or go straight to the restaurant to eat dinner. Dinner is up to the students to buy for themselves. VIDA does not provide dinner for the students, but that's okay because it also gives the students the chance to explore the city and stores along the way to the restaurant.

  • Why did you decide to volunteer with VIDA in Guatemala?

    Guatemala Medical Volunteer
    Me in the patient seat

    Casey: I knew I wanted to travel, but I didn't want to go away for too long, and I couldn't afford anything too expensive Doing something with medicine was important to me, because I am young, and I am still trying to decide what I want to do with my future. With medicine at the top of my interest list, this seemed like a great opportunity to help me decide.

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Casey: We would wake up, eat breakfast, load the bus, and drive to the city where we would set up our clinic. Once we arrived we would set up the pharmacy on tables and find a room where we could interview and examine patients. During this examination we asked questions about the patient's medical history and we took weight, blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate. Other physical examinations that volunteers were allowed to conduct included urinalyses and glucose tests. One day I listened to a babie's heartbeat inside the stomach of a mother.

    Guatemala Kids
    Our awesome patients at the clinic

    What made this experience unique and special?

    Casey: This volunteer opportunity is unique because the group of people that work for VIDA know how to do their job really well. On days when we weren't volunteering we got to go ziplining, and also out on the town to restaurants and bars. We also took a dance class one night, and had a really good time.

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Casey: Personally: I appreciate being able to put toilet paper in the toilet, I appreciate the extensive amount of food available in the US, and I try to meet everyone with an open heart, the way the Guatemalans did to me. So, I am just more appreciative in general. I also learned how to travel safely and how to barter.
    Professionally: I learned that I enjoy working with patients, I like to have variety with my job, nothing repetitive, and I learned that it is good to network from people everywhere.

  • Veterinary volunteer in Guatemala
    Veterinary volunteering in Guatemala

    Why did you decide to volunteer with VIDA in Guatemala?

    Jessi: I decided to volunteer abroad with VIDA in Guatemala for the second year in a row because of the amazing opportunity it provides. For my first trip to Guatemala, my eyes were opened in a way I thought was not possible. Not only was I able to strongly participate in the Veterinary clinics, but I was also very culturally submersed. Working directly with the people and communities of Guatemala was the most exciting and eye opening experience I have ever had.

    Also, traveling and volunteering with the VIDA program has been a part of the University of Minnesota's Pre-Vet club for over 5 years now. I was fortunate enough to have been able to participate in the past two trips, and have full intentions to participate in many more.

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Jessi: Each activity day varies quite a bit. I remember on my first trip, we participated in a historical and interactive tour of the city of Antigua which then led to a tour of the Jade museum of Antigua. We learned about the history of Guatemala's government, as well as some history of the Mayans. On another day, we traveled by boat to a small town called San Pedro where we hiked to the top of a mountain, which the locals call "Nariz Indio" or "The Indian's Nose". On my second trip we went platform jumping into Lake Atitlan off of a 35 ft platform. Then later in the day, we traveled to a small town called San Lucas where we visited a Women's Conservatory and learned about the process of spinning cotton and dyeing clothing using plants, fruits, and vegetables. At the end of that day, we went zip lining where we saw monkeys, waterfalls, and the most beautiful view of Lake Atitlan that you could possibly imagine.

    What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special?

    Jessi Coryell: This volunteer experience is so special to me because of the amount of hands on work that is allowed. Between practicing sterility in a surgery or assisting in surgery by taking vitals and drawing up drugs, you are doing things that an individual of my status would not be able to do in the states. Although you are assisting in these surgeries, you are ALWAYS under Veterinary supervision, so there is never a need to be nervous or worried. This also gives you the opportunity to ask questions at every step of the way.

    The medical staff that is on the trip also made both of my trips unforgettable. The approachability and patience of each and every staff member that we worked with is what allowed for me to grow and learn so much. Participating in these trips also allowed me to be proud of what I choose to do with my life. Knowing that we are coming into these communities and educating the people of animal health, and how animals should be treated and respected is the most rewarding feeling.

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Group of volunteers
    Jessi with a group of fellow volunteers

    Jessi Coryell: Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to be a Veterinarian. But as college continues and graduation gets closer, the stress can sometimes be overwhelming. Going on these trips has helped me see that all of the hard work and determination will someday soon pay off. VIDA trips have helped solidify what I want to do with my life. Also, assisting in surgeries opened my eyes to the surgical side of Veterinary Medicine.

    Another way these trips have impacted my future plans is the cultural submersion that occurs while traveling. In high school I studied Spanish for all 4 years, and really enjoyed it. When I traveled to Guatemala, I often times caught myself blurting out Spanish anywhere I could, especially with the locals! My passion for learning and understanding the language grew immensely, and I have full intentions of now studying the Spanish language. I have hopes of becoming fluent, and travel around Central and South America after graduation! The culture and language has greatly impacted my life!

  • Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with VIDA in Guatemala?

    Sonam: This trip provided me with the unique opportunity to witness health care in areas of the world I have not travelled to. I've never had the chance to travel anywhere outside of Canada or the United States and thought this would be an amazing opportunity to not only travel but help others at the same time. There is something extra special about going down in person to help out; getting to see the difference you make first hand.

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Sonam: As a volunteer, we had a variety of jobs throughout the day. First off, we would set up and pack up the clinics. This would include gathering chairs, taking out supplies, setting up the pharmacy etc. The clinics took place in houses and public buildings offered to us by the citizens of the village. After setting up the clinic area, we would work in groups seeing patients and their families. Our main responsibility was to take their vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, weight etc) and patient history. A translator was provided to each group through which we could communicate to the patient. Once we had gathered the vitals and history, we would call over one of the working doctors to overlook the information and provide the patient with a diagnosis and a prescription, if required. If the patient was prescribed medication, they would be able to obtain their medication free of charge from our pharmacy. Aside from seeing patients, each volunteer had an opportunity to work in the pharmacy with a doctor filling patient prescriptions. A typical clinic day would look as follows.

    View of Antigua from above
    View of Antigua from above

    What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special?

    Sonam: It was the people! The VIDA in program in Guatemala was well run and organized, however, it was the people who made this experience one I will never forget. I grew so close to not only my fellow students, but to the staff accompanying us (doctors, translators and trip leaders). I remember the endless jokes being passed around in the bus on the rides to and from the clinics, waking up at 4am with some of the staff to see the sun rise over lake Atitlan while dancing until 3am in Panajachel the night before. It didn't feel like there was a distinction between student and staff, but rather everyone came together as one unit and enjoyed being in each other's company. Believe it or not, a year later, I'm still in close contact with many of them.

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Sonam: This experience was an eye opener to say the least. During my time with VIDA in Guatemala, I first handily got to experience the consequences of inadequate health care. I was exposed to severe illnesses such as breast cancer in a man, an arrhythmia in a twelve-year-old girl and the end stages of leukemia in a seven-year-old boy. I specifically remember an older woman who came into the clinic complaining of severe stomach pains thinking she had a minor infection.

    After assessment, we discovered that she had also been rapidly losing weight and vomiting frequently. Due to her presentation, the doctor believed that she may have gastrointestinal cancer and informed her that she needed to go to the hospital immediately. As the patient was being informed, I saw the smile on her face fade away and the look of worry emerge in her eyes. I found myself in that moment, wishing that I had the knowledge and ability to treat her. Although these realities were emotionally challenging, I was inspired by the resilience of these people and I left with a heightened sense of reality and sensitivity. It was during this trip I began to understand what it feels like to make a difference, to give people hope, to be a doctor!

  • Why did you decide to volunteer with VIDA in Guatemala?

    Brooklyn: I decided to volunteer with VIDA because I wanted my spring break to be a learning experience. VIDA was a wonderful opportunity, in more ways than one. As a pre-med student, the medical experience was invaluable. I am also a Hispanic Studies major, so it was amazing to be able to use and grow my Spanish skills with patients, and to learn about another culture. Most importantly, I wanted to contribute and volunteer in a way that really mattered.

    Ruins of Guatemala
    Visit the ruins of Guatemala

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Brooklyn: On clinic days, we ate breakfast as a group and then climbed into the vans to travel to the clinic sites. The views along the drive were always incredible. Upon arrival, we helped set up the pharmacy and split into groups to see patients. Usually, there were two volunteers and an interpreter in each group. Also, one pair of volunteers worked the pharmacy. By the end of the trip, we each had done one shift (morning or afternoon) in the pharmacy.

    When seeing patients, volunteers started with asking and recording background information (name, age, etc.), and previously diagnosed medical conditions. Then the patients would describe all of their symptoms and concerns. After taking vitals, we would call in the doctor and make our report. After the first day, this usually included our diagnosis and choice of treatment. The doctor would agree, or further examine the patient and explain what we may have missed. After clinics, we had case discussions and then evenings off to explore.

    What made this volunteer experience unique and special?

    Brooklyn: This experience was unique because it combined volunteering and a bit of vacation. The activities on our two days off were fantastic. First we had a tour of Antigua, and then we ziplined near Lake Atitlan!

    Furthermore, clinic days were almost more fun than our days off. Guatemalans are such friendly people, and they really appreciated the clinics. The kids go crazy for stickers!

    Also, the VIDA staff was exceptional. I especially appreciated the doctors. They were very knowledgeable and happy to explain diagnoses and the pathophysiology of diseases.

    How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?

    Brooklyn: My experience with VIDA has made me eager for more. I am hoping to volunteer with them again before I graduate. In addition, it affirmed my desire to volunteer internationally after I become a doctor. Seeing the difference that we made...it's just so important to help if you can, in any way you can.

About the provider

Volunteer abroad with Vida in Central America! With Vida, you have the opportunity to gain experience in three main fields: medicine, dental health, and veterinary medicine. As a volunteer with Vida, you will work with local professionals in these fields in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Working with coordinators from the field, Vida Volunteer work to set up mobile clinics to provide easily accessible services to the people and animals of communities in need. Whether you are an aspiring health-care profession or just have a passion for helping others, Vida will provide you with a meaningful service-learning experience.