For two weeks I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit the town of Novillero in Guatemala and volunteer in the ecological park "Corazón del Bosque". My sister is currently in Guatemala with the program for the second time, so my trip was organized through her and because I could only come for two weeks I did not have an orientation or the Spanish course. The program made it posible for me to stay with her and her host family, which allowed me to communicate and have an amazing experience despite barely speaking Spanish! Everyone I met in Guatemala, whether they were locals, other volunteers or members of the program, were incredibly welcoming and accomodating and made many efforts to make me feel comfortable.
In the park we mainly helped the staff with the opening of a new cafetería and snack store by painting its outside and inside. Other tasks included cleaning up the forest and working in a tree nursery or greenhouse. The atmosphere among the workers and volunteers was almost like a family. As a tip I would encourage future volunteers, no matter how long they are staying or how much of a language barrier there is, to try their best to communicate with everyone and really become a part of whatever project they are working in.
Doing this trip while I am still in high school was an excellent way to prepare me for my own future gap year. I now have a much greater knowledge of what to expect from a volunteering program and living with a host family and am itching to do many more trips like these in the future!