I am torn as I write this,
There are many positive aspects to Maximo Nivel Guatemala, it is just a shame that a few of their practices and some staff ruin it completely. It has been made clear to me that while some lovely people work for Maximo Nivel, they are predominantly looking out for themselves while taking advantage of dedicated volunteers.
I have travelled to 23 different countries and volunteered locally in Australia, and internationally in India, Bali, Vietnam, Cambodia and Guatemala to name a few. I have had almost exclusively positive experiences, some of the best times of my life have been volunteering overseas.
I do understand that no where is perfect, however I have never been disappointed until my trip to Guatemala.
I have never received such disgusting treatment as I did from some of the staff at Maximo Nivel, Antigua Guatemala.
I am epileptic, and had the unfortunate, very rare incident of having a seizure in the volunteer accomodation prior to heading off to my program assisting with disabled people in an orphanage.
Maximo Nivel, to its credit arranged to have their doctor visit me, observe me and make sure I was okay.
The following day, I came into the Maximo Nivel office to apologise for any inconvenience caused by my medical condition. It was a rare occurrence that startled me as I had been cleared to travel by my doctor. Instead of receiving a gracious acceptance, I was dragged into the office of their director of International Programs and told that I was a liability and were I to go out at night again, I would be exited from the program.
She made an assumption that I was a rowdy irrational person and made me out to be irresponsible, even though there was nothing to suggest that my socialising with volunteers was what made me sick. I had not got drunk that night, and even if I had, she had no right to treat me in such a disgusting manner. I had not been subjected to discrimination of such a degree since I was in my early teenage years.
I shudder to think of how she has treated other volunteers in the past.
I reported the incident to the country manager who could not have been kinder about it. He apologised for her and said he would have a chat with the woman I am referring to, however even then, I never received so much as an apology from her. To me, though I may be supposing a bit much here, this is indicative of her not seeing the wrongful manner in which she treated me. The risk here is that she may continue to treat future volunteers in the same hostile and discriminative manner.
Not only this, but I noticed that the volunteer shifts were only 3 hours long. I requested to engage in some longer shifts, perhaps take on some afternoon shifts volunteering also. I noticed the orphanage I was placed at was quite understaffed and if I was going to work there, I wanted to help to the very best of my ability. I was told that I could do that, however I would be charged a significant amount of extra money.
Given that the initial set up costs had already been paid, and it would not cost the organisation anything for me to volunteer at a very needy facility a few extra hours, I thought this a pretty disgusting practice. It was doing nothing but taking advantage of dedicated volunteers.
I asked one of the ladies at the front desk where that money was going, and she lied to me, saying that 100% of it went toward their humanitarian budget.
Later, I asked the country manager where the money went. At least he was a decent enough human being to tell me that the money did go to administration staff, although I still think this an appalling practice.
In saying this, many of the staff are very friendly. They are well organised and take the safety of volunteers very seriously. Living is basic, but I felt well looked after at the volunteer house.
Maximo Nivel certainly has some good qualities, but those two incidences are things that simply cannot be overlooked. I am torn as I write this, as some people there are incredibly kind and hard working. It is true that some really do try to help, where as others are selfish, cruel and only trying to scam volunteers.