Doing a volunteer project abroad is something I've always wanted to do, but just hadn't found the time or opportunity to do. I took advantage of vacation time to get to check off an item off of my life to-do list, and that's what led me to discovering my volunteer project in Antigua. My experience was life-changing across many fronts: from the people of Guatemala to the amazing kids that made me smile every single minute I was with them. I can't emphasize enough how seamless everything went, and highly recommend Maximo Novel for anyone looking to volunteer abroad in Latin America.
I signed up for Teaching English for kids in Antigua and did this through International Volunteer Headquarters from a friends recommendation, and this project was locally supported by the Maximo Nivel Antigua team. My project itself was for 2 weeks, and worked with one other volunteer for grads 2-5 at a local public school. My project was surreal for me, I got to spend 5 hours a day with 150+ kids that are the kindest, humblest, and appreciative kids I'll ever meet in my life. It was quite a bit of daily work and you should understand that your project has job expectations of you, but also it's charitable work that so gratifying that it flies by too quickly. I cherished every minute at my project, and it has forever changed my outlook on life in a positive way.
Maximo Nivel did an excellent job with making the most of my Guatemala experience. For my project itself, Maximo did a great job consolidating a useful amount of training in a 3 hour period on my first day that helped set me up for the 2 weeks with what to expect at the school. Maximo did an excellent job with giving tools and ideas for me to develop lesson plans for the students, and also were always available for me if there was any issues. One perfect example, my co-volunteer and I were talking to the school principal about the next day's schedule, and we had a difficult time understanding what she was asking from us. It was an awkward situation, and Maximo was rapidly available to speak to her, and completely resolve the mis-communications. I personally was highly impressed with Maximo's team, they seemed very well trained and experienced with supporting volunteers.
Outside of the project, there was a decent amount of time to get to explore around Antigua and Guatemala and Maximo did a great job providing resources and recommendations to cater to whatever your interests are. For my trip, I did an overnight hike to Mt. Acatenanago, which was a must-do if you're into overnight strenuous hikes. The tour service ran under Maximo offered a great price, and also is cool in that there's other volunteers you'll likely be doing tours with and get to meet. Additionally for my trip, I stayed at a host family house that was facilitated by Maximo and covered breakfast/dinners. Overall, my housing was okay, there was a couple of communication issues between the host/maximo/myself but once again their staff was perfect with supporting me and resolving any issues I had.
It's been about 1.5 months since my project ended, and I can't believe how much I miss Guatemala. It's changed me and I still haven't really been able to adjust to being back in San Francisco. I had been anticipating my trip for a while, and I'm just shocked with how much my experience went above and beyond my expectations. From the people I got to meet that made me feel so comfortable, to the wild adventures I got to dive into. Oh and those kids, just wow. I strive to carry their humble and gratuitous nature with me every day. I hope I get to go back to Antigua soon and see all of the people that touched me and changed my life.