A close friend and I went to Guatemala with CCS in the summer of 2009 as health interns in the four week program. At the time I was a Pre-Nursing major (now I am in nursing school) and I wanted to get experience in health care outside of the United States. As soon as your register, CCS is constantly preparing you for the trip with online tutorials and preparation packages. I understand safety is a concern, but CCS and the Guatemalan home base staff make sure that you are taken care off. Off the plane you are met with the home base driver with a large CCS sign and other people in the program are most likely arriving when you are. Arriving at the home base, which is completely walled and gated off from the street, you immediately feel at home with an open arm welcome from the Guatemalan director, Virginia. During my stay she was like a second mother. She actually lives right next door to the home base so whatever happens she'll be there. According to your interest you indicated while registering, you get placed in an in city location for the weekday mornings as a volunteer. I was a health intern so I was placed in a public health clinic in the center of Guatemala City. My weekday schedule consisted of everyone getting into the van and getting dropped of at their placement, getting picked up before lunch, and after lunch at the home base, we would have some program that would further expose us to Guatemalan culture. These after lunch programs consist of field trips to museums, salsa lessons at the house, Spanish lessons, etc.
What I appreciated most about volunteering with CCS is that you get an equal balance of volunteer work and play time. I loved my volunteer placement. I was able to do things, give injections, perform papsmears, and so many other medical tasks, that my education would not allow me to do yet in the States. It gave me such confidence and experience that upon entering nursing school, I knew what I was doing. Aside from placement, the whole weekend is for you to plan. You can decide to go anywhere and Virginia can help you get there. During my stay, I went to Tikal and saw the famous temples, went ziplining through the jungles, spent a few nights in Antigua, went to the beaches of Montevideo, climbed an active volcano, and saw many other places in Guatemala. You get the opportunity to do the tourist attractions as well as give back to their community. Of course when you travel as a tourist, certain precautions need to be taken but they are no different than traveling in any other country. Volunteering with CCS has made such a lasting impression on my life. Three years later, I find myself still reflecting on my experiences and thinking of a time when I can go back.