I spent 11 weeks teaching English in Quetzaltenango (locally referred to as "Xela"), Guatemala. Choosing this project proved to be one of the best decisions I've ever made. I gained valuable volunteer experience, helped nearly 200 girls to begin learning English, and gained a family of friends that made such an impact on my life that I'm planning to return within the next year.
My volunteer duties included teaching six classes of English to 4th through 6th grade female elementary students. I taught Monday through Thursday. I also participated in special school activities (for example, I was invited to be a judge in their annual talent contest and Carnival celebration). During weekends I usually spent taking day trips or hanging out with my local friends.
My support system was excellent! The coordination of the United Planet volunteer program is linked to the Kie Balam Spanish School which organized my housing, one-on-one Spanish classes, and cultural experiences/outings. They took care of me every step of the way from the moment I arrived in Guatemala, and they always seemed eager to assist me in whatever needs I had (medical, organizational, linguistic, etc.). I now refer to them as family.
My host home was very comfortable, with a spacious room, wi-fi, and three hot meals prepared for me everyday. And the meals were catered to my tastes and were much, much more than rice and beans (even though I ate my share, but that's because I love rice and beans, haha). My space was respected, and I was treated as family. I would return there anytime and know that the other homes used by the program are with extremely friendly families.
The foreigner will feel very comfortable in Xela. There are constantly dozens of Spanish school students from other parts of North America and Europe if you desire/need that sort of social interaction. Or, if like me, you prefer to spend most of your time with locals, they are among the most hospitable/friendly people you could ever meet. They'll be happy to teach you how to cook local food, go out with you to work on your Salsa dancing (a popular social/nightclub activity), or guide you to the best late night taco spots.
I highly recommend this program for anyone who wants a volunteer experience that is both satisfying and rewarding (both for the local community and for you). Viva Guatemala and viva Xela!