By Maximo Nivel   Reviews (35)   95% Rating

Volunteer Abroad Programs—Costa Rica | Guatemala | Peru

By Maximo Nivel   Reviews (35)   95% Rating

Maximo Nivel is a locally based organization in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. Volunteer abroad—get involved, make an impact, and learn to serve by working at local projects.

Since 2003, Maximo Nivel has been a leader in educational travel and study abroad. We are a professional, ethical, and hard-working organization that is completely dedicated to providing a great experience to every participant, student, traveler, and client!.

In your volunteer abroad program at Maximo Nivel:
- Field Managers work side-by-side with volunteers to ensure integration at project sites.
- Great home-base facilities, open 7 days/week, including holidays.
- Special add-on programs: Surf School, Scuba Certification, Yoga Certification, and more
- Earn university credit via our School of Record: California State University-Monterey Bay

Here are some of our popular volunteer abroad projects:

Locations
South America › Peru › Cusco
Length
1-2 Weeks
2-4 Weeks
1-3 Months
3-6 Months
6-12 Months
Language
English
Housing
Apartment
Host Family
Hostel
Hotel
Cost
Along with Maximo’s professional program management, multi-lingual team, and great 24/7 support, our volunteer abroad programs include:
- Airport pick-up
- Host family accommodations (shared room)
- Breakfast and dinner, 7 days/week
– 3-4 hours/day volunteer work
– Program and safety orientation
– Walking tour
– Official certificate of volunteer service
– Letter of recommendation
– Free Tandem Conversation Program
– Free office-wide WiFi and computer lounge
– Free Salsa dance classes
– Free cooking classes
– Free coffee and tea and on-site snack bar
– Institute is open 7 days/week
– Emergency contact number 24/7
– Program management
Other Locations
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Starting Price
0.00

Rating Values

  • Impact
    90%
  • Support
    98%
  • Fun
    91%
  • Value
    94%
  • Safety
    94%

Program Reviews (35)

Kristin
Female
26 years old
Washington, DC

Building a Kindergarten in Cusco

Overall
10

I spent 3 months with Maximo Nivel building a kindergarten in an impoverished area of Cusco. Starting upon arrival to the airport, it was all a wonderful experience. They were waiting for me at the airport as soon as my flight arrived with a packet of information. They drove me to the Maximo Nivel office where I saw the space and met some of the staff, and then took me to the lodging they had arranged for me. I was staying in a great modern house with other volunteers, and a delicious breakfast and dinner was provided every day! I am a vegetarian and they always made sure to prepare me something special that still filled me up (something that doesn't always happen, especially in South America where being a vegetarian isn't all that common). My second day in town I had an orientation where they gave me useful information on the city, and prepared me to start at my project the next day.

The project itself was very well organized, and run by Maximo Nivel's foreman Marco, a local Cusquenan. Marco doesn't speak much English, but he is very friendly and able to communicate what is needed- and I learned a lot of Spanish from him! I got the opportunity to be involved in all types of the construction, from laying bricks to mixing cement to making the ceiling, and got to see the differentkinds of building techniques that they have in Cusco. We also had the opportunity to visit some of Maximo Nivel's other volunteer sites to help with repairs (such as fixing the roof of a school) and upkeep (such as painting the bedrooms at an orphanage).

In addition to volunteering with Maximo, I also took spanish classes, and participated in their free weekly salsa classes. All the classes were well organized, and taught me a lot!

Through my participation with Maximo Nivel I have had an unforgettable experience, made life long friends, and created a second home for myself in Cusco. I cannot recommend their programs enough!

Katherine
Female
36 years old
Miami Beach, Florida

Fantastic Volunteer Time Off with my Work Colleagues

Overall
10

In October, 2015 I volunteered with 7 other members of my company in Cusco. We participated in an after school program for underprivileged children in the mountains outside of the city. They did a great job with orientation, preparing us the experience, and making sure we were comfortable and taking full advantage of all the various opportunities (including learning Spanish) along the way.

At the end of the week, they put together all the plans and tickets for us to go to Machu Picchu, where we also climbed Huayna Picchu mountain, which has limited tickets available. It was a smooth and awesome end to the trip.

The professionalism and effort the staff took was immense and resulted in a fantastic volunteer experience that I will carry with me the rest of my life. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in taking advantage of it.

Eli
Female
56 years old
Australia
Queensland University of Technology

Great experience

Overall
10

I chose teaching English in Cusco to experience cultural immersion which ordinary travel usually doesn't provide. I also wanted to be part of a global community which raises awareness about the unconscionable divide between rich and poor and which works to remedy this situation. All of our contributions may be small drops in the ocean of change required to make the world a fairer and just place to reside but every drop counts. I loved the students and thought the support provided by Maximo Nivel was outstanding.

How can this program be improved?
Teaching English materials should be culturally sensitive and appropriate. I downloaded material about Peruvian history which the students responded to very positively. I hope the materials I provided can be used by others. Advice about making resources culturally sensitive eg even using Peruvian or Spanish names would be useful for prospective teachers in the future.

home stay food could be greatly improved for vegetarians and those who have to work at night. I had to fend for myself food wise for the whole time I was on the program. B'fasts were mostly of a good standard but no dinners whilst I was teaching was not helpful. I had about 5 good meals, usually lunch, during my stay.

home stay hygiene could also be greatly improved. No new towel was provided for 3 weeks! not sure if bed sheets were changed either but as I wore pyjamas this wasn't a major problem but the towel situation was appalling. 24 hr external laundry cycle meant the towel couldn't be washed. I had to get another towel to make do.
Nicole
Female
23 years old
Hanover, IN
Hanover College

Great Experience!

Overall
9

I have visited all three of Maximo Nivel's international sites and I can honestly say that they are one of the best companies that you can choose! They have absolutely wonderful staff and were extremely helpful with everything that we could possible need. All of the host families that I have ever stayed with were incredibly welcoming and nice. They definitely do everything they can to make sure that we have the best experience abroad.

How can this program be improved?
If I had to change one thing, I would probably change the pricing. It can get pretty expensive if you wish to take Spanish classes, work construction and go on a separate adventure. For college kids- this can really add up!
Nick
Male
23 years old
Notre Dame, Indiana
University of Notre Dame

Have fun abroad and have an impact!

Overall
10

I usually don't fill out reviews, but I felt like I needed to for this one. After 15 days with Maximo Nivel, I feel like I am good friends with every one of their employees. This is a well organized, safe, and very social organization that will cater to the needs and desires of anyone looking to go abroad. Never before have I felt such a great mixture of community impact and vacation-like good times. You need to try out Maximo Nivel!

How can this program be improved?
Can't think of anything.
Larissa
Female
23 years old
Oakland, California
Carleton College

Medical Placement in Umasbamba

Overall
7

I spent two weeks volunteering at Manco Capac in Cuzco and then five weeks in Umasbamba, a rural community just outside of Chinchero. When I first asked to make the switch into the rural community, Maximo bent over backwards helping me make a Medical Placement there happen. The support from the in country staff was unbelievable throughout my two months in country and I definitely felt pampered.

How can this program be improved?
My biggest criticism is that as a pre-med student, seven weeks with Medical Placement felt a bit long. Although I have a solid foundation with Spanish, I felt that I could not do much in the clinic environment and that after a few weeks, I began to worry that my presence was bothersome. I may have benefited from asking Maximo if there was a medical campaign or different clinic that I could become involved with.
Anne
Female
23 years old
Eugene Oregon
University of Oregon

Unforgettable Experience

Overall
10

I came to Guatemala very excited but very nervous, it was my first experience traveling outside of the United States and I had no idea what to expect. Although there were of course some hard moments and struggles it was the best time of my life. There were days when I just wanted to be home, missing family and friends or feeling overwhelmed by being in a new place where things were so different.Those aspects are part of the experience and I really wouldn't change anything about my time there. I loved getting to know a new culture and language while volunteering . I met so many amazing interesting people, and I truly learned a lot, just being immersed in such a different culture, you are forced to step outside of yourself and look at things in a new way and that is just what I wanted. Maximo was a great venue for me to do what I wanted to do.

I loved my placement, I was doing construction and renovation. I was in Antigua for 10 weeks and was able to participate in three different projects. The work was sometimes challenging, I would get frustrated with myself when I could't do something very well. Then I had to remind myself that I had never done the work before , and was learning, and helping people and all I could do was my best. It was amazing to work and be able to see what we had done as a group. It was also awesome to be able to step into the world of the people who lived/ worked at the projects were we where working and interact with those people a bit. I really liked that part.

I loved my life during those ten weeks, I was in a home stay with an incredible warm friendly family, who cooked delicious food every day, three times a day. I had the chance to disconnect from my life at home, slow down and be in the moment with all of these new things. I loved the schedule I was on. I would wake up to an amazing breakfast, I always had other volunteers in the house to enjoy the meals with. Then I would head of to work on the chicken bus which I loved so much. It was such a fun way of traveling around the city. The work was tiring, fun, hard and awesome. By the time lunch came around I was so excited to eat. Lunch is the most important meal there, and in my opinion the best. After lunch I enjoyed relaxing a little, walking around town, to the market, the park, It was great to just enjoy the city. I had class from 4 to 6 pm.Coming to Maximo in the Afternoon was great, it was like home base. you could always connect with other volunteers, use the computers, study in the beautiful courtyard. I felt very lucky to have the chance to work on my spanish, the more spansih you know the more fun your experience will be. You can connect with the people and learn more about the culture, it's fun and exciting! I was able to practice a good amount of spanish during my placement with our director/ foreman, and of course in the home stay. One of the most challenging parts was the language barrier. You are forced to make yourself try, it is scary sometimes. My host family was so patient and spoke slowly. I was absolutely intimidated sometimes, and often If I was feeling tired or down it was exhausting to try and speak Spanish.
My evenings were spent either relaxing, reading/ studying or going out with friends, there is great night life and tons to do in Antigua!

This program is an excellent way to travel, experience a new culture, volunteer and practice spanish, while having a good amount of free time to really enjoy the place you are visiting. I felt very supported the entire time, if you ever need anything the Maximo team will do their best to really help you out.

I am so happy I chose this program and came to Antigua. It opened up my mind and got me excited to do more volunteer work and travel more as well!!!

How can this program be improved?
The only critical feedback I have is that I think it would have been nice to know where I was staying before I got there. I was pretty anxious about that, It would have made me more relaxed to know that detail.

The only other thing I didn't like was that there wasn't the option to double up on volunteer placements for no extra charge. I think it would be amazing if there was the option to work two shift in a day for people that wanted. It could be a great way to make more of a differeence with some of the projects that could really use the help.
YP
Male
23 years old
New York, NY

Best Spring Break Trip

Overall
9

I wanted to do something different since it was my last college spring break and Antigua was the perfect choice.

You wake up every morning to a hearty breakfast before you get on a "chicken bus" to get to your placement. I worked at a day care for kids aged 1-5 years old in the outskirts of Antigua.

The kids are adorable and the best part is you actually have a chance to make a meaningful impact. From helping them brush their teeth to feeding them, you are given a lot of responsibility. On our last day, we even had a splash day with the kids.

The city of Antigua itself is a beautiful place. Good nightlife, everything is cheap and there's a lot to explore. I lived in a volunteer house with about 10 other volunteers so it was nice to have a community of individuals that were from diverse backgrounds.

How can this program be improved?
The travel agency that they're partnered with really needs to be changed; unreliable and unprofessional.
Chelsea
Female
23 years old
Madison, WI
University of Wisconsin- Madison

Maximo Nivel-Cusco

Overall
9

I participated in a medical campaign, placement in a clinic, and placement in a physical therapy setting. The medical campaign was great to get lots of experience quickly and impact HUNDREDS of patients in a day. The clinics were good for shadowing but I did not feel that my help was needed much. Intermediate-advanced Spanish is probably best in clinics. The physical therapy placement was eye-opening and I definitely felt that my help was both needed and appreciated.

How can this program be improved?
There should be a predetermined list of volunteer tasks set with clinics as far as what volunteers can do, keeping in mind their Spanish speaking abilities and healthcare experience.
Samuel
Male
23 years old
Buena Vista, Virginia
Other

Maximo Nivel-Peru

Overall
9

It was Great!!! WE learned a lot while in Peru about the Culture and Spanish. I took a Peruvian culture class and a grammar class. I learned a lot!!! Week end trips are soooo much fun!

How can this program be improved?
Better communications with the Travel Agency
Claire-Marine
Female
23 years old
Montreal, Canada
McGill University

Amazing experience!

Overall
10

These past four weeks with Maximo have been amazing! They are very supportive, friendly and are always ready to help. Their office is open everyday and the computer lab is accessible to all volunteers. I took spanish lessons for 2 weeks and my teacher was great! All spanish teachers (that I know of) are locals and very friendly. I taught english at an elementary school in the mornings, which allowed me to walk around Antigua (where I was staying and volunteering) and explore Guatemala during the afternoons and weekends. There are beautiful things to see in Guatemala, but also a lot to do in Antigua!

A regular day during the week for me was: waking up around 6:45 and eating breakfast with other volunteers I was staying with, walking to school and teaching pre-k and grades 3 to 6, going back home to eat around 12:45, take some time to explore Antigua and go to Spanish class.

I highly recommend Maximo to anyone! Have fun!

How can this program be improved?
I would have liked to know the details of my housing before arriving to Guatemala. But my host familly was great!
Esther
Female
23 years old
Lancaster, PA

Lovin' Life

Overall
10

Every beautiful morning here in Antigua, Guatemala I wake up around 6:45 to a hearty breakfast made by my volunteer house's cook. Then, off to placement! My placement was my safe haven. A school nestled high in the mountains is where I was an assistant English teacher for grades 1st through 3rd for two months. The kids were so well behaved and taught me so much! I had no idea what I could learn about myself in two months but i can assure you I exceeded all of my expectations. Maximo Nivel was such a help to my self discovery. It was a place to learn spanish, plan excursions, book shuttles, use wifi and make friends. I lived in a volunteer house called Casa Shekina, with anywhere from 10 to 24 other volunteers (depending on the week). Three meals a day were provided for me by our house cook, and beds were changed and made once a week by our house keeper. I never had any complaints when it came to my home stay or placement! Antigua is beautiful! There is so much to do and so much to see. Restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and boutiques line the streets. The town's famous artisan market is a great place to shop for handmade Guatemalan souvenirs and bargain your prices as low as possible! Keeping busy here was not a problem. My experience in Antigua, Guatemala has been unmatched. I can't wait to come back again!

How can this program be improved?
I have heard complaints about people who have asked to be placed in a host family who were placed in a volunteer house, and, people who asked to be placed with other volunteers who were placed alone in a host family. I think I would try to tailor to the initially needs of the volunteers before they arrive as to avoid the stress of switching things around later.
kleavitt
Female
23 years old
Calgary
University of Calgary

An amazing experience!

Overall
9

During the mornings I took Spanish at Maximo Nivel. I would suggest taking classes, it makes it easier to communicate with people on your project and in the community. In the afternoons I went to Proyecto Genesis, an after school project. There we taugh english, basic spanish, computers, hygiene, helped with homework, and played games or soccer with the kids. Although it was difficult for me to communicate with the kids and the program director, they make every effort to accomodate you, and you learn to work with one another. The kids and Ricardo (program director) were amazing and it was very difficult to leave them! For me the hardest thing was communication, and feeling like I wasn't make a big enough impact. I came to realize though that it is a process and change doesn't happen over night. Every little bit adds up and is important.

How can this program be improved?
More specific tasks on the project in order to maintain consistency
Steven
Male
23 years old
Ottawa, Ontario
Carleton University

Experience

Overall
10

Overall it was a great experience. Each day involved a good mix of fast-paced continuous work and relaxation time. At the school I was able to participate a lot with various significant teaching tasks. The Maximo Nivel staff ensures you are well informed regarding anything you may encounter on your trip and genuinely cares about your time with them. Highlights were the amazing people I met along the way and the numerous excursions. The biggest difficulty was the language barrier not knowing the native language, however there is usually always someone around to translate.

How can this program be improved?
To have someone who speaks english pick you up from the airport, to ensure as a new arrival you are aware of what/where you are going to be doing that day/night.
Deena
Female
23 years old
San Francisco, California
University of San Francisco

Life Changer

Overall
10

First and foremost, I want to say this:
If you are considering this program, do it. Just do it.

Before my trip to Guatemala, I was in a slight state of confusion. I had just taken a leave of absence from my university with little to no idea of what my next moves would be. I decided I needed a change of scenery, but not just any change of scenery - I wanted to do something where I could both benefit somebody else and myself. I could not be more grateful that I ended up in Antigua, Guatemala volunteering with Maximo Nivel.

I spent two weeks in Guatemala working with the most intelligent, creative, and loving children I've ever come across in my life. I was placed at an after school program called Mi Escuelita in a very poor town just outside of Antigua. I've had several volunteer experiences in the last few years tutoring and mentoring kids in low income areas. All of those experiences combined could not amount to the experience I had at Mi Escuelita in terms of impact; an impact you feel, the people you work with feel, and the results of which you see. It was hands down the most beautiful experience I've ever had in my life.

The education system in Guatemala is, to say the very least, flawed. Education is free up through 6th grade, which is a strong factor in why many kids drop out long before then. Another reason the drop out rate is so high is due to the fact that many of the children's parents are illiterate and therefore there is no academic support in the home. There is no motivation, no stimulation for these young beautiful minds to experience. Additionally, many kids have alcoholic parents (which is often times accompanied by a broad spectrum of abuse) and their immense potentials are even further suppressed.

When I say that the kids I met at Mi Escuelita have immense potential, I mean it with every cell in my being. They are unbelievably intelligent, quick, eager to learn, beautifully creative, and the most loving and warm little human beings I have ever come across. The kids thanked the other volunteers and I over and over before we left, but they have no idea what they did for me: they woke me up.

In a developed country like the US (where I live), materials are so available that we often don't think of what it would be like if they weren't so available. In a less developed place like Guatemala, things as simple as pencils, notebooks, and crayons are scarce. I could write a novel about my experience in Guatemala, but what stayed with me the most was the fact that the kids I encountered have so little, yet are so incredibly happy. If they lost their soccer ball over the fence, they would find a soda bottle on the street to kick around. There were no complaints, no tears, no shouts - nothing but their lovely smiles. In a nutshell, they had the energy and playfulness of children, but the maturity of a full grown adult. Most of these kids have been forced to assume adult-like responsibilities from a young age: working with their parents to earn some money and tending to younger siblings are just a couple of examples.

I know I left an impact on these kids because they would not let me forget it. They were so grateful and so happy that the other volunteers and I were there. The impact they left on me was a million times greater. After getting to know the kids as individuals, as a group, and witnessing their potentials, it is so sad to me that they are not stimulated. They are not given the chance to excel and succeed. Such a simple concept, yet so far from being implemented in the Guatemalan education system. They want to learn, they want to be able to speak English, they want to be something, they want to do good, they want to be happy, and they want to love.

The experience I had in Guatemala was one I will never forget and it was one that left me wanting more. It made me want to continue this journey of improving, both myself and others. I have been back home for one day and cannot get these kids out of my mind. I still feel their warm embraces and can still so vividly see their wide and bright smiles. Although I was only there for 2 weeks, there will forever be a mark embedded in my heart, soul, and mind.

How can this program be improved?
Not a damn thing.
SStellhorn
Female
41 years old
Redlands, CA
Loma Linda University

A Terrific Experience overall!

Overall
10

I have only good things to say about Maximo Nivel, who I accidently discovered through GlobalVolunteerNetwork.com. After 2.5 weeks in their Antigua, Guatemala spanish classes, and 2 weeks in the volunteer program to work with children, I have had a wonderful experience learning more of this second language, and felt useful to the childrens' program. In a very "User-friendly" environment, and with well-organized, friendly, and helpful staff, I have had much success in learning as much as possible during my time here. In addition, the different volunteer programs that I have heard of, as well as the one that I was involved in, seem to be as well organized as possible, and once again, friendly staff walked me through the first day and provided resources and ideas throughout the rest of my volunteer time.

Centrally located in Antigua, with plenty of resources just around each corner, Maximo Nivel maintains an extensive schedule of group and private lessons, as well as tandem learning programs with native Guatemalan Spanish -speakers, and lots of extracurricular activities to encourage interaction with other native speakers and other students as well. The classes are small and manageable, and the teachers make the learning interesting and fun, and applicable to our daily activities with constant conversations and dialogue. I believe that my homestay is truly special with a family that has welcomed me and invited me to participate in family activities and meals. And everything has gone precisely according to the scheduling at Maximo Nivel! I appreciate the structure and the employees ability to maintain it! I am planning to travel to Cusco, Peru next year to enroll in more Spanish classes with Maximo Nivel, and to participate in another volunteer program. This was truly a trip of a lifetime for me!

How can this program be improved?
A little bit more specific information on what is expected of us in the volunteer program, and feedback regarding how well we are doing or ideas for improvement.
Ruth
Female
41 years old
La Coruña, Spain

Great experience. Totally recommended

Overall
10

I had a great experience at my program "Rosa de Amor" teaching English. I was on my own in the class so I had the opportunity to get to know all the girls in the orphanage. I had all support from Maximo and Guinness travel when I decide to organized an excursion to the zoo with some of the kids.

How can this program be improved?
Two weeks was too short for me. If you have the opportunity stay at least for a month.
US
Female
31 years old
Greenville, North Carolina
East Carolina University

Practical Medical Experience

Overall
9

I had the opportunity to work in a free clinic in a small town. It was the perfect experience for me to practice my Spanish with patients. I was able to triage all the patients prior to seeing the doctor, including taking brief histories and physicals. Following, I would join the doctor during her visits. We would work together to make an appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan. She was very helpful in pointing out interesting physical findings and explaining cultural differences in both lifestyle and medicine. I also had the opportunity to work in the pharmacy and vaccination clinic. Working in the pharmacy was a great time for me to learn about the different medications available, appropriate dosing, and common side effects. It was also great practice giving consultations to patients about appropriate use of medications.

How can this program be improved?
It would have been helpful to have more of an introduction with the clinic site so the staff was aware of my background and capabilities.
thebirdlady
Female
31 years old
San Diego, California

Life Changing Experience

Overall
10

It is amazing how one week can change your life forever. However, for me, it happened in one second. When I walked through the gates on day 1 and witnessed 3 young children SPRINTING into the arms of some young twenty-something, with the biggest smile I had ever seen, I was changed. They were running towards me. How important and big does this make one small person feel? The emotions running through my body in that one minute are indescribable.

I am home now, but that lightening bolt is still charged. I am applying to graduate schools-- I thought I would never want to go back to school. I am a already signed up for my next mission trip. I am going to help make this world a better place. I want to spread this electric feel-- this life changing experience has got me changing lives.

How can this program be improved?
I did not think pairing with Guiness travel agency helped the face of Maximo. I think their business strategy is less than satisfactory. I ended up using another agency to book my travel after experiencing some disturbing no-shows and hearing unfortunate stories from others in my program.
live.love.serve.
Female
23 years old
Ohio
Walsh University

Working With Disabilities

Overall
8

Thinking about volunteering in Guatemala with disabilities?

If so, you've found the right place! I have spent the last month volunteering through the Antigua Guatemala program at an orphanage for children with disabilities. If you are thinking about volunteering with children who have disabilities, know that your experience will be challenging and rewarding at the same time.

My daily activities mainly involved doing Physical Therapy exercises for the children at my orphanage as well as helping the nannies with other small tasks.

Initially, I was extremely overwhelmed by the thought of being responsible for therapy sessions with the kids and it took me a week or two to gain confidence in what I was doing. However, I found that the most helpful opportunity was to be able to attend one of the Physical Therapy appointments for the children so that I could see what their therapists were doing with each child and then perform those exercises on a day-to-day basis at the orphanage. I would strongly recommend that anyone volunteering to do therapy with disabled children asks the nannies of the orphanage to arrange this.

If your Spanish is limited, I would strongly recommend learning simple commands like "take off your shoes please", "sit down", "stand up", "be gentle", "come here", and "no more" in Spanish. Even if the kids you are working with are non-verbal, they understand Spanish and will listen to you. It is also very important to know basic body parts (arms, legs, stomach, back, feet, hands) and to know how to ask "does this hurt" or "does this cause you pain?".

It is also extremely helpful to bring a stopwatch (one on your cell phone will suffice) to help time how long each child can weight-bear or hold a position on their own. Some kids are extremely motivated simply by knowing how long they have been standing, stretching etc. and will try to beat their own goals.

One of the biggest highlights of my experience was forming relationships with the children at my orphanage. Even though only one child at my orphanage had a vocabulary that was larger than 2 or 3 words, it was so rewarding when the children began to recognize me and smile at me. These simple relationships taught me the beauty of communication without words.

One of the biggest difficulties for me was simply not being able to communicate with the children's caretakers and not knowing what each child's diagnosis was. I was able to work towards resolving these problems by learning Spanish while in Guatemala and by asking the nannies at the specific orphanage what their diagnoses were. Doing research on how to best work with a child with Downs Syndrome, versus a child with Autism, versus a child with Cerebral Palsy was extremely beneficial as well.

Last but not least, dont be afraid to ask for help. If your placement's staff sees that you are a hard worker and are taking initiative, they will trust you more and be more willing to help you.

How can this program be improved?
The ability to get medical diagnoses on each child that I was working with. My field adviser told me that I was not allowed to be given this information, and this was extremely upsetting to me. I felt very strongly that if I was dedicating my time and energy towards working with these children, that the least I could be given was a medical diagnosis so that I could research their conditions so that I would better equip to help them.
PersianEngineer
Female
23 years old
Cusco, Peru
Other

salome ferro

Overall
8

This has been the most amazing experience of my life, as it was the first. The people have been great, and they have done everything possible to keep me comfortable throughout my stay. My most satisfying moments are when the children ask to stay behind and learn more, and give me a hug goodbye. These kids are now a part of my family, and I am very sad to leave. I hope that Maximo Nivel in the future will have a higher reach to change the lives of these children. I look forward to being a part of that progress

How can this program be improved?
The volunteers should be better vet in the future to improve suitability for the roles.

I also hope that Maximo develops a civil engineering program
James
Male
23 years old
Omaha, Nebraska
University of Queensland

Sure to be a great experience if you go in with the right mindset

Overall
10

My partner and I spent a total of 8 weeks with Maximo in Antigua, and we had a fantastic time. We took one-on-one spanish lessons through their school (myself with Evelyn and my partner with Willy) and we highly recommend both of them to anyone who is thinking of taking lessons. I went from basically no spanish to being able to hold my own in conversation fairly well.

The staff at Maximo are absolutely superb. We had so much help from Madeline, Lori, Victor and Nancy in our time there, they were always professional, friendly and willing to help answer any questions we had. The facilities are great too, it's a very nice place to hang out if you don't have much going on during the day. The social scene around Maximo is very active and it's easy to make great friends.

Maximo set us up to volunteer with a partner organisation called As Green As It Gets doing eco agricultural work in nearby San Miguel Escobar, and through them we had a really fantastic volunteering experience. I feel like if you want to make as positive an impact as possible while in Guatemala, ask the staff at Maximo to set you up with As Green As It Gets.

We were involved in all sorts of interesting work with AGAIG - from going with the farmers during harvest and picking coffee cherries and caring for their crops, to construction of renewable energy biodigestors for the farmers, to the production and marketing process of the coffee and even external fundraising. We worked hard and really felt like part of the AGAIG family and the San Miguel Escobar coffee coop.

I will say this though, do not expect to slack off. It is very hard work - lots of early morning treks up Volcan Agua to the farmers' individual farms, lots of shovelling and machete-ing and hauling cement and block for construction. You will get tired, sore and sweaty, and you will get blisters and cuts and bruises. If you are the kind of person that rocks up to things late, this is not the program for you - because if you are dragging your feet then you are adversely affecting the farmer's productivity and not helping anybody. Expect to work hard and be on time. Give it your all and I guarantee it will be a mutually beneficial experience for you, and the people you are there to help.

We stayed in a homestay organised by Maximo with a Guatemalan lady named Claudia - it was really fantastic. We really felt like part of the family, and were included in all of the festive holidays and birthdays that went on while we were there. The food was great and Claudia and her family were very accomodating and flexible with our coming and going.

While in our homestay there was a minimum of 4 volunteers total and a maximum of 7, so it's a fairly cosy low-key place to stay compared to some of the other Maximo places which housed up to 20 volunteers. If you're less into partying and more the quiet type, ask Maximo to put you somewhere like Claudia's. It's quieter for sure, but still social - we made plenty of good friends in our two months there.

Matthew
Male
23 years old
Cusco, Peru

The trip of a lifetime!!

Overall
10

The altitude struck in Peru. This meant that a friend and I were waking up in the early hours of the morning. We had been given the contact information of the staff at Maximo and decided we would phone someone. They were very helpful in getting us a doctor and making sure that we were sorted out. We have been with Maximo for 6 weeks and the staff have been incredible throughout.

How can this program be improved?
Spanish lessons should be included with every program.
Kerry
Female
23 years old
Cusco Peru

Excellent volunteer experience!!

Overall
10

At the beginning of our trip the orientation was very informative, no piece of information was left out. This made travelling around Cusco and going about our days so much easier. My volunteering experience was amazing, we had all the support and help we needed when ever we needed it. Marco was brilliant he took the time to teach us everything that we needed to know, he was extremely patient and understanding. Whilst in Peru my purse was stolen walking down the street, the team at Maximo Nivel were really helpful. I came to the establishment on a daily basis, during these visits i was able to use the phone as often as i wanted to contact the bank and my parents. This happening put me in some money trouble. They helped out by offering to pay for taxis and other things that i needed to get by.

How can this program be improved?
The only thing that i think could make the volunteering experience better would be to have Spanish lessons included in the price of all of the different projects rather than some of them.
Meverly07
Female
23 years old
St. Louis, Missouri
Missouri State University

I wanted to stay. Forever.

Overall
10

I’m going to be real honest. My volunteer trip to Guatemala was life-altering. Even just two weeks into my five week trip, I knew I didn’t want to go home. I volunteered through Máximo Nivel, an amazing organization that offered me the greatest advice and support while I was there. I’ll admit, I was terrified when I landed in Guatemala, never having been out of the US before in my life. However the morning after I landed I had orientation with other new volunteers and a tour of the town. Any questions we had were immediately answered. We received advice on not only how to stay as safe as possible (which was easy, Antigua was a much safer place than I anticipated; I absolutely never felt like I was in any sort of danger) but also where the best places to eat were as well as what activities we should be sure to do. I had the opportunity to volunteer in a clinic in the mornings, which meant in the afternoons I was free to explore the city and take Spanish classes at Máximo. The Spanish classes were great, I was placed in a class based on my skill level, and there are so many different levels that the classes are small, which means that you get a more personal class with your teacher. Awesome. On the weekends you could travel, and Máximo was great about suggestions for travel agencies and other tips to make traveling easy while you’re in country.

Also, we lived in home-stays with other volunteers, which I loved. It was an incredible opportunity to make friends that I know I’ll have forever. If you prefer a more traditional ‘family-style’ home stay, like one of the volunteers I knew, Máximo will accommodate you. I lived in a home stay with six or seven other volunteers, and I enjoyed the heck out of it! Living with other volunteers was great because there was always someone you could convince to go on some sort of outing you want to do. We still had traditional meals, however, and it was strongly encouraged that we speak Spanish so our house mom could understand what we were saying.

More on the volunteering: The first day, after your orientation and tour, one of the lovely field managers accompanies you to your placement. They show you exactly where you can get on your bus and where to get off. They introduce you to all the workers at your placement and briefly explain what you’ll be doing, so your first day alone isn’t overwhelming. After being showed the ropes, I was confident I would be fine on my own to get to and from my placement. Working at my placement was such a blessing. The people I worked with acted like my best friends from the moment I met them. They went out of their way to ensure that I was having a good time. There were days in the clinic when there were not a lot of patients, but if I had already triaged all the patients and administered injections and it was only 10am, they had a lot for me to do still. I had the opportunity to shadow the doctors, help with vaccinations of infants and toddlers, work in the pharmacy, and work with the nurse in the women’s health/family planning clinic. Multiple times they offered to drive me home in the Ambulance. My clinic was in San Lucas (about a half hour bus ride from Antigua), but the nearest hospital is in Antigua. So, whenever they had a patient that needed to go to the hospital around the time I was going home, they let me know so I could hop in. It was awesome. To say that Máximo chooses great placements for their volunteers is a huge understatement.

If you have any questions I would gladly answer them, my e-mail is [email protected]

How can this program be improved?
I really, honestly, truly would not change a thing.
policiavolunteer
Female
23 years old
Washington, D.C.
Other

Childcare Volunteer

Overall
9

I volunteered for a few weeks at La Policia de la familia - it was basically a makeshift room for kids picked up off the street, many of whom were more or less orphans. The time we spent there was the only time they had any activities to do (when we left, they only had a TV to watch and were not allowed to leave). It was a hard experience, but worth it - our impact seemed very temporary since different kids came and went but being there for whoever was there enough.

As for the facilities and support of Maximo - they were excellent. Everyone was very helpful and responsive. My housing (a family house) was very good quality and the food delicious. Showers were always hot and there was Wifi so keeping in touch was easy.

Cuzco is a very lovely city and the people are very welcoming and nice. Granted, there are always those who try to take advantage of the fact that I'm a tourist (mostly taxi drivers) but overall I felt comfortable and safe. Not to mention there is plenty to do, day and night!

How can this program be improved?
A bit more get togethers (or at least opportunities) with all volunteers - it was nice meeting everyone and it was good to get to know the people I went to placement with.
Dave
Male
31 years old
Chapel Hill, NC
Other

Maximo rocks

Overall
10

I was so incredibly impressed with the program at Maximo Nivel in Antigua, Guatemala. The volunteer program was excellent and perfectly designed for me (as a dental student). The classes were amazingly helpful, with really great teachers. The office staff is kind, helpful and extraordinarily knowledgeable about the country/city, etc. I felt very safe during the entire trip. Also, the homestay was AWESOME, and I had some of the best food I've ever had in my life.
Highly recommended by this gringo!

harrison.sims13
Male
23 years old
Plymouth, Massachusetts
Other

Best Decision I've Ever Made

Overall
10

I stayed in Antigua doing medical volunteer work for 6 months, and it was honestly the best decision of my entire life thus far. Between the amazing hands-on experience and cultural immersion, it was an extremely rewarding venture, that I have nothing but good things to say about. If you have any questions whatsoever, please contact me at [email protected]. One thing that would have been very useful for me, would have been someone to talk to about my program before heading down there. So again, feel free to ask me any questions you may have.

Jamie
Female
23 years old
Chicago, IL
Other

medical volunteer in cusco, peru

Overall
9

I worked in the Dignidad Nacional clinic in Cusco, Peru. I had a great experience there, meeting the doctor, dentists, nurses, and obstetrician, and learning from them. They were overall very helpful and welcomed me in as a volunteer. What I liked the most about volunteering at Dignidad Nacional was that I was able to work in different parts of the clinic and I was able to experience different types of patient care. This included obstetrics, general, emergency, dentistry, and children's and baby's health. I would have had a better experience if I understood Spanish better. I felt that I helped a good amount, but I would have liked to be more helpful and more effective. But, I understand that it is hard to help without a medical degree. Overall, I had a great experience and I would recommend it to other medical volunteers!

Emilia
Female
23 years old
Scranton, Pennsylvania
Other

Experience of a life time!

Overall
10

This was my first volunteer trip abroad and I couldn't be more satisfied. I went through Maximo Nivel and I can't think of one negative experience from the minute I landed in Guatemala to the minute I left. Maximo Nivel arranged for someone to pick us up from the airport and take us to their building and the host family we were staying with. My host family was absolutely wonderful and the house was a very comfortable size. We were served fresh fruit and veggies with every mean, which was important to me. The staff at Maximo Nivel was also amazing and showed us around the whole town, explained how to travel around and use the public buses, and even gave us helpful tips when needed. I volunteered at an orphanage where the kids would run up to be and hug me every morning. Nothing made me happier than to see the little guys and I miss them terribly already! While we were in Guatemala we also took some evening and weekend trips which were recommended to us. Going on those trips helped us make many new friends which we still keep in touch with. Everyone, form the staff to the volunteers were extremely friendly and energetic. I loved everything about this trip and would recommend to anyone. It is life changing and eye opening to do something like this. Don't make excuses and just do it! You won't regret it as long as you go there with an opened mind and willingness to help and make a difference. When I went to Guatemala I was hoping to change a child's life, but instead, they changed mine.

Ingrid
Female
31 years old
New Zealand
Other

Guate Guate Guate!!!!

Overall
10

The shouts from chicken buses, the brightly coloured local dress, smells wafting from local eateries and street stalls, and music drifting from the Parque Central...you know you're alive in Antigua, Guatemala!

I was lucky enough to spend 2 months there during the festive season, taking part in the Burning of the Devil celebrations, being hauled in to a local Posada parade, and being invited to eat tamales and drink Christmas punch with local families. I lived with the warmest and loveliest of Guatemalan families, who generously shared their home and life with me and my fellow volunteers, including us in all of their celebrations.

I had signed up for the medical volunteer programme, not really knowing what to expect, but I was very impressed with the team at Maximo Nivel, who had everything organised in a country that seemingly doesn't run to any sort of schedule! I worked in a small but busy rural clinic, assessing patients before the doctor saw them, and on the days there was no doctor, performing the medical consultation with the help of the local nurses. I struggled with how sick some of these children became before their mothers would bring them in, but as I learned more of the daily life at home and the demands of 5 or 6 other children, I could see why this was so. I was impressed at the clinic's vaccination regime, and generally the mothers were pretty good at returning for the next appointment, even if it were just to weigh and measure their child, keeping an eye on nutrition and growth. The staff in the clinic were admirably very adaptive, coping with days of 40 or more patients, sometimes with no doctor, no running water, or a shortage of necessary medications - on the whole, they ran a good health service for a large and widespread population. The patients were to be admired also, for their ability to wait patiently for review or treatment, and for putting up with a white alien with imperfect spanish on the days when I was on my own!

I would recommend volunteering with Maximo Nivel to anyone who has an inkling to go somewhere completely out of your comfort zone, the motivation to learn spanish and to share your skills with others, and the humility to let those you work with teach you something about this world we live in.

Angie
Female
18 years old
Adelaide, Australia
University of South Australia

Cusco, Peru

Overall
10

i volunteered with Maximo Nivel for four weeks over Christmas and new year of 2011/12. I spent two weeks doing Spanish classes, which were extremely beneficial in a country where hardly anyone knows more than 'I give you good price lady' or 'lady, you want a massage?'. whilst doing this three weeks in Cusco working at a Police Station with children off the street. It was the hardest, heartbreaking, most rewarding thing I have eve experienced and wish I could have stayed for longer and helped ou forever! the children were adorable, some quite cheeky, but not once did I ever feel threatened or uncomfortable. the program made me grow so much as a person opening my eyes to such a different lifestyle to my own, and certainly made me extremely grateful, yet heartbroken that there could be such a difference in social classes. I have travelled quite a bit before to lower economic countries, but this program, being involved with the locals, was definitely the biggest eye opener and to see that even with nothing, you cannot get rid of the smile off their faces.

After three weeks spent with the children, I decided to see a different side of Peru, the Amazon! I spent a week near Manu, about a 10 hour bus ride from Cusco(definitely an adventure) helping out with nature conservation, plantations and taking care of the two pet monkeys.

Maximo Nivel are a very organized and friendly company who I would reccomend to anyone! They are flexible as I spent two of my weekends over Christmas and New Years on Lake Titicaca and doing the four day trek to Macchu Picchu which were both highlights of my trip, and can be done through PATAS, a company closely associated with Maximo Nivel!

Liam
Male
23 years old
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Griffith University

Best 8 weeks I could have asked for in Guatemala

Overall
10

So I guess I should start at the beginning! I was in Mexico City due to fly to Cuba the following day when I realised that the trouble I'd be having communicating in Mexico was only going to be worse in Cuba where less English was spoken. I emailed Maximo about 7pm on the Friday night asking to come early...as in the next day! I wasn't expecting a response so late on a Friday evening but within 25 minutes I had an email back saying well if you can arrange a flight get us your flight number and our driver will get you at the airport. Was able to organise a very late notice cheap flight and the next day it was off to Guatemala!

Was met promptly on time by their driver Tito who took us on the 45 minute drive to Antigua. It was late and Maximo closes at 6 on the weekends and we arrived much later but the staff were there waiting for me and another volunteer to arrive to show us to our homestays.

Next day was orientation at 10am (see they're even nice enough to let you sleep in on your first day :D) which was great to get my bearings for Antigua.

So I was there for 8 weeks in total doing Spanish classes and volunteering teaching English. I had a few different Spanish teachers as I was doing group classes and private combined but then changed to just private one on one classes. Their Spanish program is excellent. The workbooks, the teachers, the exercises are all fantastic. The teachers are so lovely as well and patient and even accept the excuse "el perro comi mi tarea!" The dog ate my homework for those nights where you just didn't get it done. I had very basic Spanish when I arrived, I am currently in Nicaragua where I just enrolled for an additional week of classes here. Organised the whole thing in Spanish and the woman complimented me saying how good my Spanish was for 8 weeks learning. Owe that all to Maximo, especially the Sandra.

The volunteering program had me teaching English to 2 classes in a town about 15km from Antigua called Alotenango. Maximo were fantastic at organising this. They took me there on my first day, gave me a crash course in teaching English (i'm a law/politics student, never taught in my life!) and away I went. I won't lie the first few weeks were hard but by the end, especially with about 7 of the kids it felt like real progress had been made. Basically I felt like my volunteering had actually been worthwhile to the local kids there and its something they'll keep with them. I made plenty of friends at Maximo who had nothing but good stories to say about their projects additionally. One great advantage as well was the flexibility of Maximo. If you wanted to do a tour that meant missing a day, just had to let them know 24 hours in advance and they were cool with that. They also made some great recommendations for things to do in and around Antigua. Additionally a tour company Guinness Travel run by the coolest Guatemalan dude Carlos operates out of Maximo and offers some great affordable trips.

I'll conclude with the way Maximo deals with issues. Basically I had an issue with my homestay family on week 1. Within a day Maximo had moved me and another volunteer to new families where there were no issues at all and because of moving I actually got to meet someone who I know will be a friend for life. My host family (the ones I spent 7 weeks with) were incredible. Hilda (the mum) has been hosting language students and volunteers for over 40 years so is well experienced in hosting and I was truthful to her when I told her she was the best cook in Guatemala each day (even if these compliments were scoring me extra food at meal times). I had one other issue that was compleltely brought on by myself and Maximo were extremely supportive and helped me deal with it.

To conclude I could not have asked for a better experience in Guatemala and am on my next overseas adventure planning to visit South America. If I find myself in Peru, Maximo will be the first place I'll be going to sign up to help out the local communities. Thanks again for a great life changing experience Maximo.

mkdunkle
Female
23 years old
Fort Collins, Colorado
Other

An incredible experience

Overall
10

Maximo Nivel is a fantastic institution with which to volunteer, with a wide variety of programmes to choose from. My experience in Guatemala, from the friends I made through Maximo to the time I spent volunteering with underprivileged children, was truly one of the best things I have done. I had never been to a developing country before, but my few apprehensions were dispelled very quickly with the help I received from Maximo, and by the wonderful family I was placed with, who instantly made me feel at home and welcomed me as an extra member of the family. It was also very easy, and exciting, to go traveling and to experience so many aspects of Guatemalan life, culture and history. I wish I could have stayed a little longer, but it is very satisfying to know that you have made a difference, no matter how small, to the lives and futures of whoever you will work with and for.

Heidi
Female
56 years old
Waikato New Zealand
Other

My Cusco Experience

Overall
7

A a 58 year old first time volunteer I had chosen childcare as my volunteer work and spanish lessons as my reward. I applied via GVN which partnered me with Maximo Nivel in Cusco.My day commenced 7.30am with a 10 minute Combi trip to work place : Manco Capac preschool. Initially it was difficult as we took stock of each other They did not speak english and I did not speak a lot of spanish and I needed to get used to "Cusco time" sometimes things started later than planned!! After 2 days of this I just got stuck in by getting jig saw puzzles out of shelf and putting them together, this led to children joining me while teacher did some bookwork.Then teacher gave me things to do and I became teacher-aid and helped teacher Maryline with preparing crafts, teaching children "Ringa-ringa-rosie" playing "pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey" and helping children to write letters and numbers. The children helped me with spanish words.Midday parents picked up their children I returned to SanPedro house for a lovely lunch and then walked for 20 minutes to Maximo Nivel for my 2 hour spanish lesson. My class had 3 Australian students, one American and myself..the New Zealander.Our teacher Kris was excellent although she shocked us at start when she wrote all instructions in spanish and spoke in spanish with only occasional help in english!!! After class I would stroll home via various routes and savour Cusco by day. Pop into a church, sit in a park bench and watch the people or meet a tandem partner who would help me with my spanish and I with their english. I always felt safe and, as I had been in Cusco before as a tourist, I was familiar with the area and had done most of the sight seeing in 2009. This left me time to learn spanish with the staff at San Pedro house and socialise with the teacher from Manco Capac while fellow volunteers went sightseeing.I ate all my meals at San Pedro house and rarely frequented restaurants and bars...did not feel the need as I found food to be excellent at San Pedro house which became my home for 5 weeks.Albeit things were not as I expected the overall experience was a great one as I learnt more about myself, Cusco and life in general.One just has to knuckle down accept and enjoy the experience and be aware of where and why you are going before you go and take the good
( people,places, experiences) with the not so good ( unexpected costs, unexpected changes in volunteer placements, misunderstanding how "volunteering" works.)

About The Provider

Máximo Nivel (Maximum Level)—The Intercultural Center of Latin America

Máximo Nivel is a family-owned, social enterprise founded in 2003. Our three intercultural centers are locally-based organizations focused on international education and cross-cultural experiences. Our programs include: Volunteer Abroad, International Internships, TEFL Certification, and Spanish Language Immersion in three countries — Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru.

Our programs are internationally accredited and are recognized worldwide. Our success is based on our commitment to quality and the highest level of client service. We have an excellent, professional staff and great home-base facilities to ensure your overall experience with us is nothing short of excellent!