Volunteer Abroad Programs -- Costa Rica | Guatemala | Peru

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About

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:

Questions & Answers

It's easy to register for our programs! If you are ready to sign up, please fill out the registration form in https://maximonivel.com/registration/ . If you have questions about any of the programs, you can contact our Program Advisors using the form in https://maximonivel.com/contact-us/ , who will be happy to help! Maximo Nivel is one of the least expensive international program providers, and...

Reviews

95%
based on 36 reviews
  • Impact 9
  • Support 9.8
  • Fun 9.1
  • Value 9.4
  • Safety 9.4
Showing 16 - 30 of 36
Default avatar
Deena
10/10

Life Changer

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.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
SStellhorn
10/10

A Terrific Experience overall!

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.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Ruth
10/10

Great experience. Totally recommended

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.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
US
9/10

Practical Medical Experience

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.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
thebirdlady
10/10

Life Changing Experience

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.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
live.love.serve.
8/10

Working With Disabilities

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.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
PersianEngineer
8/10

salome ferro

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
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
James
10/10

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

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.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Matthew
10/10

The trip of a lifetime!!

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.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Kerry
10/10

Excellent volunteer experience!!

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.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Meverly07
10/10

I wanted to stay. Forever.

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.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
policiavolunteer
9/10

Childcare Volunteer

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.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Dave
10/10

Maximo rocks

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!

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
harrison.sims13
10/10

Best Decision I've Ever Made

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.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Jamie
9/10

medical volunteer in cusco, peru

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!

Yes, I recommend

About Maximo Nivel

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...