Frequently asked questions
If your question is not answered below, fill out the form at the bottom of the page to get in touch with us. We'll return your email as soon as we're able (usually within 3-4 business days). You can also join our group on Facebook and speak directly to other past, present and potential volunteers.
Donations and sponsorships
Are donations and sponsorships tax deductible?
Yes. Donations made through our US affiliate Friends of Guatemalan Children and our Canadian affiliate, Support Casa Guatemala Children are tax deductible.
What items can be donated in kind?
Shoes, clothing, towels, dry goods, canned goods, fruits and vegetables, medical supplies, vitamins, personal hygiene products, diesel gasoline, motor oil for transport and power, pig feed, nutrients and seeds, farm tools, PVC plumbing material for bathroom maintenance, 5HP water pump, drip irrigation pipes for the farm, mesh screening for windows
Volunteer and travel
Do I need to be able to speak Spanish to volunteer?
For volunteers at Casa Guatemala, all the posts need at least basic Spanish. However, once you are here, your Spanish will also improve as it is the main language of communication at Casa Guatemala.
What kind of volunteer work can I do?
The majority of our volunteers work directly with the children in providing day-to-day care and supervision of the children who live onsite. These volunteers are referred to as Voluntarios de las Casas and work in teams to care for the children in the boys and girls houses. It is our priority to cover these positions first. There are four groups of children and ideally we will have 3 or 4 volunteers per group. Other positions include working in the school as a librarian, gym teacher or English teacher. Teaching positions are ideally covered for the entire school year which runs from January to October. Similar positions are available for the summer school program as well. Professional teachers who are fluent in Spanish may also apply to teach along side our local Guatemalan teachers.
Doctors and nurses are always especially welcome to volunteer at Casa Guatemala, and may work at the children’s village in the clinic for whatever amount of time you can provide. If you have a specific project involving construction, and can provide the resources to undertake it, then please contact us. We have several buildings that are currently in need of maintenance, and some that are in need of reconstruction.
Our vacation volunteer program is a great opportunity for travelers unable to commit to a full three (3) month volunteer period. You'll stay in our Hotel Backpackers and travel to Casa Guatemala via boat, which leaves the hotel at 7:30 am each morning and returns at 4 pm. The program cost is $300 per week and includes accommodations, meals, and transportation.
Vacation volunteer activities include arts and crafts, reading, helping in the library, English language skills, computer classes, physical education and other opportunities.
Where will I sleep if I volunteer?
Short term volunteers stay at the Hotel Backpackers and travel to the Children’s Village via boat.
If you are a short-term volunteer, you will stay at Casa Guatemala. Otherwise you will stay at the Hotel Backpackers and travel to the orphanage via a lancha.
Casa Guatemala is situated in a swampy / jungle area that is only accessible via a 20-minute boat ride. It isn't actually that isolated, but it does mean that facilities are basic (lights out around 8pm when the generator goes off, no hot water, etc) and that wildlife can be a pain (lots of mosquitos, some snakes, large spiders and scorpions).
There is no television, no cold drinks, and when it is not raining the temperature can reach 100°F / 37°C. There is a volunteer house where 32 volunteers can sleep. The rooms have bunk beds and there is a communal area and cooking facilities.
The food at Casa Guatemala is good, but basic. The staple diet consists mostly of rice, beans, tortillas, and fruit and vegetables. It is possible to buy your own food in town and cook in the volunteers house, if you wish to.
Do I need a visa to get into Guatemala?
People from the following listed places do not need to apply for a visa: USA, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada. A 90 day tourist visa can be obtained with just your passport when crossing the border, or at the airport.
People from countries not listed above should enquire at a Guatemalan embassy or consulate. If you are staying more than 90 days, you just need to leave the country to either Mexico, Belize or Costa Rica in order to renew your visa. An official extension may also be obtained in the migration offices in the city.
Do I need a work permit?
No. As you will not be employed you will not need a work permit.
What kind of vaccinations do I need?
You should consult your physician to get the latest information, but the following vaccines are usually recommended:
Hepatitis A & B
Yellow Fever (If coming from a Yellow Fever risk area)
You may wish to consider having the following vaccinations as well:
Malaria is a possibility in Guatemala. However it is mainly the benign type of malaria here. You should take the usual malaria precautions which are: avoid being bitten, use a mosquito net and cover up at dawn and dusk, use mosquito repellant, and take appropriate anti-malarial drugs.
What kind of health insurance do I need?
You do not need any specialist health insurance. Standard travel insurance should cover your activities here. However you should read through your insurance policy before traveling.
How much money do I need?
For the time that you are working at Casa Guatemala you will probably spend very little, as your board and food are taken care of. There is a small shop by the Children’s Village where you can buy drinks, etc.
Volunteers tend to go to Fronteras and to the Hotel Backpackers one night a week to the bar and for a meal. A bottle of beer costs around Q10 and a meal around Q50.
You should probably budget for around $250 a month for the time that you are volunteering. Volunteers usually work for three weeks and then take a week descanso (a short break to travel), and so you will have to budget for this too.
Can I change money or travelers cheques in Rio Dulce?
It is not that easy to change cash US dollars and even harder to change traveller's cheques at the banks in Rio Dulce as there are limits as to how much they will change at a time. Your best bet is to take out money on your debit card. As an extra security, you can even set up a secondary account where you can transfer funds as you need it from your main account through online banking to limit the risk of your card being cloned while traveling.
There is a Western Union in Fronteras, and at least five ATMs available along the main road through Fronteras, which is the town of Rio Dulce. It is not advisable to bring traveller's cheques as businesses will not take these any more and you will only be able to change them in the bank.
You will not be able to change Canadian dollars and there are not any local banks that will change Euros so best to get US dollars if you are bringing cash. It seems a trivial point, but cash US dollars need to be quite clean and new looking. Banks and businesses won't accept dirty or marked notes and definitely not slightly damaged ones. This doesn't apply to the local currency though!
Will I have access to the Internet?
Yes. Limited, solar-powered WiFi is available at Casa Guatemala. Consistent WiFi is available at the Hotel Backpackers, and there are a couple of Internet Cafes in Fronteras, both of which have headphones and mics for Skype. Most volunteers bring a smartphone, tablet, or even a laptop when they come.
How many hours each day do I have to work?
We ask that volunteers work for 8 hours a day, for 7 days a week. Some types of work are divided into shifts. Volunteers usually work for 22 days and then take 8 days off.
Where can I find more information about Guatemala?
You can contact the Guatemalan Embassy in your country and you can check the following websites:
How is the weather?
The climate in Rio Dulce is tropical, hot and humid for most of the year. The wet season is between January and June, and during this time it rains most days, sometimes for several days continuously. The sun does still shine through at times. In the winter the weather can become a little bit colder.
Still have questions?
Fill out the simple form on the right and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.