The Peace Corps program in Guatemala, which began in 1963, is one of the Peace Corps' oldest. Since the program started, close to 4,000 Volunteers have served in Guatemala.
Today, Volunteers focus on aiding rural communities. They help rural Guatemalans move from bare subsistence to small-scale commercial agriculture, manage and conserve natural resources, improve health and nutrition, and increase off-farm incomes. Volunteers work in projects in agriculture, environment, health, and business development. Across all sectors, the Peace Corps program in Guatemala is integrating the principles of disaster preparation and mitigation.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Guatemala
The first Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Guatemala in 1963. Since then, more than 4,500 Volunteers have served in Guatemala, providing assistance to rural families in cooperation with governmental agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). During an average year, approximately 200 Volunteers serve in Guatemala. Currently, Peace Corps Volunteers are assigned to work on projects related to agriculture, environment, health, small business development, youth at risk, and municipal development.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Guatemala Projects evolve with the changing needs and opportunities in Guatemala. Brief descriptions of our current projects follow.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles
Main article: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles in Guatemala
Volunteer housing and site locations vary depending on your project and the type of work you will do. Peace Corps staff work with your host agency, Volunteers who currently live in the area, and municipal leaders to locate appropriate sites and determine if the living conditions meet selection criteria established by the Peace Corps. In addition, the Peace Corps consults with security staff at the U.S. embassy to review any pertinent safety concerns that might be present.
Peace Corps/Guatemala Volunteers must live with a family during their service. This helps Volunteers better integrate into their community and aligns with Guatemalan culture where it is uncommon for single people to live alone. There are often living arrangements in Volunteer sites where there is private space within a family compound-type area. This affords privacy to the Volunteer and the many benefits of meeting your community with the guidance and support of one of its members. By living with a family, you will more fully experience Guatemalan culture.
Some volunteers become very close to their host families and find that living with them is one of the most rewarding aspects of their service
The type of house you live in will depend on what is common in the area. In a city or large town, this will likely be a cement block house with either a tin or tile roof and a solid floor. Most will have electricity. Most households in Guatemala have a pila, a large cement sink for washing dishes and clothes, with a section for collecting water. In more developed areas, you will likely have plumbing, although the water may go off and on. You may have a flush toilet or use a latrine that is separate from the house.
Volunteers in more rural areas may have a house of cement, adobe (homemade brick), with a roof of tin, tile, or thatch. Some have solid floors, but in poorer areas dirt floors are more common. Electricity is present in almost all areas, even small villages, and some will use a generator for a few hours each night. However, power outages are frequent, especially in rural sites. You may come to rely on candles and lanterns in the evenings. Most will have an outside pila, but you may find yourself carrying water from a community water source or collecting rainwater to fill it. In some areas, people use a community pila or a river for their water source.
Main article: Training in Guatemala
The training center is located in Santa Lucia, Milpas Altas in the department of Sacatepequez. This is a small town settled along the road that runs between Antigua and Guatemala City. Some parts of training will be done away from the center depending on the program.
Your Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health Care and Safety in Guatemala
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative approach to disease. Peace Corps/Guatemala maintains a medical office with two full-time American nurses who take care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. A Guatemalan physician is available for consultation several hours each working day. Additional medical services, such as laboratories and specialized physicians, are also available in Guatemala City at local, American-standard hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you may be hospitalized here or transported to a facility in the United States.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues in Guatemala
In Guatemala, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyles, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context very different from our own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics considered familiar and commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed.
Outside of Guatemala’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What is advertised as “typical” cultural behavior or norms may also be a narrow and selective interpretation, such as the perception in some countries that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Guatemala are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to differences that you present. We will ask you to be supportive of one another.
- Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
- Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
- Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers with Disabilities
- Possible Issues for Married Volunteers
Frequently Asked questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in Guatemala
- How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to Guatemala?
- What is the electric current in Guatemala?
- How much money should I bring?
- When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
- Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
- Do I need an international driver’s license?
- What should I bring as gifts for Guatemala friends and my host family?
- Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
- How can my family contact me in an emergency?
- Can I call home from Guatemala?
- Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
- Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Main article: Packing List for Guatemala
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Guatemala and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. In addition, the climate in Guatemala varies greatly from cold to hot. The training center, in Santa Lucia Milpas Altas (near Antigua), is at high altitude. Therefore it can be very cold at night and in the training rooms during the morning hours. It will be extremely cold for the training group that arrives in January, and quite rainy for the other two groups that arrive later in the calendar year.
It is important to keep this in mind while packing and be sure to pack accordingly (think layers!). There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight restriction on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Guatemala.
Here are some recommended items that aren't too obvious:
- Memory Stick (a necessity - 1 GB at least. Electronics in Guatemala are expensive)
- Laptop with a DVD player if you have one already (get insurance! and buy a discrete laptop-carrying backpack)
- Rainproof Jacket (a cheap poncho really doesn't cut it. It's worth spending the $ for a Gore-Tex or similar)
- I POD or something to listen to music on
- Digital Camera
- Warm Clothes! (Hat, gloves, sweater, warm socks, hoodie AND fleece, etc)
- Good Shower Sandals (I recommend Reefs or Chacos - volunteers get a 50% discount)
- A Sleeping Bag that is good for fairly cold weather
- A big backpack as opposed to luggage! Be prepared to carry everything
- Shorts are not really appropriate for men in Guate, one pair is plenty
- Quick drying towel
- Money belt
- 'Going out' clothes. While you will be working in a rural area, you will have plenty of options to be in medium to large sized cosmopolitan cities
- A small photo album of friends and family back home
Remember while you can purchase basically anything in Guatemala
- Electronics are more expensive (between 20 - 30% more than in the States).
- Guatemala does not sell 'gringo sized' clothing (large shoes, XL shirts, etc)
- Guatemala does not sell 'technical fabrics' Bring any Gortex, smart wooll, fleece, etc fabrics from home
Peace Corps News
The following is automatic RSS feed of Peace Corps news for this country.
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PEACE CORPS JOURNALS
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Contributions to the Guatemala Country Fund will support Volunteer and community projects that will take place in Guatemala. These projects include water and sanitation, agricultural development, and youth programs.
- Volunteers who served in Guatemala
- Sites where volunteers have served in Guatemala
- Friends of Guatemala
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- List of resources for Guatemala
- Inspector General Reports