The two months (June & July of 2018) I spent in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala volunteering with Primeros Pasos were an incredible success in terms of the work completed, the cultural immersion, the linguistic practice, and the relationships made. As a dual-degree master’s student studying education and public health, this practicum placement offered ample opportunity to fully engage in projects spanning both realms.
Through collaboration with clinic staff, myself and other volunteers I developed monitoring and evaluation protocols for the nutrition education outreach program, drafted a year-long nutrition education curriculum, designed survey tools, and made weekly community visits for “charlas” (interactive discussion/lectures) with local mothers. Last but not least, other activities included re-painting the exterior of the clinic and de-fleaing and feeding the clinic’s four-legged mascots, Frijol and Canela (pictured below).
A typical day in Xela consisted of meeting the other volunteers in the Parque Calvario around 7:50 to ride together on the “chicken bus” (colorfully decorated yellow school busses from the US) to the clinic, located on the outskirts of town. (Those of us who were morning people often opted to walk the thirty minutes from the center of town to the clinic). Once at the clinic, we all got to work on our respective projects. Collaboration was key, and we quickly learned each other’s strengths in order to maximize efficiency. Mid-morning we would trek (ie walk 2 minutes) to the tienda next door for our favorite snacks (I am fully Team Jalapeno Doritos!). After a few more hours of work, it was time to head home for a mid-afternoon lunch. Those of us who had host families headed home for homemade meals. Those of us (myself included) who did not have host families most often made our way to one of our favorite lunch spots. With the remainder of the day free, many of us chose to take one-on-one Spanish lessons at one of the many language schools in Xela. Nighttime activities (happening every night of the week) included dance lessons, karaoke, trivia, salsa clubs, and restaurants of all types.
I cannot put into words what a fantastic experience the summer of 2018 turned out to be. If you have any interest in health, education, community-led initiatives, Central America, the Spanish language, and/or making lifelong friends from around the globe, then a volunteer position at Primeros Pasos would be a perfect fit.
Adiós y un abrazo fuerte a todos,