Guide hikes in the Guatemalan Highlands.
Quetzaltrekkers is a nonprofit organization that puts together hiking, trekking, and climbing excursions for tourists in the Guatemalan Highlands, the proceeds from which go towards supporting local kids and medical projects. If you commit to 3 months, you can volunteer as a hiking guide for them. It’s also possible to volunteer at their Street School and Children’s Dormitory.
Quetzaltrekkers Guatemala / Escuela de la Calle
They also have a program in Leon, Nicaragua, but the answers in this profile refer to the Quetzaltenango program. See their website for more information.
The Quetzaltrekkers’ mission is simple: make money to maintain and grow our Street School and Children’s Dormitory. We do this by guiding tourists on awesome treks throughout the Guatemalan highlands.
Our Street School and Children’s Dormitory have a mission of their own. For the former, it is to provide accessible and comprehensive education to some of the most underprivileged children in the city of Quetzaltenango and its surrounds. For the latter, it is to provide a stable and permanent home to children who either do not have a home, or come from a home in which their basic needs are not being met.
Annual number of volunteers
For the most part, our organization is financially self-sufficient. We believe that this fact makes us unique amongst other non-profits. We do, however, receive occasional donations from a range of international NGOs, companies and individuals.
The work done at Quetzaltrekkers
At Quetzaltrekkers, our core operation is running adventurous treks in the Guatemalan Highlands. In addition to this, we organize our own fundraising events; help out looking after the kids; lend our support to other organizations etc etc. The list is long…
Minimum time commitment for a volunteer
As a Quetzaltrekkers’ Guide – 3 months
As a volunteer in the Street School or Children’s Dormitory – 2 months
What is the average length of stay for a volunteer?
Many volunteers stay much longer than the minimum, the average might be in the range of 4-5 months.
As a Quetzaltrekkers guide – 18yrs+, intermediate Spanish, first-aid qualification, some outdoor experience and the 3 month commitment.
In addition to these specific requirements, volunteers should have good leadership skills and should be able to interact well with clients (because, let’s face it, no-one wants to pay to trek with an unsociable asshole). We also like motivated and creative people who can use their skills – whatever they might be- to further the interests of the organization.
As a volunteer in the Street School or Children’s Dormitory: 18yrs+, intermediate Spanish, a background in children’s education and/or social work, a desire to work with children and the 2 month commitment.
What is the most common demographic of volunteers?
The bulk of the volunteers are in their 20’s although we have had 18 year olds and 58 years olds alike join our ranks.
How much does it cost to volunteer?
Nothing. The organization does not charge a volunteer-fee or anything remotely similar. We do, however, expect volunteers to cover their own living expenses. These are usually minimal and guides can expect their meals to be subsidized through our communal tip-fund.
Does Quetzaltrekkers offer assistance in getting to the program site?
No. Volunteers make their own way to Quetzaltenango.
Not really. As a team we are here to support and help each-other and as a team we receive help and support from ‘friends of the organization’ located in Quetzaltenango.
How integral is the participation of volunteers in the success of Quetzaltrekkers’ activities?
Quetzaltrekkers’ is ALL volunteer-run. Therefore, no volunteers = no Quetzaltrekkers = no Street School or Children’s dormitory. There is no boss and no paid or permanent staff in our office which means that the team of volunteers in place determines the success or failure of the entire organization. This is a big responsibility to take on.
Volunteers in the Street School and Children’s Dormitory are also integral to the organization. These volunteers vastly improve the education and care that we offer local children. This is especially the case with children who require special attention at class and at home and who would not receive it if it weren’t for the work of volunteers.
Are there often gaps between volunteers being present? If so, how does this affect the fluid running of Quetzaltrekkers?
Yes, we definitely go through periods of drought and flood when it comes to volunteers. In the period of July to October, for example, we are often desperate for new blood and might even take you on if your Spanish is rubbish.
Low volunteer numbers usually mean that we have to cut down on the number and variety of treks that we can offer our clients. This is a shame because it means less money for the School and Dormitory. It is not unheard of for volunteers to delay their departure date so that they can help the organization out in tough times. This is testament to both the quality of the volunteers that come here and the attachment they make with the organization and the kids.
What are the volunteer accommodations like?
Provided there is room for an extra mattress, volunteer trekking guides have the option of living in the ‘Guide House’ located close to the city-centre. You might have your own room or you might have to share with a few people – it depends on how many guides there are. Either way, rent is nominal, at only 100Q/month (or about US$12)
What are some of the worst experiences you’ve had with people volunteering/trying to volunteer?
We once had a guide steal money from the organization and take-off in the middle of the night. That was supremely evil and hopefully it won’t happen again.
On a lighter note, we’ve also learnt that the most outdoorsy, most experienced mountaineers do not always make the best trekking guides.
What kind of advice would you give to those who are thinking of applying?
Quetzaltrekkers suits people who want to get fully-immersed in an organization which is having a huge impact on the lives of some of the most underprivileged children in Latin America. The difference you make to the lives of these children should be your motivation and reward.
If you are looking for an exotic holiday with a feel-good element to it, you should probably come and do one of our treks instead of volunteering.
If you have the time, would you mind giving us a sample overview of what a volunteer’s day might sound like?
Days vary enormously. Over the course of the week, volunteers can expect to do the following:
- Guide a trek for between 1-6 days (depending on what trek you learn)
- Clean/air out/prep and repair equipment
- Go on a promotions / postering run around Quetzaltenango
- Help organize a benefit party
- Participate in said benefit party
- Sign clients up for treks
- Cook a meal or two for your fellow volunteers
- Clean part of the office and do some dishes
- Play soccer and have dinner with the kids from the Dormitory
- Attend weekly meeting of guides
What other kinds of work will a volunteer be expected to do?
Volunteers have their own responsible positions such as answering emails, shopping for treks, updating the website etc etc. Also, the compost heap probably needs aerating.
How much free time do volunteers have?
Not much. There is usually time for a drink or two once all of the day’s work is finished. Said drink will likely be shared with fellow volunteers and the topic of conversation will likely be Quetzaltrekkers.
What do most volunteers do in their free time?
If you’re lucky enough to scam a weekend off and your fellow volunteers are okay with that, you might take off to the lake or coast for some R&R.
The memories from camping out to some of the world’s most active volcanoes, working day and night with a fantastic group of people and leading adventures through a foreign land are hard to forget.
- Ziggy S. (full testimonial)
What an amazing experience. I am so happy to have been a small part of Quetzaltrekkers.
- Jessica P. (full testimonial)
Go here to read all testimonials for Quetzaltrekkers.
Did you volunteer here? If so, tell us about it!
Quetzaltrekkers has been really straightforward and helpful during our communications with them. We think it sounds like a really great program, and we’ve gotten a ton of incredible testimonials!