Main Features

  • Orientation in Antigua City
  • Up to 4 weeks intensive language classes (depending on the length of your placement)
  • Homestay with a local host family
  • Projects: teaching, health, welfare, environmental, building and community development projects
  • Placements availavle from 3 to 24 weeks
Women from a Mayan community

IMAP: Mesoamerican Permaculture Institute (Instituto Mesoamericana de Permacultura)

Guatemala is a country steeped in history and traditions. Once the centre of the great Maya civilisation, it contains a wealth of archaeological treasures including the impressive pyramids dotted around the countryside. The Mayan people still make up a large proportion of the population, and are famous for their exotic clothing and traditional music and dance.

Guatemala is also a country struggling to overcome vast social problems. The majority of its inhabitants lives in poverty, and the indigenous population in particular has long suffered from political oppression.

Volunteers can contribute their time and energy to inspirational local projects in Guatemala, while gaining a real understanding of the country and its culture. The programme includes one to one Spanish lessons and accommodation with a host family.

There are many interesting projects available in the categories listed below. The projects given here are an example of the projects in each category. Our goal is to match the skills and expectations of the participants with the needs of the local projects. Our volunteer coordinator in the field will suggest a project for you once they have your application. They are well placed to match your skills and interests to the right placements.

Mayan ceremony in a local park
Mayan ceremony in a local park
Nuala McHaleCo. MayoGuatemala


On of our project is a Permaculture Institute, a non-profit organization based in the highlands ofGuatemala. It was founded in 2000 by a group of local people concerned by the serious environmental, social and cultural problems affecting the nation. They established an ecological education center to promote permaculture techniques, local biodiversity conservation, production of organic food, and a seed bank that strives to reconstruct the Mayan seed heritage. Volunteers are needed to offer a helping hand for the ongoing projects on-site and within the communities while learning and sharing experiences about permaculture. Generally, volunteers’ time is shared between daily activities geared toward maintenance and improvement of the permaculture centre, and IMAP’s ongoing projects.

On-site tasks include

  • Maintenance and improvement of gardens, nurseries and gardens
  • Construction of new infrastructure, bio-construction and construction using recycled materials (buildings, solar showers, terraces, paths)
  • Sustainable  technology projects (eg. solar ovens)
  • Documentation (inventory and labeling of plant species)
  • Seed bank support (germination tests, seed catalogue,  packing of seeds for sale, selection and preparation of seeds)

Playing after school
Playing after school
Frances LeahyDublinGuatemala


Many of the poorest people in Guatemala are unable to afford medical care, and it falls to charitable organisations to provide basic and emergency services. There are health placements in Santiago Atitlán, in the southwest of Guatemala. This project is aimed to provide medical assistance to poor people who are unable to afford medical care. Volunteers with a medical background are especially needed but non-trained volunteers can assist in a range of daily duties. Volunteers can also work with rural health posts from the Ministry of Health however intermediate to fluent Spanish is needed on all health projects. Watch our new video on nursing projects

Kailey at a health projectConservation

Guatemala is a beautiful and fertile country, with dense rainforests, dramatic volcanoes and exotic wildlife. However, the natural environment has come under threat from population growth, deforestation, industrial development, lack of environmental consciousness and education, and an absence of environmental protection laws. Volunteers can assist in conservation projects that have been set up to combat these trends.

Corazón del Bosque is a local association in Santa Lucia Utatlán, Sololá. Their work is based on three objectives:

  • To maintain a project that benefits the community by promoting equal participation among its inhabitants, sustainable management of the natural resources, along with an effort to conserve and preserve the Mayan K'iché culture

  • To promote sustainable forestry by taking care of the regional flora and fauna in order to mitigate the deforestation that had been damaging Guatemala's environment

  • To promote a culture of protection and environmental conservation

The volunteer can provide assistance for the administration of the project by providing: general advise as well as ideas for marketing (improvement of marketing materials: webpage, pamphlets, signs, etc). The volunteer can also participate in environmental activities such as maintaining the trails and helping in the tree nursery for reforestation purposes.

Spreading the word about conservation

Small Business Development

Watch our new video on microfinance projects.

27% of the Guatemalan population lives in extreme poverty, especially in rural areas. Unemployment in these areas is high, particularly for women and youth. NGOs in this sector provide micro-credits, training and business advice to small entrepreneurs to better manage their businesses. Volunteers can bring a new perspective and knowledge to the beneficiaries of these programs.

We are placing our volunteers in women's co-operatives. These are co-operatives of indigenous women formed mainly by widows from the civil war. They use the traditional back strap loom to produce typical textiles. Volunteers can assist them on marketing strategies, advertisement, design, and business administration.

Mark at a microfinance project in Guatemala
Mark at a microfinance project in Guatemala
Eil CorkGuatemala


Arrival & Orientation

You will arrive in Guatemala City where you will be met and transferred to the beautiful city of Antigua. Here you will have your orientation before being transferred to your language school in Santa Lucia Milpas Altas, close to Antigua, where you will be placed with a local family and begin the language programme and further orientation.

Orientation will involve regular meetings with the volunteer co-ordinator to prepare you for the upcoming voluntary work.

Teaching is on a one-to-one basis and there is an emphasis on spoken language.


Your accommodation will be with an approved Guatemalan host family. You will have your own room and will receive three meals a day, Monday to sunday. Living with the family is an ideal chance to practice your Spanish and to gain an insight into Guatemalan life.

Start Dates

Programmes start on the last Thursday of each month (flexible if necessary).


Upon entry to Guatemala, you will receive a three-month tourist Visa. If you wish to stay longer you can extend this for a small cost (100 Quetzales - approximately 10 Euros). The co-ordinator at the school will assist you in this. As your work is unpaid, it is not necessary to apply for a work permit.

The EIL Development Education Network

Our volunteers work and live alongside local people in local communities in some of the most deprived areas in the world. It is in response to their experiences that the EIL development education programme was set up. On their return to Ireland we ask our volunteers to be the voice for the stories of the people they worked with and to highlight their experience of poverty and inequality. Then together we campaign to make a difference by promoting global justice, human rights, fair trade, debt relief and greater equality and respect among the peoples of the world. Our goal is to see global justice and equality reach the top of the Irish agenda.

The Application Process

Applying for the Volunteer Abroad programme is a straight forward process: after receiving your application and CV we will contact you to find out more about your interests and motivation for wanting to be a volunteer. We then send your information to our colleagues in the country of your choice and they make your placement. As soon as they confirm a suitable placement for you, we will send you all the information necessary to finalise your preparations. Although some countries can accept late applications, you should send your completed application 12 weeks in advance. The earlier you apply, the more time we have to find the most suitable project for you.

What you need to do:

  • Complete the application form and send it to us together with 2 recent passport photos, €350 deposit, and recent CV.
  • Do a telephone interview (or in person if you live in Cork and/or want to call in).
  • A confirmation letter of enrolment will then be sent within 10 working days.

If you prefer we can send you the application form by post.

For more information about applying to volunteer with EIL please see How do I apply? or contact Cliona.

We guarantee no hidden costs.

We encourage you to compare our costs with other organisations and a careful comparison of what is included and what is not included is always advisable.

What Is Included

  • Pre-departure information and preparation workshop
  • Airport pick-up in Guatemala City and orientation
  • Accommodation with host family, two meals a day.
  • One-to-one Spanish lessons (2 weeks programme: 20h, 3 weeks: 30h, from 4 weeks: 40h)
  • Social activities organised by the language school
  • Placement in voluntary work project
  • Support for duration of the placement
  • Transportation and introduction to the local project
  • Debrief workshop on return to Ireland
  • Invitation to join the EIL Development Education Network

What Is Not Included

  • Cost of flights
  • Medical, liability and travel insurance (available for €10 per week)
  • Personal expenses
  • Airport drop-off at end of programme
  • Local Transportation


  • 3 weeks: €1,399
  • 4 weeks: €1,669
  • 6 weeks: €1,949
  • 8 weeks: €2,149
  • 10 weeks: €2,349
  • 12 weeks: €2,549

Please note that arrivals to Guatemala City airport after 20.00 on the day of arrival incur an extra charge of €100 to cover the cost of overnight accommodation in Guatemala City and transfers to host families/projects the next day.

Prices are subject to change.

Visit our WHY PAY? and FUNDRAISING pages.


Introduction Guatemala is a country sandwiched in between Mexico, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador in Central America. It is the centre of many things, having the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, the major producers south and the major consumers north. It has a rich cultural history of the wealthy Mayan Empire which as a culture has survived the test of time. The country is a beautiful yet sometimes dangerous collage of activities, lifestyles and culture, being pushed and moulded into shape by a hidden greed and manipulation from the first world. It has amazing...
** One of the colourful walls of LP – Painted by a worker of the project.
It’s been a month since I arrived home from Guatemala and I have spent most of my time reminiscing and wishing I was back in the little town of Jocotenango with my new family and friends. To put my experience into words seems impossible (especially in just one blog) so I hope that within two blogs (one based on my Project & the other on my lifestyle) I can explain in detail how my time there has really opened my eyes and reassured me of the path I want to continue down for the rest of my life. Obviously writing about my trip while I was there was easy, I would describe what was happening...
Hey so it's been almost a month since I arrived in Guatemala and already it seems like home - the people so friendly, the lifestyle so simple, the culture interesting and the Spanish, well it's getting there! It's amazing to think how we can easily adapt to living somewhere so far away from home. One of my proudest accomplishments being that I've mastered the art of public transport (although still find it strange that we don't pay bus fare at the door but rather a conductor comes along every now and again pointing at those who haven't paid - their memory is incredible!!) I have finished my...
I had contemplated volunteering abroad long before I dared to apply. As cliché as it sounds, it’s been one of the best decisions I´ve ever made. I studied development and global injustices issues thoroughly in college. However, I have learned so much through my interactions with people here in Guatemala. Learning the language (Spanish) and living with local families have been major factors in this. While it took me a week to get used to my new diet, seven weeks in I now love it! I will miss the variety and simplicity of food when I leave. Who knew so many things could be made from corn?...
I have been in Guatemala almost a week already and thought that because I don't start working in my projects for 2weeks that I would have nothing to write about, but I have been pleasantly surprised that already I have gone through a fair bit and learnt things about Guatemala and guati's that I didn't think would happen for a while. I am currently living in Santa Tomas with Maite and her family - her husband Eddy, daughter Evvy (9) and son Erick (5). They are no strangers to housing volunteers and currently Lorna, also from Dublin, is living here too. Lorna has been here for 2 and half months...
Do people in Guatemala really need volunteers in school to help them? The answer is yes. After some heated debate at the debreifing weekend in Dublin, Tara caught up with Ben McHenry from France, who has first hand experience being taught English, to find out why he thinks International Volunteers have a positive impact in Guatemala. I was teaching English in a school where the classes were made up of about 5 to 15 pupils. This may seem like a low number of children per class but it is actually because it is a private school. Public schools, where another volunteer friend of mine worked, had...
Just into my 6th week here in Santo Tomas Guatemala, and while it has had it's challenges it has been the most amazing and exciting few weeks of my life. My host family are absolutely brilliant and from day one I felt instantly at ease and part of their family. I am included in all family activities from going to church, visiting family, a trip to the children's school to see activities to a family day out at a theme park. My project is in an Orphanage called Casa Hogar, and it's not at all what I was expecting. I for some reason expected it to be a dark and dingy place with dorm type bed...
The EIL Reporter caught up with Ben Henry from CIT to find out about his Volunteer Experience in Guatemala I went volunteering in Guatemala for six weeks, in the summer of 2014. I knew I wanted to volunteer but I didn’t really know where to go. I had a preference for somewhere in South/Central America but I let the door open for Asia and Africa as well. After exchanging some emails with Cliona of EIL, I knew I wanted to go to Guatemala. I really wanted to stay in a host family because you get to discover more of the culture and their way of life and I was also eager to learn some Spanish, to...
Cormac from Dublin and Sinéad from Galway, who spent the summer in Guatemala as part of the Global Awareness programme , will be speaking on the Cruinneog on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta on Saturday the 13th of September between 11am-12am. The programme is aimed at Irish language speakers around the globe. It gives the opportunity for Irish people living all over the world to share their views and connect through the Irish language. Sinéad and Cormac are devoted Irish speakers, who not only share a common passion for the Irish language, but also for global and environmental issues. They spent...
Now that I have been back home in Ireland a few weeks here are a few thoughts on my four week visit to Guatemala as a volunteer. Initially I had decided as a semi-retired teacher I would like to pass on some of my trained skills and experience to any community outside Europe who might benefit from my visit. Equally important to me was to learn new experiences in a country and culture different to my own here in Ireland. I can now with confidence say that both wishes were fulfilled. Preparation EIL arranged a weekend for volunteers going to different countries to meet up, learn and discuss the...
Guatemala is a fantastic country and will welcome you with open arms. Go for it!- Gavin Radford I've just returned from my very positive and fulfilling 6 week trip to Guatemala. I had an absolutely fantastic time. Like most people that go to Guatemala, I firstly had no idea of what to expect. The reaction from most people when I told them was usually some variation of "are you mad?" as their knowledge of Guatemala consisted of kidnappings, drug smuggling and various other crimes. Of course these things do exist, but like in most countries with a bad reputation, the vast majority of people are...
Exhibition Guatemala
Photos by Nuala McHale In the sleepy little town on El Novillero high in the northern highlands of Guatemala is the environmental NGO and environmental park, Corazon del Bosque. It is here that myself, Nuala and Cormac have been learning much about encouraging familiarity and respect for nature amongst the local people, supporting the indigenous Mayan view of humans as growing on earth in communion with other life. We hoped to counteract the dominant view of seeing nature as irreconcilably separate, superfluous to or at odds with humanity in a way that was fun and accessible to children. This...


Nuala with a local woman at a market
Nuala with a local woman at a market
Nuala McHaleCo. MayoGuatemala

I wish I'd known!

"More Spanish and a few games or songs to do with kids as an ice breaker for my line of work" Eoghan, Tipperary

"That people go to bed so early. That it's easier to exchange dollars than euros. A kindle or something like that would have been much more useful than a lap top." Colm.

"That it was the rainy season. I wish I’d learned more Spanish before I went over there, it would’ve made things alot easier! I’d like to have read more about the Mayan communities before I went over so I had a greater understanding when I went over there." Julianne, Tipperary

I'm glad I brought!

"A torch - especially, my reading torch, because of the long power cuts. Books - very necessary when you are working alone in a remote district where everyone goes to bed at 21.00. A basic medical kit." Colm

"A diary/journal, a camera and a decent pair of walking/running shoes" Eoghan, Tipperary

"Mosquito repellant, good comfy shoes and Dioralyte!" Julianne, Tipperary

I didn't need...

"My mobile phone - they gave me one when I got there. A mosquito net - never had to use it" Colm

"I had too much good clothes with me. My laptop (barely used it) but depends on the person" Eoghan, Tipperary

"I know I shouldn’t say it really but those Malaria tablets! I wasn’t at risk where I was and they made my skin super sensitive to the sun. My hiking boots,absolutely no need,they weighed a tonne-good runners would have sufficed. " Julianne, Tipperary

Tips for living with a host family.....

"Just go with the flow - the diet will be basic, but the people will be really kind - it's a whole new world and everything we know is just left behind, so being flexible is important and also making a genuine effort to learn about the culture" Colm

"Be respectful of their customs and way of life, make an effort to interact with them despite language barriers and if you feel isolated and lonely despite efforts to engage with others, don't panic. It's often a normal transition. And you can always talk with someone if things aren't improving" Eoghan, Tipperary

"Be respectful to your family, you might not always like the food or get on well with them but at the end of the day you are a guest in their home and it's important to remember that." Julianne, Tipperary

Things I worried about that didn't transpire....

"Bathroom arrangements - I thought there would be no toilet or shower - I had visions of pouring buckets of water over my head, but it turned out that the family had a toilet and a shower - cold shower yes, but I got used to it quickly." Colm

"That I wouldn't pick up the language" Eoghan, Tipperary

"That I’d get kidnapped...if you stay out of Guatemala City and stick around Antigua with some common sense you’ll be fine. I took lots of trips on the bus and found Guatemalan people to be some of the warmest I’ve ever met." Julianne, Tipperary

 What I learned...

"I can learn Spanish really fast when I'm in an all Spanish environment - after years of learning Spanish and using it reasonably well without ever getting to the level of fluency I dreamed of, I found myself developing at rapid pace in this environment.  That I can teach classes of 70 students - an ambitious timetable was set up for me in the school where I worked." Colm

"I learned that I'm capable of being comfortable in just my own company and that people respond to good nature, be good to people and it'll come back your way" Eoghan, Tipperary

"I can communicate with anyone regardless of the language barrier and that I’m alot more mentally tough than I thought I was." Julianne, Tipperary

Try it!

"Don't compare - just get into the ways of the world you're in and get the most out of the experience - you'll find that you gain more than you give." Colm

"It sounds very deep and insightful but during your time abroad, try and leave everything you've come from in the past, don't worry about what's ahead and embrace the present! If you get caught up thinking too much about home or the differences between cultures opportunities will pass you by." Eoghan, Tipperary

"Go over with an open mind, it's not the same as Ireland-its not supposed to be! You’ll see things that are better,worse and different to home. Experience every opportunity you can,who knows if you’ll ever be back? And you’ll be staring at a computer screen in work for long enough..." Julianne, Tipperary