CONGRATULATIONS to all the Challengers on our first six Charity Challenges of 2011, biking from Guatemala to Honduras, the inaugural Nicaragua Volcano Challenge, Brazil's Chapada Diamantina Challenge , Guatemala's first Caribbean Kayak Challenge, Perú´s Cerani Pass and Ecuador's Volcano Challenge. Nicaragua's second volcano Challenge is set for 3rd-6th November and the third Guatemala Volcano Challenge dates are set for 27th November -2nd December.

Click on the following for our most recent official project reports for Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Perú and Brazil.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tales from the 6 month Teach and Travel Latin American combo

Our names are Matt and Lalita, from the UK, and we recently finished our 6 months Central and South American combo with GVI.

Neither of us had any experience of volunteering but after attending a GVI open day we eventually decided upon the 6 month programme after discussions with staff and ex volunteers with GVI and making arrangements with our employers to take a sabbatical.

We flew out to Guatemala in mid October 2008 and 2 days later caught a shuttle to Copan Ruinas, Honduras, our first project. We were joined by Kate, from New Hampshire and Tracey from Ohio, who would be our intern.

The first week flew by in a flash, getting used to our host family (great!), learning Spanish (slowly) and exploring Copan (small). Although some kids were shy, most of the children were both curious and friendly and for a couple of days we helped out, giving advice, help, pencil sharpeners, rubbers and spare pencils where required. On the 3rd day we took a lesson which seemed like chaos, but after a couple of days there were signs of order and learning!

We both loved our 6 weeks in Copan and it would remain very special to us because it was our first project. There were great characters among the children and we really enjoyed our time with them.

Next we worked at GVI´s own school in Itzapa, in Antigua, Guatemala, run solely by volunteers. There were more volunteers and pupils to get to know here, but the welcome was just as warm.

Although there were 2 sets of children attending either morning or afternoon school, we had great fun getting to know them all and had a wonderful time celebrating Christmas and New Year in Antigua. The weekly barbeques in Antigua were great fun.

We next spent 6 days in Nicaragua building 2 stoves, one for the new GVI school and another for a local family. Working with Rufus, and being watched closely by most of the local community, this was an amazing experience and it was great to leave such a useful legacy behind.

In Otavalo, Ecuador, we both enjoyed having responsibility for our own classes, and with 8 in each, got to know them all very well. Occasionally it would be just 3 volunteers looking after the whole school which was a challenge, and one we enjoyed very much.

When we arrived in Arequipa, Peru, we were greeted by the fantastic sight of snow covered mountains in the distance. We had a week improving our Spanish and exploring the city before we started at school. Arequipa was probably our favourite city and our time at the school was very rewarding.

Lalita spent a lot of time working 1 on 1 with a young girl with special needs and it was great to hear that her mum had nothing but praise for the volunteers as her daughter had started picking out words from the newspaper and sounding out the vowels, something she had not done before.

Overall our 6 months teaching in 4 schools in 4 different countries, and building stoves in a 5th country was a very rewarding and fulfilling experience. The families we stayed with in each country were very friendly and fed us very well. Our time with GVI allowed us to teach and travel in an amazing variety of countries.

Essentially the primary need in each school was the same, and that was to help each child to develop academically, but the rewards for us were numerous. When a child hugs you, a teacher thanks you for your assistance, or a parent is so grateful that you´ve helped their child achieve something they didn´t think may have been possible, the feeling those rewards bring are immeasurable.

In each country the activities and trips provided were well organised and extremely enjoyable, such as trekking in Colca Canyon, Peru, tubing in Ecuador and kayaking on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala and our ultimate trip to Machu Picchu. Thank you everyone who made our time with GVI so enjoyable and one we will never forget.


How does GVI Phoenix make a difference?

The following film was made in Guatemala, though the message is the same across all GVI Phoenix projects