After a great time in El Salvador and playing with kids at the Remar orphanage and school, the next country on our list was Guatemala. We picked out an orphanage/school called Casa Guatemala (Check out their website). They’re located in a jungle right by Río Dulce.
We booked a tour through Backpacker’s Hostel which is supporting Casa Guatemala through parts of their profits and by organising volunteer tours to the organisation. A boat picked us and some other volunteers up in the morning. When we arrived at Casa Guatemala, we were greeted by their long-term volunteer who helped us organise the donations we brought. We sorted the clothes and school supplies to be distributed to the different houses the kids are living in. There is a girl’s and a boy’s house and they are separated into small (about 4-8 years) and older kids (9-14 years) on the ground and first floor. The toys were kept in the office and will be used as birthday presents for the kids. We also kept little give-aways which we would hand out to each of the 200 sweethearts after their lunch hour.
But before, we looked around the facilities for a little: We visited their clinic which also serves the villagers around Casa Guatemala, for free. We sneaked into their handicrafts class and watched how they made beautiful accessories and other souvenirs – whenever they sell them to tourists or volunteers, they get to keep the profits. We saw everyone sing the national anthem and speak the pledge. And we sat in a classroom for a while where a teacher was correcting the students’ work.
Then we joined a class for their physical education period and danced with the girls while the boys were playing a match of football (the real one, not soccer! For my American friends…).
Finally, it was time to hand out our little gifts. Oh, how excited the kids were! Lots of sweetly mumbled ‘Por Favor’ and ‘Gracias’, concentrated little faces and sparkling brown eyes. It was only small things like chewing gum, balloons, colored pencils, blinky rings… but for the kids it was something they would have for their own. And maybe also the knowledge that someone was thinking of them, doing them good. Appreciation for small things – something most privileged kids from the developed world no nothing about.
It felt good seeing the kids smile, seeing how happy they were with their little possessions. A rewarding experience!
Before we left, we handed our monetary donation of 121€ to the director who told us this money would be used for buying food supplies.
Casa Guatemala currently provides a caring home for about 200 kids aged 4-15. Many kids are orphans or have been abused. Some also come from families with weak economic backgrounds and could not be cared for by their families anymore. Many live at Casa Guatemala permanently while others go home to their families during school vacation.
We felt like the directors, teachers, volunteers and other staff cared for them extremely well and provided a loving home. If you ever want to volunteer in Central America, we highly recommend Casa Guatemala. If you would like to make donations, you can do so directly through their homepage (link above). If you ever plan on visiting Río Dulce, stay at Hotel Backpackers and visit them. Any donations you can fit in your backpack/suitcase will be highly appreciated. What they most urgently need are clothes, school supplies and medical supplies.