ABV Volunteers: Guatemala

Each day volunteering in the Centro de Salud (Health Center) was unique. Because I speak Spanish and spent the whole day volunteering, the Guatemalan staff at the Centro took a liking to me, and of course me to them, and wanted to make sure I got a variety of new experiences as they knew that I still had one more year of nursing school left and wanted to learn and do as much as I could. Whenever I arrived, I looked forward to seeing the healthcare staff already beginning the day with the Centro filled with patients waiting to be seen. I love the staff because they are all so caring for their people.

They could easily start their own private healthcare practices and earn much more money; however they are so compassionate and choose to work in public health. Once I developed a routine at the Centro, I usually began the morning completing the pre-consultations with another nurse, another volunteer, or by myself if we were short on staff. We usually had about thirty for the first half of the day. Often after finishing that job, I would be directed to whichever clinic needed some extra help. Sometimes it was to the vaccination clinic, the women’s clinic, the pharmacy, or to shadow the doctor. Through the variety of experiences, I was able to learn so much about healthcare in Guatemala and notice the differences and similarities with healthcare in the United States. The staff taught me how to do so many things so that by the end of my stay there they trusted me with running the clinics on my own.

The nurses frequently went to various health education conferences and they were thankful to have me to fill in for them. This was something that I certainly did not expect, but felt honored that they trusted me with these important roles. They were always sure to get me if something more out of the ordinary came up in another one of the clinics. For example, if the doctor was going to do a minor procedure on a patient, he made sure I was there to observe and assist as needed. Other times, I would go with several nurses into the village looking for the children who still needed to be vaccinated or trying to locate children who were scheduled for appointments because of malnutrition, but did not come in to the Centro. As I spent more time there, the staff developed some additional roles for me. Because the pregnancy rate among girls and teenagers is so high, whenever a girl between the ages of ten and sixteen came in to see the doctor, especially for reproductive issues, the doctor would have me teach the girls about issues related to reproduction and pregnancy prevention. The education regarding sexual health is lacking significantly so I was glad to be given the opportunity to discuss these issues with the young women.

At about noon, most of the staff would eat lunch and then we would begin again with a whole new list of patients for the doctor and nurses to attend to. Afternoons were usually a bit slower so after finishing the pre-consultations I, among other activities,would sometimes spend time with kids in the waiting room. The conversation often focused on asking each other about our families. I loved the honesty and innocence that the children offered. Some of my most meaningful memories happened during down time. When I would have the opportunity to talk to the Guatemalans, to get to know them on a more personal level. Sometimes it was with the kids and other patients in the waiting room, other times with the secretaries, or with the staff during lunch or as we sat forming cotton balls out of long sheets of cotton.

The health care staff are all excellent at what they do and they all work as a great team to make the Centro run smoothly, even when volunteers are not there. That being said, having a volunteer there does lessen the stress and allows for more flexibility. The staff is interested in getting to know the volunteers only if the volunteer shows real passion and investment in what they are doing. I was told that volunteers are constantly rotating in and out of the Centro, but few rarely take the time to really get to know the people they are serving and serving with. I feel that there is so much more value in the experience for the volunteer and the Guatemalans when the volunteer is committed to going deeper with the people. Once the trust was established, we had many honest and deep conversations about cultural and lifestyle differences, social issues, families, etc.–both of us benefiting and getting a broader view of the world.

Kara Mulvihill
May 22 – July 17, 2011
Volunteer Guatemala

  • Szeto Ching

    I didn’t know much about Guatemala before. Now I learned more about it from this article. I think being a volunteer is a very pleasure and honorable work since I can see the bright smile from the volunteer. It can give you an unforgettable experience.

  • laarni ortega

    As a nurse I would really love to go on missions and volunteering activities. It is really a great privilege to be able to help other people. I hope I can also go to different countries like the ones posted on this article.God bless to all!

  • Anonymous

    Nursing has been considered as most lucretive job. But is is a rewarding job for transmitting compassion and great devoted care. It is so beautiful to see their willingness and generosity.

  • Misbakhul Munir

    htis is very good program. guatemala is not rich. it need global helps

  • bashabasha

    Guatemala  I never been there  and  don’t know much in this country but I find it very interesting  to work as a volunteer.  Its seem that volunteers are having a great experience in helping those Guatemalans. I really like how the person express her feeling when she write this article.

  • Thomas Lim

    Having a graceful heart strong enough for one to do voluntary work and allowing himself to be a volunteer is an honorable thing. It takes more than just sacrifice. It takes enough understanding, the sense of dedication, and most of all, a very graceful heart to be a volunteer. Serving in Guatemala will therefore be a blessing for the Guatemalans who greatly need all the assistance and the help they can get. I think these volunteers should be rewarded accordingly for their humanitarian work.

  • Gitfiddleplayer01

    Nurses have compassion beyond what most people have, it takes a caring individual to sacrifice money and comfortable living to serve in their calling. Nurses are also very knowledgeable about patient care besides knowing medicine. A nurse is the one who takes care of the patient before and after a procedure. They are great with kids because nurses know that it scary to see the doctor but comforting to know that they are caring and loving to everybody.

  • Emdjay Macapil

    Being a volunteer is hard but its enjoyable especially when you have helped so many people in that town.Being also a Nurse, gives you compassion that any other people doesn’t have. I am also a nurse and I do volunteering from time to time. Nurses are of great help to the doctors because they give their heart in  whatever things that they do. Its really good to have a person who loves to help without expecting something in return.

  • Tao

    What a meaningful volunteer work. I only know teaching in another country, never know can be a nurse other there. It is great to know other alternative. I never heard about  Guatemala before. Now, i have one more choice for my volunteer work in my future.

  • Mac’n’Cheese

    I love being a volunteer, it’s brilliant to know that your are helping other people and making a difference in their lives. I have never known anyone to be a volunteer nurse though. However if I’m honest I do find it rather inspiring.

  • Ahmad Himmow

    This was really inspiring. Volunteering as a nurse induces so much inspiration into me that I want to do the same. I probably will sometime.

  • Alfie A

    I really don’t have enough knowledge about this country but I find Guatemala one of the perfect countries in the world to do volunteer. This article is really inspiring. I know the Guatemalans are very happy because there are people like you who love to spend their time helping other people

  • chrisair

    What a noble to do that. Exchange your good career jaust to help poor people are really great.