Volunteer Experiences

if you’re thinking about working or volunteering with GHA, read this post written by our Fundraising and Development Intern to get a feel of what working with us is like!

Working with GHA has been a lot of fun and definitely taught me a lot. Although I primarily work on grants, fundraising, and running the social media accounts, I have also gotten a chance to see the construction and education programs in action. In my time here I have learned how to clean cane for building with bajareque and gotten to attend a taller for the children of Pasajquim. I love how GHA gets up close and personal with the people they are helping. As someone with a degree in international development and experience working with other NGOs, I have seen different strategies and programs, and in my opinion GHA’s is one of the best. Every family we work with really gets to know and form a relationship with the staff members who are here in San Juan. The work environment is flexible and laid back (just like most things in Guatemala) and has provided me with an overall great experience! 



An update:   Our co-op building model has been working wonderfully well.   Groups of 3 families unite to labor together to build 3 homes and that has constituted their entire investment in the homes.   We are just finishing our 31st home, the last 11 having been bajareque.  

We have attempted to entirely get away from using cement in our builds, as it's production is onerous to the planet, but we've yet to find a good alternative for the floors.   We continue to experiment with different natural options that don't require expensive (unattainable) upkeep.

This year we are supporting 65 students, 7 of whom are in college...a fantastic achievement for them.  

All of our students have the benefit of enrichment classes from GHA, and students (native T'zutujil speakers) who struggle with Spanish are tutored.   We have seen marked improvement and success for these kids.

Our Music classes are also in full swing in Pasajquim.

We are grateful to Mexicali Blues for their support.   The Maine based retailer with a  vibrant online presence is marketing the bracelets that the women of Pasajquim are making, and donating 100% of the sale (!) to GHA.   The bracelets are the product of workshops that GHA organized for that under-served community. To check them out, click here!



Almu....a director in the truest sense.  Thank you.

We want to acknowledge the wealth or work thatAlmudena Villario Martinez has done over the last couple of years as Director of GHA. Her innovation has expended the organization's scope, her godwill and cheer in the community has won the hearts of many, and her work has benefitted so many families. We are grateful and fortunate to have had her. Now, as Almu moves on to another adventure, we are joined by Patricia Macias Lopez as Directora. Patricia has several years of nonprofit experience in Guatemala and we are excited that she has chosen to work with us.

July 2016...sustainability and community

We have tried to build for the poorest of the poor, while being sure that they have a significant investment in their homes.   Previously our families paid 25% of the cost of their homes over 5 years with no interest...it averaged about $8/month.   And that was still too burdensome a commitment for some.    Now we have begun a 'labor cooperative'.   A family is required to send a representative to work on 3 homes, and that alone becomes their equity in their home.  

Currently we are building the 2nd of the 3 homes with our first group of families and all is going wonderfully well.   Since these are truly impoverished families, GHA helps out by providing a quintal (100#) of corn for strength.   The families are excited and their dedication to the work reflects that.   


In our march towards sustainability, we continue with bajareque (wattle and daub) building, but now using cypress instead of bamboo.   The bamboo is absolutely beautiful but may leave the families with a burden of pest control.   

hard situations for these families....hard to keep your kids safe and healthy

hard situations for these families....hard to keep your kids safe and healthy

new home....happy, secure, healthier family   

new home....happy, secure, healthier family


Building this way is quite a bit more expensive for GHA.   We very much felt the need to build with as little cement as possible, as it's production is such a detriment to the environment.   But this new style costs 50% more to build, plus we are receiving no monetary contributions from the families.   But we are PROUD of both the process and the new co-op, which forges new relationships in the community.

This is an audio recording made by a spectacular GHA volunteer, Morgana.   It was created a couple houses back, as we were working on our first bamboo bajareque home


Well, its obvious that social media isn't my strong point.   BUT, in fact, GHA has done a terrific amount of work since our first, the last, blog.   

We have focused a lot of energy into Pasajquim.   As of today, we have built 4 homes there and 2 classrooms.  In the spring of 2014 we inaugurated a uke-based music program which has been an incredible success.    This was what our fundraiser looked like:  https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ukes-and-music-to-pasajquim   

Now about 400 kids have music lessons weekly....and some small groups have been asked to play at events in other communities.   I'd love for us to be able to expand this to include those children who, for economic necessity, can no longer stay in school.   And to the many, many interested adults.

We also started a beading workshop for single, unemployed mothers in this community.   20 women have been tutored to begin a co-op, now selling their wares through a couple of organizations with roots in the US.   Should you want to help support this, GHA is happy to take wholesale orders...you can contact our Director, Almudena at avillarino2036@hotmail.com.

A GHA alliance with the worthy non-profit Centro Maya now makes available unprecedented access to therapy for handicapped children in Pasajquim.   And GHA funders have stocked the town's small clinic with medical supplies and essential antibiotics.

Other work in this town included a 'Vacation School'.   Traditionally, when the school year ends in October, even the library closes.   We coordinated and funded a program so each morning kids could come do handicrafts, take music, art and science lessons and receive a much needed meal.  Daily enrollment was high


We have also moved more of our attention to San Pablo La Laguna.   To date we have laid nearly 100 floors there to alleviate much of the suffering that comes from constant contact with parasites.   I wish you could see the pride of ownership, as a dirt floored home gets a makeover.

The school year in Guatemala begins in January and this year we have been able to offer many more scholarships.   Most of the new recipients are in San Pablo and Pasajquim.   The latter doesn't have a high school, so if children want to continue their studies their costs include not only school fees and materials, but also transportation, food and lodging.   

We had a group from the US building a home for the family in SanPablo.  That was be GHA's 17th homebuild.  Through donor generosity, this family's situation will become more safe, healthy and easy.   Below  is the home being replaced, though it barely shows that the wall behind the cornstalks is caving in and the roof is a sieve.

c casa 8.jpg

Today the door and windows will be installed in our 19th and 20th homes, also built in San Pablo.   These homes replace an absolutely decrepit, tiny home a family of 8 had rented for 14 years, sleeping on the floors dirt or mud.

So here we are, still a small non-profit, stretching our resources to accomplish some important projects, always finding ways to ally ourselves with other good local orgs, and always welcoming the donations and assistance of friends.   Thank you, thank you.