Photo: Lucy.Brown/Shutterstock

A Safe Passage: Volunteering in Guatemala

Guatemala Activism
by Regina WB Sep 29, 2008
How Safe Passage is changing the lives and empowering the children of Guatemala with opportunities for education . . . and how you can help.
Organization Overview

Let’s be blunt: There are many families living in the garbage dump in Guatemala City, eating and selling people’s trash. It’s not surprising, then, that these children do not go to school.

Enter Safe Passage, whose motto is: “to create opportunities and foster dignity through the power of education.” Since 1999 Safe Passage has been working with poor, at-risk children of families working in the Guatemala City garbage dump.

The organization believes the key to overcoming poverty is education and health, and currently has 550 children enrolled in school. With help from a staff of teachers, directors and volunteers, Safe Passage is changing the lives of children born into very harsh circumstances.

Opportunity Overview

Volunteers are needed to work directly with children in Guatemala City at the Safe Passage school and in Antigua in the organization’s offices. Starting in January 2009, Safe Passage will be recruiting a Volunteer Coordinator Assistant and a Classroom Teaching Assistant. They are also looking to fill a number of other volunteer positions immediately, such as English teachers, infant care givers, and curriculum developers.

Most volunteer positions are from a month to a year long. People who want to volunteer but don’t have much time should not hesitate to contact Safe Passage.

If a trip to Guatemala is not in the cards, then sponsoring a student may be the way to go. For $50.00 a month sponsors can help a student buy shoes, a uniform for school and other basics.

Sponsoring a child is an effective way to contribute at Safe Passage. Most people who sponsor a student do so for many years, thought the minimum commitment is one year.

Ideal Volunteer Profile

Age and gender is not important for Safe Passage Volunteers. Some Spanish is a must because the kids don’t speak English and neither do many of the teachers. Depending on the volunteer position, different skills may be required.

People who want to volunteer but have basic Spanish and limited experience should not hesitate to contact Safe Passage; everyone can help!

Bonus Points for Safe Passage

Working at Safe Passage is a chance to volunteer with an inspirational team of people while helping Guatemalan children. Some perks to volunteering in Guatemala include the fantastic weather, the fascinating Maya culture and the opportunity to travel on the weekends to exotic places like Chichi, Rio Dulce, and Tikal.

Some long-term volunteers receive a housing stipend, but this is unusual and most volunteers should be prepared to finance their own experience.


All the how-to’s are on the web at: It’s also possible to sign up for the Safe Passage newsletter on line to receive monthly updates.

An inspirational story

I met Hanley Denning a few times when I lived in Antigua, Guatemala. She was a positive, friendly woman who never stopped working for her cause. I’d often see her out jogging near my house and we’d wave at one another.

Hanley was the founder of Safe Passage and a real inspiration for many volunteers and children, and it was because of her vision that Safe Passage thrived. She was killed in 2007 in a car accident in Guatemala City while traveling from one project site to another.

The Hanley Denning Fund was set up in her memory and has raised more than $3,000,000 in memorial gifts for Safe Passage. She is missed but her dream lives on.

community connection

Interested in learning more about Guatemala? Check out matador’s Guatemala page for a comprehensive listing of organizations, travelers, local experts, blogs, and more.

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