In this #InterviewSeries post, we interview Dani, a volunteer who joined us last year. He shares all of the details about his time and experience as an English Teacher Volunteer with One Two… Tree! in Guatemala. Let’s dive right in!
Question (One Two… Tree!): Hi Dani! Thank you for joining us for this interview.
Answer (Dani): Thanks for inviting me.
Q: Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background?
A: I am Dani Thomas and I live in Pontypridd in Wales. I have been a Computer Programmer for many years and I have an interest in music and politics. I also have a great interest in Spanish and Latin American issues. One of my ambitions was to spend some time in Central or South America possibly doing voluntary work.
Q: Wow – sounds like you achieved that ambition!
Can you give some details about when and where you volunteered with us, and for how long?
A: I started volunteering with One, Two…Tree! Guatemala in August 2021. This was the first opportunity for a while, as foreign travel was blocked by the pandemic. I stayed for three months and I was based in Santiago Atitlan.
Q: Could you tell us a bit about what your daily life was like as an English volunteer?
A: As the pandemic was still affecting things, we were not able to do as much teaching in the schools as was originally envisaged. It was limited to explaining and retrieving the homework, and the classes were split in order to keep the classroom numbers down. However, we did start a twice-a-week adult class which included a number of workers from the local coffee cooperative. This had to go online as the Covid rules changed. We also got involved with Friends of Lake Atitlan helping with their recycling efforts.
Q: Sounds like you were able to pivot successfully! Where did you stay in Santiago, Guatemala?
A: I stayed in the house of Señora Argentina. This was great as she was always very helpful and welcoming and knows everyone in Santiago, pretty much.
*Argentina is one of the hosts One Two…Tree! collaborates with. She is a retired teacher from Guatemala City and is respected and appreciated by the community for her work with local projects.
Q: Did you feel that your volunteering work had an impact on the community?
A: Yes. Despite the difficulties due to the pandemic, I believe that both the children and adults made real progress during the time I was there.
Q: Did you have an opportunity to learn any Spanish?
A: I was already fairly fluent in Spanish but it was great to get the chance to use the language daily. However, since Tzu’tujil is the main language spoken in the area, I decided to start having lessons in that language which I found very interesting and fulfilling and gave me a great insight into Mayan culture. After coming home I wrote a song about Santiago in the Tzu’tujil language which mentions a number of places and people I met there. This can be seen here.
Q: Wow – that is incredible! What a lovely song, Dani, thank you for sharing.
What is something you wish you knew before coming to Guatemala to volunteer?
A: Nothing starts on time!
Q: Ah yes, Latin America is notorious for that! What is the best memory you have from your experience?
A: It is difficult to think of one in particular. I really enjoyed preparing for the adult classes and was able to use some ancient Welsh myths and legends as part of the comprehension. Exploring the various towns and villages around the lake which all have their own characters was great. Visiting the ruins of the prehispanic Tzu’tujil capital Chuitinamit. Also just the friendship and companionship with the other volunteers.
Q: Do you have any advice for future volunteers who want to start this adventure?
A: I would say it is absolutely worth doing. Definitely go for it.
One, Two…Tree!: Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us, Dani!
Dani: My pleasure!
If you are interested in learning more about volunteering in Guatemala this year, please contact us at: email@example.com