April 2008 Issue: Don’t Be That Guy

Xela is widely known as the volunteer capital of Guatemala and rightly so.april08 It’s home to over two hundred different organizations that employ volunteers on a wide variety of projects. What’s more, EntreMundos, the top volunteering resource in Guatemala, makes it easy for volunteers to find projects. Conveniently located in the Western highlands, rural indigenous communities with ongoing development projects are only a short chicken bus ride away. Its socially-conscious volunteering reputation in turn attracts socially-conscious people interested in volunteering.

You’d think that projects in need of volunteers would be jumping for joy. Well, they’re not. You see, with lots of volunteers come, well, lots of volunteers. Managing volunteers can be almost as challenging as managing the project itself, especially when the following types of volunteers are among them:

The Know-it-all. Seamlessly integrating the save-the-world ideology of a west coaster with the arrogance of an east coaster, this sagacious volunteer is big on words like ” sustainable” and ” collaborative,” and less familiar with such phrases as ” get off your ass and do some work.”

The Complainer. No bathrooms? Chicken buses? Hailing from such hotbeds of individualism and cultural sensitivity as Connecticut and Lawn Giland, the complainer is like, so ready to go home.

The Photographer. Fancy camera in hand, they’re easy to spot. While typically harmless, their lack of tact – ” honey, look at the lady breast feeding” – can get them into trouble.

The Hypochondriac. Quick to pack her own lunch and analyze her own stool, she’s sick (she thinks) of being in Guatemala already.

The Demander. This busy traveler has two weeks to volunteer her time and she’ll be damned if anyone gets in her way. She’s got houses to paint and a blog to fill, so either give her something to do or prepare to feel her wrath.

Now we’re not going to get all preachy about how you should volunteer for the right reasons; after all, we’re only in it for the lifetime supply (per meal) of tamalitos. We’re not even going to give any tips on how to be a better volunteer, because frankly, what do we know? All that we ask is this: don’t be that guy.

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