Peten Volunteer Guidelines

It has been ARCAS’s experience - both in its volunteer program at the Rescue Center in Petén and its Sea Turtle Conservation Program in Hawaii - that the best way to avoid misunderstandings and ensure that the volunteer experience is rewarding for both parties is to adhere to several general guidelines.

Guatemalan Food
The volunteer fee includes food and lodging, but please keep in mind that the soils of Peten are poor, and most food needs to be imported. Therefore, food costs are high and the cook has to work miracles with a very limited selection. Meals at the Rescue Center are delicious and healthy, making full use of the Guatemalan staples of hand-made corn tortillas, black beans and eggs, as well as vegetables, meats and fruits. Many of the volunteers we receive are vegetarians so we are used to meeting their needs. Bottled water is available for drinking.
What you can do on your off time
The ARCAS boat makes two standard trips into Flores per week for volunteers that want to get some basic groceries or toiletries and use the readily available internet cafes. There are multiple activities to do around the Rescue Centre on the other afternoons. You can visit the Petencito Zoo, swim in the lake, or visit the local town of El Arrozal which offers a small store and a rope swing. In San Miguel you can visit the Museum of Mayan History, the Mayan city of Tayazal and the Chechenal beach.

Take your own exploratory trip into Flores and it’s surroundings. As a general rule that we enforce strictly, there is zero tolerance for drugs and liquor in the Rescue Center, so take your opportunity for a one off drink when you are offsite, and remember that the forest is not a safe place for drunken disorder.
About personal hygiene
Depending on how full we get, you will be sharing your dorm room with up to three other volunteers. It is very important that you keep your part of the dorm room clean. Everyone must use the same facilities and work and live together closely, so please try to keep yourself and your clothes as clean as possible. If you find washing your clothes at the “pila” too bothersome, there is laundry service available.

PLEASE don’t bring food into your rooms as it attracts rats, ants and other critters which then destroy mattresses, screening and furniture, and in general, make things unpleasant for all concerned.

Don’t waste water! Please try not to waste water as it is a scarce commodity and part of the ARCAS experience is learning to live sustainably within limits.
Critters and itchy plants
There is mosquito netting on the walls, but many volunteers bring individual nets for added protection. Apart from those sunny afternoons on the swimming docks, we recommend long-sleeved, light cotton clothing and sneakers, light hiking boots or rubber boots. Keep an eye out for snakes while you are walking on the trails, and try not to stop for a rest on top of an ant nest. Shake your clothes out before putting them on in case of scorpions. Be careful of the Chechen negro tree which can produce a very painful rash much like poison ivy or poison oak. Check with Rescue Center staff about these precautions.
Comedor
ARCAS Peten Volunteers are expected to wash their own dishes at the dining hall. If you have spare time, you might ask the cook if she needs any help. Learn how to make hand-made Guatemalan tortillas!
Equipment
Make sure you put the tools and equipment you used back in their proper place after each use. It is a hassle (PITB) to constantly have to look for tools strewn throughout the compound.

Volunteer work is a two way street: the project and the wild animals it supports benefits from the assistance of the volunteer, while the volunteer gains valuable knowledge and technical skills. At the Rescue Center, you will have an opportunity to see first-hand the difficulties of conserving endangered species in a developing country and this will help you understand the immensity of the work still to be done. The center may encourage your imagination and creativity in coming up with ideas for better caring for the animals.
Learning by working with Guatemalans (and practice your Spanish too!)
You will also spend time working with Guatemalans. Not only will there be an exchange of ideas and culture but also an understanding of how to better communicate with another culture that is in the process of defining what conservation means for them.

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