FAQ

Before you apply

Every volunteer must fill out an application for review by Hospitalito administration. Clinicians cannot work in the hospital unless they have been formally accepted and had their work dates confirmed in writing.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Guatemala now requires that all volunteers working in the country receive either a short-term work permit or a Guatemalan medical license (good for two years).
To be accepted, you will have to provide various documents for review by the Colegio Médico two months prior to arrival:
• Copies of your:
◦ Diploma*
◦ Specialty Diploma*
◦ Medical license* (should not expire before your volunteer dates)
◦ Residents must include a letter from their university supervisor.
*These documents must be notarized. The packet must also include a document identifying the notary as a public officer constituted by law.

These are special requirements for obstetricians, medical specialists and nurses:
• Minimum four-week commitment.
• Minimum intermediate Spanish.
• Minimum two-years experience in your field (except for residents)
• Unrestricted license.
• Written proof of good standing in your professional or residency program.
Medical students: Check for special requirements.

Although we appreciate volunteer specialists, the hospital is not capable of providing all types of specialty care to its patients. We encourage specialist to check the Specialties Needed list or to contact us.
Requirements are:
• A minimum of two years-experience in your field (except for residents).
• An unrestricted license.
• A letter attesting to your good standing in your residency program.
There are no time or language requirements.

Registered nurse volunteers work regular shifts alongside Guatemalan nurses under the supervision of the hospital’s head nurse. Nurse volunteers have been instrumental in providing additional expertise to their Guatemalan colleagues, whose training is very different.
Requirements are:
• A minimum four-week commitment.
• Advanced Spanish language ability.
• A minimum two years-experience in your field.

When you send in your application, tell our volunteer coordinator Febe Sosof about your special talents. If you’re accepted, we’ll try to make the most of your skills.

All medical volunteers and trainers/mentors must speak at least intermediate level Spanish. Only exceptions: OB/GYNs surgeons, and a few specialists.
Intermediate Spanish is defined as the ability to:
• Speak, read and write in the present, past (preterit and imperfect), and future tenses (ir + a + infinitive construction sufficient).
• Understand everything said by Spanish speakers, conversing at a rapid pace.
• Interview, examine and treat Spanish-speaking patients without an interpreter.

Long-term medical volunteers (six months or more) may be eligible for a housing stipend.
Volunteers spending a year or more with the Hospitalito may:
• Also qualify for an “economic hardship” deferment from their student loan provider. Check to see if your lender provides a deferment for those volunteering and receiving a stipend.
• Request that family and friends support their volunteer stint by making tax-deductible gifts via Amigos Hospitalito Atitlán

The concept of malpractice and malpractice insurance does not exist in Guatemala. However, gross/criminal negligence is not without consequences. With this exception, you can practice medicine in Guatemala in legal peace. You will not have to purchase insurance or consider third party payment issues.

The Hospitalito’s Medical Director and is responsible for all medical volunteers. We expect you to work independently and the medical director will not interfere with your work unless he has cultural or medical concerns. If so, he will share them with you with kindness and patience. His word is final on all issues related to the hospital. He is available by phone and will come into the hospital, during off hours, if needed.

If you have any issues or concerns, please speak with Jacinto Garcia. Our nurses, like those a world over, are a rich resource when challenging medical or cultural issues arise. Please consult them regularly.

Flexible, open and friendly clinicians are the best!
Hospitalito Atitlán has a very collegial work environment. Volunteers should be prepared to be addressed by their first names or by doctor/doctora + their first name regardless of their experience or status in their home countries. Being comfortable with this level of informality is essential to a good volunteer experience.
Clinicians who are licensed to dispense medicines are the most valuable to the hospital — especially those with experience in family medicine, obstetric and gynecological medicine, midwifery, emergency medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine and urgent care.
Hospitalito Atitlán provides the only 24-hour healthcare within a two-hour radius. Volunteers should be prepared to treat a wide range of conditions. Learn more

The Health Volunteers Overseas article, Highly Effective Volunteers, includes advice that is applicable to anyone volunteering abroad.
Checkout our page for recommended readings and resources

We consider volunteers an essential pillar of the Hospitalito’s sustainability. We try to make their transition to Guatemala as seamless as possible by providing orientation and assistance with housing and transportation. We are unable to provide financial support to short-term volunteers, however a small stipend may be available for long-term volunteers (six months or more).

Once you have been accepted, the medical volunteer coordinator will send information on housing. The Hospitalito has neither staff nor resources to make volunteer housing arrangements, but we do provide housing descriptions and landlord contact information to make the process easier.

You will receive an acceptance and confirmation letter from the Hospitalito. Please note that you must have this letter before coming to Guatemala. We are not able to accommodate volunteers who show up without making prior arrangements, nor are we able to allow clinicians to work in the hospital if they have not been accepted or had their work dates confirmed.
All accepted volunteers are required to read the Hospitalito Atitlán Volunteer Orientation Manual prior to their arrival in Santiago Atitlán. A digital copy will be sent to you with your acceptance letter.
After reading it, please sign your confirmation letter, scan it, and return it to us via email

You will have 90 days in Guatemala starting with the day of your arrival. If you plan on staying longer, you will need to visit the immigration office in Guatemala City, where you can pay $10 and get an extension of an additional 90 days. After your first 180 days, you must leave the country for two nights, after which you can start the process again.

After you’re accepted

You will receive an acceptance and confirmation letter from the Hospitalito. Please note that you must have this letter before coming to Guatemala. We are not able to accommodate volunteers who show up without making prior arrangements, nor are we able to allow clinicians to work in the hospital if they have not been accepted or had their work dates confirmed.
All accepted volunteers are required to read the Hospitalito Atitlán Volunteer Orientation Manual prior to their arrival in Santiago Atitlán. A digital copy will be sent to you with your acceptance letter.
After reading it, please sign your confirmation letter, scan it, and return it to us via email

You will have 90 days in Guatemala starting with the day of your arrival. If you plan on staying longer, you will need to visit the immigration office in Guatemala City, where you can pay $10 and get an extension of an additional 90 days. After your first 180 days, you must leave the country for two nights, after which you can start the process again.

The Guatemalan government must approve all medical volunteers before they can work at the Hospitalito or they must obtain a Guatemalan medical license (good for two years). We will work with you to make sure you complete the process. View the requirements.
Note: To reserve your volunteer spot and be included in the schedule, we need to receive all of your paperwork two months in advance so we can send to the Colegio Médico for review and approval. This includes:
• Copies of your:
◦ Diploma*
◦ Specialty Diploma*
◦ Medical license* (should not expire before your volunteer dates)
◦ Residents must include a letter from their university supervisor.
*These documents must be notarized. The packet must also include a document identifying the notary as a public officer constituted by law.

Hospitalito Atitlán provides the only 24-hour emergency care within a two-hour radius. Our facility also provides weekday outpatient and general consultation, including complete obstetrical services.
On occasion, we care for patients who otherwise would be in an ICU but are not willing or able to be transferred. Depending on the specialist on hand, we also provide general, simple surgeries and other specialty care. The Hospitalito also performs diagnostic tests. Those that we cannot analyze are sent to a lab in Panajachel. Learn more about what we do.

Hospitalito Atitlán is a private, nonprofit hospital and receives no money from the government. It is not aligned with any religious or political organizations.
The Hospitalito has two sources of funding — patient fees and private donations. Without both, the hospital would have to close its doors. Even if we wanted to, we could not afford to provide free care.
Our work is able to continue thanks to donations of money, equipment, medicine and volunteer labor. That is why our volunteer staff and the medicines they bring are so essential to our existence. Charging patients for care and medicine helps pay for the rent, electricity, permanent staff salaries, and essential medicines and supplies.

The Hospitalito currently charges Q25 ($3.50) for consultations and Q50 ($7.00) for emergency visits. Our patients come from a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. For many patients, these fees are affordable. For others, they are not. Those who can pay are expected to do so.

Hospitalito Atitlán has a full-time social worker available who evaluates each family’s ability to pay. The hospital discounts its services by 25 –100 percent for those in need. Patients are never refused care because of an inability to pay. If you volunteer at the Hospitalito, please discuss financial issues with the social worker, never with patients.

The Hospitalito board realizes it never be financially sustainable based on patient fees. The Board feels that those with resources to pay, should do so to help those who cannot pay. In addition, the people of Santiago Atitlán value what they pay for and free medical care and medicines would have less worth for them.

In addition to working in the hospital, you may be doing community outreach and traveling to rural areas — Cerro de Oro and Chacaya — where the need is great. You will be part of a team of doctors and nurses that speak the Maya language. The group will take lab tests, medical supplies and medicine.
You can help to fund free care for these low-income rural patients by reaching out to friends, co-workers and family members, telling them about your volunteer work, and asking them to donate towards this critical medical care.

No shots are required. However, all medical volunteers should be current on the following vaccinations:
• Hepatitis A
• Hepatitis B
• Tetanus
• Typhoid
In addition, it is recommended that volunteers have a recent TB skin test (within the past year).

Those volunteering for a long period of time should consider a prophylactic rabies vaccination

Malaria is not an issue due to Atitlán’s altitude.

Check the CDC website for more information on recommended vaccines and preventive medicines.

Check out our medical and nonmedical wish lists. Please print out copies and share with co-workers, religious congregations, civic groups and friends.

These lists are updated regularly and reflect the items we definitely need. If you are interested in bringing something not on the list, please check first with Executive Director Jacinto Garcia Chipir before doing so.

Yes. Here are some examples.

Please do not bring:

• Expired medications — Guatemalan law forbids the Hospitalito from accepting expired medications. Preferred expiration dates are one to two years after your expected arrival. At minimum, the dates should be six months after your expected arrival. Legal and social obligations prevent us from giving expired medications to our patients even if their effectiveness may still be valid.

Note: If you do bring expired medicines, the Hospitalito will be forced to pay for their destruction by a medical waste company in Guatemala City

• Used clothing — Please only bring donations of small children’s clothing in good condition.

• Medical equipment that cannot be serviced in Guatemala — If you have medical equipment you want to donate, please contact us in advance with the specific item and model number, so we can determine if it can be repaired in Guatemala. We have received some wonderful machinery that we have been unable to maintain and repair.

Note: The best approach is to check the medical equipment wish list to find out exactly what is needed.

It is best to bring layers, so you can be comfortable during the day and warm at night.

April to November is the rainy season with rain most afternoons. The high temperature reaches about 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and there are few cold and rainy days. Bring fast drying pants. Jeans don’t dry during rainy season and are difficult to hand wash. A poncho and/or umbrella are essential.

The rest of the year, the temperature gets up to around 75 degrees during the day, and it is cool at night.

Note: The Tz’tujil people in the area are very conservative, so it is important to respect local standards. Please do not bring old military-style and camouflage clothing as this type of dress can mentally trigger the tragedies that the community experienced during the civil war.

Appropriate dress is essential for those who interact with patients.

The dress code is business casual, but without a coat and tie. Doctors generally wear slacks and a shirt with a collar or a longer skirt and blouse and closed toed shoes. When seeing patients, physicians should wear white coats.

Other things you should consider bringing:
• Good walking shoes
• Daypack
• Hat
• Good small flashlight
• Sunscreen
• Swimsuit
• Towel
• Insect repellant (if you plan to travel to the lowlands)
• Motion sickness cuffs or medication
• Sleeping bag/pillow (depending on where you are staying)

Guatemala can be very inexpensive. However, there are good restaurants and tempting items to buy that can upset even the best-planned budget.

Restaurant meals run between $3 and $5 for breakfast and lunch and more for dinner. The trip across the lake to Panajachel or San Pedro costs around $5 round-trip.

If you watch your spending, prepare food at home, walk or take the Q3-5 transportation around town, you can get by on about $50 per week (excluding housing). However, you should budget more if you are bringing a family.

Many of our volunteers have brought their families. Guatemala is a great place for children, exposing them to a different culture and giving them the opportunity to learn Spanish. Long-term volunteers with children can take advantage of several bilingual English/Spanish primary and high schools in Panajachel, which is across the lake. A number of children of Hospitalito staff travel there daily.

Asociación K’aslimaal (Tz’utujiil for life or rebirth) is the Hospitalito’s founding organization and its members are the hospital’s board of directors. The organization has partnered with the community to ensure that the Hospitalito is a stable institution committed to the improved health of the people of Santiago Atitlán and its environs.

AMIGOS Hospitalito Atitlán is a US nonprofit organization that has partnered with K’aslimaal to raise funds for the hospital in North America. It is the Hospitalito’s principal international fundraising arm.

What to expect

We recommend that you stay near the airport or nearby zones 9 or 10, where there are small, simple airport hotels that cost $15 – $30 per night. The luxury hotels in Zone 10 provide shuttle service to and from the airport and have drivers at the airport exit with signs.

These links provide information about travel and hotels:

General travel information for Guatemala City
www.wikitravel.org/en/Guatemala_City

Hotels near the airport (over $50)
www.channels.nl/airports/airports_gua.html

List of hotels/hostels near the airport, many of which include airport pickup and drop-off service:

Dos Lunas Guest House (www.hoteldoslunas.com/)
21 Calle 10-92, Zona 13 – Aurora II
info@hoteldoslunas.com or hoteldoslunas@gmail.com
Tel: (502) 2261-4248 or (502) 2261-4337

Hostal Los Volcanes (www.hostellosvolcanes.com/)
16 street 8-00 Zone 13 Aurora 1
info@hostellosvolcanes.com
Tel: (502) 2261-3040, (502) 5853-7016 or (502) 2261-3584

Hostal Aurora II
20 Calle “A” 9-58, Z.13, Aurora II
hostalaurora2@hotmail.com
Tel: (502)2261-4505 or (502)5201-1493

Hotel Bed & Breakfast “Mi Casa” (www.hotelmicasa.com/)
5 Avenida “A” 13-51 Zona 9.
info@hotelmicasa.com
Tel: (502) 2339-2247

Category: What to expect

We recommend that you make your reservations via the Internet. Phoning Guatemala from abroad can be expensive.

Category: What to expect

The airport has an exchange kiosk, although the exchange rate is not good. There is a yellow 5B ATM machine downstairs, on the left.

Good hotels in Zone 10 have reliable ATM machines, as does the new Walmart in Guatemala City.

There are two reliable ATM machines in Santiago Atitlan and three banks. Traveler’s checks can be changed in the local banks. Dollars and Euros are more difficult to change.

Category: What to expect

There are various options, listed in with the quickest, most comfortable and costly first.

Private van — We can arrange a private van to pick you up at your hotel or at the airport. If you arrive on an evening flight, we recommend that you spend the night in Guatemala City, as the travel time to Santiago Atitlan is 3.5 hours. With a private van, the driver can take you shopping (cheese, wine, things you cannot find in SA) and make any stops you want along the way.

Cost: Q800 or about $107.

To schedule a private van pickup, please email volunteer coordinator Febe Sosof prior to your departure with all flight arrival information, so that your flight can be monitored. We cannot arrange airport pickups without your airline and flight information. If there are any flight delays, please email Febe with updates. The driver will be waiting for you as you exit the airport. If you cannot find one another, go to the information center and contact the driver (5346-5911) or the volunteer coordinator (4045-5776). Please carry these numbers with you on your flight.

Tourist shuttles  — Shuttles run by Atitrans can pick you up at your hotel or airport. (A reservation is required.) Travel time is five hours to Panajachel. Cost: $25

From there, you can take a boat across the lake to Santiago Atitlán. Cost: $3.50. From the docks you can take a tuk-tuk — a motorized rickshaw taxi — to the Hospitalito. Cost: $1.00

Atitrans can be contacted via email: info@atitrans.com or phone: (502) 7831-0184/5572-0288. Reservations can be made online: www.atitrans.net/.

Chicken Buses (camionetas) — For the foolish traveler, there are second classes buses that leave from CEMA almost every hour until 4:00 pm. Cost: Q35/about $5. Take the green TransMetro public transportation to CEMA which is located about ten miles from the center of the capital.

These colorful buses drive very fast, and you’ll have to share your seat with up to four other people. Your luggage will go on top of the bus. You are seldom allowed to keep it with you. Ayudantes (helpers) will want to help you find your bus. Make sure that you clearly state that you want to go to Santiago Atitlán. The buses have an Atitlán sign in the front window. If not, an ayudante will offer a partial trip, and you’ll have to get off along the route and wait for the Atitlán bus.

We do not recommend the public buses unless you have experience traveling in developing countries. The bus terminals and buses have skilled pickpockets and diversion artists, who find disoriented travelers an easy target.

Category: What to expect

Once our volunteer coordinator has accepted you as a volunteer, you will receive a document listing the housing options in Santiago Atitlán, which includes descriptions and prices.

You can also go online to check out and make reservations at the better local hotels:

Posada de Santiago: www.posadadesantiago.com

Bambu Hotel: www.ecobambu.com

Hotel Tiosh Abaj: www.tioshabaj.com

Category: What to expect

Homestays are only successful with families that have experience opening their homes to visitors. Problems can include food preparation and a healthy environment. We recommend homestays for those who plan on staying a month or more. For about $10/day (Q75), you will get a private room, meals, and laundry service. Home stays are listed in the housing list.

Category: What to expect

The Hospitalito is located just outside of Santiago Atitlán in Canton Ch’utch’aj — about a 20-minute walk from downtown.

Category: What to expect

There is currently no functional postal system. You can send packages through Fed-Ex or DHL if necessary, but you will be asked to pay taxes on the contents.

Category: What to expect

There are several Internet cafes in town that charge $1/hour. Several coffee shops have Wi-Fi available with purchase of food or a beverage. Wireless Internet is available at the Hospitalito, free of charge.

Cell phones are sold in town for $20 or Q150. Local calls cost Q1 per minute; calls to the US are Q2 (25 cents) per minute.

US cell phones generally do not work in Guatemala. Check with your provider to see if you can purchase a special SIM card that will allow you to make calls within Guatemala, as well as international calls. There is a kiosk in the airport that offers SIM cards (next to the exchange kiosk).

Another inexpensive way to call other countries is through Skype or other Internet-based phone services.

Category: What to expect

The following are some tips for staying healthy while in Guatemala:

• Use purified water for drinking and when brushing your teeth. 
• Soak fruits and vegetables in water with a few drops of chlorine, iodine or other disinfectants. 
• Eat street food at your own risk! 

Category: What to expect

If you rent a house, the house staff will find a woman to come do your laundry, weekly or more frequently, if needed. This will cost about Q20 or $3/load. Be advised that hand washing can be hard on delicate fabrics, so you might want to give special instructions. Or, bring more durable cotton fabrics.

If you do a home stay, your laundry may be included in the cost. However, if your clothing is heavy or difficult to wash, you may be charged extra.

Dolores (5384-7441) has a laundry service. She will pick up and return your laundry.

Category: What to expect

Santiago Atitlán has a thriving indoors market that is open daily but better to shop in the morning. Fresh produce from around Guatemala is available at cheap prices. There are a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans and meats. In addition, there are a number of small “convenience” stores that sell packaged foodstuffs. The town also has a number of restaurants.

If there is any food that you must have during your time in Santiago Atitlán, it is best to pick it up in Guatemala City prior to arriving.

Category: What to expect

There are a number of Spanish teachers, with varying levels of experience. Classes range from conversation to formal.

We particularly recommend Rosa Archila. This is the longest standing Spanish school in town, run by Rosa and her daughters, who have many years of experience. They charge by the hour, and you can arrange one-on-one lessons in your home or hotel.

Phone: (502) 5414-0307 

Category: What to expect

• Semana Santa — the week before Easter Sunday. 
• Fiesta of Santiago, celebrating the patron saint of Santiago Atitlán — July 25th.
• Guatemalan Independence Day —September 15th.
• Todos Santos (All Souls Day) — November 1st and 2nd.
• Christmas holidays — Begin in mid-December and last until January 6th (Three Kings Day).

Category: What to expect

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