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:
◦ 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
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
• Good small flashlight
• 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.