Guatemala Medical Mission Trips
Since 2003, Refuge International’s Guatemala Medical Mission Trips have been helping people in some of the most remote areas of the country.
The places we go are hard to find on most maps, but we know this is where the need is greatest. Our mission trip teams are comprised of a diverse mix of physicians, nurses, students, educators, technicians and even those with no medical background that provide equally important administrative and assistant duties in the clinics. In Guatemala, Refuge International makes every effort to adhere to the standards of professional care practiced in the United States.
About our medical mission trips to Guatemala
The people of Guatemala are in desperate need of medical care, especially the indigenous populations in rural areas. Many causes of death and sickness in the area are preventable through the provision of basic medical care, nutrition, clean water, and education. Unfortunately, many indigenous people do not have access to these resources for a variety of reasons including accessibility, language barriers, and poor government management of healthcare systems. Since 2003 Refuge International has been bringing medical volunteers to those areas on a regular basis to provide relief to the people. Our efforts have made a lasting impact, but there is still more work to be done in this beautiful country.
Our goal is to help the people of Guatemala to have access to healthcare by establishing and staffing medical facilities in rural areas where indigenous people can come for care, education, and nutrition. We are of the mind that it is not enough for us to enter into an area briefly, then exit without establishing a long-lasting effect on healthcare in that region. What makes Refuge International different is that we work on not only treating patients but on building healthcare clinics that are long-standing and are making a long-term positive impact on the health of the Guatemalan communities of which they are in.
Refuge International has been working in Guatemala since 2003, bringing medical volunteers to the rural indigenous populations where healthcare has previously been non-existent.
Some of the services we provide (services vary among regions):
- Preventative care through healthcare education and training
- Clean water to areas that desperately need it
- Women’s reproductive healthcare
- Clinics for women, men, and children
- Surgical care
- Dental care
- School supplies for children
- Deworming medication
- Vitamins to prevent malnutrition
Much of our work is done with local partners who help us to build lasting, stable relationships that foster building a thriving local healthcare system in the areas that we serve.
When you go on a medical mission trip to Guatemala with Refuge International, you may choose from one of several locations. The people of Guatemala have a rich, diverse cultural and historical heritage, thousands of years in the making. Each rural location is somewhat unique and has it’s own rewards and challenges. Refuge focuses on providing care to rural areas with mostly indigenous populations due to the fact that it is these populations that would not otherwise have access to even the most basic healthcare otherwise.
Our years of experience in Guatemala have allowed us to create a safe, rewarding experience for our medical volunteers. We provide specific travel guidelines for each location that gives a plethora of information on the local culture, your lodging, food, and other activities and information that you will need to know to be well-prepared for your mission.
The volunteer trip fee includes:
Bus transportation (private) from the airport to your mission’s lodging (lunch provided)
In-country travel insurance
Shared rooming at your mission location
Daily transportation between the hotel and clinic site
Meals (three meals daily) at your mission destination
Language translation staff
Medical supplies and medications used during our service week (the most significant portion of the mission expenses!)
Transportation (private) from your mission location to Antigua at the end of the week
1-night hotel lodging in Antigua (breakfast included)
Your Medical Mission T-shirt
Medical Mission volunteer trips for nurses, doctors, dentists, and healthcare professionals
In Guatemala, Refuge International makes every effort to adhere to the standards of professional healthcare that are practiced in the United States. Consistent with that policy, direct involvement by volunteers in surgery and anesthesia is limited to licensed professionals and students enrolled in programs leading to licensure in a healthcare profession. The types of healthcare professionals and students that typically join us on our trips are doctors, surgeons, nurses, dentists, anesthetists, and pharmacists. There is a limited amount of students and volunteers without healthcare licenses who come on each trip in order to ensure that proper supervision is provided and that we are able to maximize the amount of medical care that is provided during each trip.
Refuge International does not require volunteers to have a religious affiliation or preference in order for you to participate in a trip.
Lodging and Transportation
When you come on a medical mission trip to Guatemala with Refuge, your transportation from the airport of arrival and to Antigua the following Friday is arranged by our staff and is included in the cost of your trip. Some locations require more strenuous travel (such as Sarstun) so please be sure to read more specifics about mission site special notes on our Mission Team Volunteer page.
All groups arrive Friday morning (after their week serving in their clinic in the beautiful colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala to enjoy a little sightseeing, and to experience the local culture as you desire. Antigua has many great sights to visit such as the Santa Catalina Arch, Hill of the Cross, and The Plaza Central Park.
Once you arrive in Antigua, your meals will be at your own expense as well as your shuttle to the airport (breakfast is included with your room at our hotel). The cost of the airport shuttle ranges $15-$40 (depending on the number of people sharing a shuttle time). Shuttle arrangements will be coordinated by your team leader.
If you wish to stay an additional night at the hotel in Antigua, there is an additional cost of $75 (non-refundable and arrangements must be made in advance). You will need money for snacks, tipping (10% to waiters, $1 a bag for luggage), meals in Antigua, your shuttle from Antigua to the airport, and travel contingencies.
current mission locations
Select a location below to learn more about what we do at each location, and to view specific travel guidelines for them.
Nov 27 – Dec 4 Sarstún (village-clinic week)
December 2 – 9 Sarstún (surgery & clinic week) (TRIP FULL)
January 14 – 21 Purulhá (clinic only)
February 18 – 25 San Raymundo
March 18 – 25 Sarstún
April 22 – 29 Purulhá (clinic only)
May 20 – 27 San Raymundo
July 29 – August 5 San Raymundo
August 19 – 26 Sarstún
September 16 – 23 Purulhá (clinic only)
October 14 – 21 San Raymundo Currently in need of the following volunteers: nurses doctors anesthesiologists
Nov 26 – Dec 3 Sarstún (village-clinic week)
December 1 – 8 Sarstún (surgery & clinic week)
What We Do
In just the few days our teams have on the ground here in Guatemala, we are able to provide a wide range of services:
- Vital surgeries
- Health exams and consultations
- Vision exams
- OB/GYN care
- Child wellness exams
- Distribution of medications
- Training for local providers
- Equipment servicing
- Water well digging and construction
- Delivery of much needed supplies (medical, technical and educational)
The most common surgical procedures performed by our teams are hernia repair, hysterectomy and gallbladder removal.
4 Facts About Healthcare in Guatemala
1. Poor Access to Basic Healthcare Needs – According to USAID approximately 35% of the population of Guatemala does not have access to basic health and nutrition services. Studies show that those who are most affected are those who are indigenous people, people with lower education levels, and people who are living in poverty.
2. Rural Areas Suffer More than Urban – The most adequate healthcare is concentrated in the biggest cities. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) report, medical care is not spread evenly throughout the country, with 71% of the country’s physicians being located in Guatemala city.
According to PAHO reports one of the major challenges in health care is “Disparities in working conditions that are based on gender, geography, and ethnicity are a major challenge. Indigenous populations (Mayan, Garı´funa, and Xincas) constitute 58% of the poor and 72% of the extremely poor. More than 75% of the indigenous population lives in poverty.”
3. Ease of Access to Care and Language Barriers are Major Issues for Indigenous People – Studies have shown that rural villagers have worse health than other populations. Specialized services are centrally located in major cities that require travel (and it’s associated financial burdens such as ferry and bus fares). In addition to the travel barrier, there are language barriers; very few people from rural populations speak Spanish – the language that is most predominantly spoken by healthcare providers.
4. Malnutrition is a Major Problem – Reports on Guatemala’s Nutrition Profile state that 47% of all Guatemalan children have stunted growth, placing the country at the fifth highest rate of stunting in the world. Indigenous and poverty-stricken people are the majority of those who are affected.