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Great Volunteer Programs—Costa Rica | Guatemala | Peru
MAXIMO NIVEL participants MAXIMO NIVEL participants

Great Volunteer Programs—Costa Rica | Guatemala | Peru

Overall Rating

2/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    2

  • Program Administration

    6

  • Living Situation

    7

  • Community Engagement

    3

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    3

Some positives, but overall very disappointing

I am torn as I write this,
There are many positive aspects to Maximo Nivel Guatemala, it is just a shame that a few of their practices and some staff ruin it completely. It has been made clear to me that while some lovely people work for Maximo Nivel and it is a relatively well organised company, they are predominantly looking out for themselves while taking advantage of dedicated volunteers.

I have travelled to 23 different countries and volunteered locally in Australia, and internationally in India, Bali, Vietnam, Cambodia and Guatemala to name a few. I have had almost exclusively positive experiences, some of the best times of my life have been volunteering overseas.
I do understand that no where is perfect, however I have never been disappointed until my trip to Guatemala.
I have never received such disgusting treatment as I did from some of the staff at Maximo Nivel, Antigua Guatemala.

I am epileptic, and had the unfortunate, very rare incident of having a seizure in the volunteer accomodation prior to heading off to my program assisting with disabled people in an orphanage.
Maximo Nivel, to its credit arranged to have their doctor visit me, observe me and make sure I was okay.

The following day, I came into the Maximo Nivel office to apologise for any inconvenience caused by my medical condition. It was a rare occurrence that startled me as I had been cleared to travel by my doctor. Instead of receiving a gracious acceptance, I was dragged into the office of their director of International Programs and told that I was a liability and were I to go out at night again as I did the night prior to the incident, I would be exited from the program.

She made an assumption that I was a rowdy irrational person and made me out to be irresponsible, even though there was nothing to suggest that my socialising with volunteers was what made me sick. I had not got drunk that night, and even if I had, she had no right to treat me in such a disgusting manner. I had not been subjected to discrimination of such a degree since I was in my early teenage years.
This was, by a number of definitions harassment. It would not be the first time she has treated volunteers in such an awful way, as I discussed the incident with other people volunteering their time and resources through Maximo Nivel. I shudder to think of how she has treated other volunteers in the past.

I reported the incident to the country manager who could not have been kinder it. He apologised for her and said he would have a chat with the woman I am referring to, however even then, I never received so much as an apology from her. To me, though I may be assuming here, this is indicative of her not seeing the wrongful manner in which she treated me. The risk here is that she may continue to treat future volunteers in the same hostile and discriminative manner.

It is not solely this incident that has caused me to think poorly of Maximo Nivel Guatemala. I noticed that the volunteer shifts were only 3 hours long. I requested to engage in some longer shifts, perhaps take on some afternoon shifts volunteering also. I noticed the orphanage I was placed at was quite understaffed and if I was going to work there, I wanted to help to the very best of my ability. I was told that I could do that, however I would be charged a significant amount of extra money on top of what I had already paid the company.

Given that the initial set up costs had already been paid, and it would not cost the organisation anything for me to volunteer at a very needy facility a few extra hours, I thought this a pretty disgusting practice. It was doing nothing but taking advantage of dedicated volunteers.
I asked one of the ladies at the front desk where that money was going, and she lied to me, saying that 100% of it went toward their humanitarian budget.
Later, I asked the country manager where the money went. At least he was a decent enough human being to tell me that the money did go to administration staff, although I still think this an appalling practice.

In saying this, many of the staff are very friendly. They are well organised and take the safety of volunteers very seriously. Living is basic, but I felt well looked after at the volunteer house.

Maximo Nivel certainly has some good qualities, but those two incidences simply cannot be overlooked. I am torn as I write this, as some people there are incredibly kind and hard working. It is true that some really do try to help, where as others are selfish, cruel and only trying to scam volunteers.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Life-changing work with children with special needs!

I cannot say enough regarding Maximo, my homestay, my experience with the teachers and children! I enjoyed all of it. It was a life-changing experience. I learned far more than I ever expected. I am ever so grateful for all the friendly faces, smiles, and assistance in communicating.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    9

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Volunteering at the dog shelter

My daughter and I enjoyed our experience but were saddened by the lack of funding for the dog shelters. The owners of the shelter were amazing at taking care of so many dogs with so little funding. We actually brought a dog from the shelter back to the U.S. with us! Thanks Carla from Maximo Nivel for all of your help with getting Orajas back to the states for us! My daughter and I had an amazing overall experience and our host family was the best we could have asked for!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Practical medical opportunity

I was so pleased with the medical work that we were able to do in for different parts of Peru. Throughout the time, we were able to see patients, do basic diagnostics, administer shots and even prescribe drugs (with the assistance of a very knowledgeable doctor). This is something that I never would have been able to do back in the United States as merely a premed student. What a cool opportunity this was for all of us.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Maximo Nivel in Cusco

I was initially very nervous to travel to Cusco and participate in the medical project that I had signed up for through my school in Florida. But the Maximo team made our stay so comfortable. When I got sick, our campaign organizer Dominic went with me to the clinic and made sure that I was taken care of. He was always there to help us with any problems we had and I really enjoyed getting to help the people in the community as well. I am excited to keep traveling after this experience!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

A life changing, eye opening, and fully engaging experience

As a first time international traveller, I could not have chosen a safer program than with Maximo Nivel. I truly felt supported by the staff during the 6 weeks I spent in Peru, and quickly established a connection to them and my host family. I volunteered with the Special Needs program, and while there were moments that were emotionally straining, I found many opportunities to engage with the residents and grew close bonds during my time there. I also practiced my Spanish, and worked through their tutoring program with an amazing instructor. There are plenty of opportunities to explore Cusco, and the staff can give advice or information when you feel concerned or unsure.
I strongly suggest this program, and if you are like me and have never travelled abroad by yourself before, the Peru program is a great place to start. Thanks to the wonderful staff and program, I will be returning to Peru and work with Maximo Nivel again in the future. For the price, you get every pennies worth, and many stories to tell for the rest of your life.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

A life changing, eye opening, and fully engaging experience

As a first time international traveller, I could not have chosen a safer program than with Maximo Nivel. I truly felt supported by the staff during the 6 weeks I spent in Peru, and quickly established a connection to them and my host family. I volunteered with the Special Needs program, and while there were moments that were emotionally straining, I found many opportunities to engage with the residents and grew close bonds during my time there. I also practiced my Spanish, and worked through their tutoring program with an amazing instructor. There are plenty of opportunities to explore Cusco, and the staff can give advice or information when you feel concerned or unsure.
I strongly suggest this program, and if you are like me and have never travelled abroad by yourself before, the Peru program is a great place to start. Thanks to the wonderful staff and program, I will be returning to Peru and work with Maximo Nivel again in the future. For the price, you get every penny's worth, and many stories to tell for the rest of your life.

Overall Rating

7/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    5

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    4

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

San Judas orphanage

I had a great time volunteering with Maximo Nivel! Everyone was very helpful, and wanted to make sure that our experience was worthwhile. I traveled to Peru to learn child development in a cultural context as part of my graduate program in dance/movement therapy and counseling, and my time there greatly impacted my learning. I would love to see more psychology students volunteer through Maximo Nivel to enhance their learning and bring programs to the girls in orphanages.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    N/A

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    7

  • Community Engagement

    8

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Fun and supportive program

This was my third year taking college students to Antigua to attend Spanish classes through Maximo Nivel. I have really enjoyed working with the MN administrative staff and language instructors. The staff is always super supportive in helping me to plan my trip and develop a language program tailored to each students' level of language proficiency. They have also worked hard to find local accommodations that can house my group of 10-14 students. The language instructors have always been professional and knowledgeable. They make language learning fun. I will be taking another group of students to Antigua next year and I am looking forward to once again working with Maximo Nivel.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Child Care in Cusco

Initially, I had planned to join a construction project in Peru after experiencing a similar project in Argentina. After a day at construction, I felt that my skills could add more value to childcare and after voicing my concerns to the Maximo staff on the same day, they immediately understood and found me a new project which was to begin the very next day.

I spent three weeks working at Kausakusun which was a 'casa' for single mothers that have suffered from domestic abuse. The mothers receive training on a variety of skills and assistance in looking for jobs and homes. Whilst the mothers were busy in the daytime, it was my responsibility to look after 6-8 children, aged between 2 and 14 years.

The staff at Maximo really took their time to explain to me what the project would be like and gave me lots of pointers on activities I could do with the kids. They also gave me access at all times of the day to their arts and crafts cupboard which was full of resources for my disposal. Coming up with different crafts projects each day was a challenge at times but Pinterest helped and the effort was worth it as the children and I had collectively managed to really brighten up the classroom with all of our crafts.

The staff at Maximo were constantly checking in on my experience and took their time to drop by the project at least once a week as well, which I appreciated.

I studied an hour of Spanish a day and cannot begin to express how happy I was with my progression from week 1 to week 3. My confidence in speaking really soared after just 15 hours!

I also really appreciated the fact that Maximo took their time to 'match me' with other students/volunteers that were of a similar age in my homestay. This meant that I could really enjoy my downtime with like-minded individuals that have most defiantly become life-long friends.

Overall, I found Maximo to be incredibly organised and support in all of my endeavours and I'm very excited working them again on my next project in Costa Rica!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

My heart is still overflowing with joy...

I had the pleasure of volunteering for two weeks during the holidays with Maximo Nivel in Cusco, Peru. I honestly did not know what to expect and to my surprise it exceedingly surpassed my expectations! We went to different orphanages to give out Christmas gift, paint bedrooms, we played games, and engaged with the children. The children were so incredibly grateful and loving, it was truly humbling. The icing on the cake for me was the friendly and attentive staff at Maximo Nivel which was a huge relief since I was traveling alone and had never been to Peru. I always felt safe whenever traveling with Maximo Nivel and that was very important to me.
I also had the opportunity of touring Cusco, Peru on my own which was absolutely beautiful. I really felt as though I was in the movie, Eat, Pray, Love as I explored the picturesque sights. For me this trip was life changing, I made friends from all over the world that I look forward to keeping in touch with, I saw some of the most breathtaking sights and I believe I have made a difference whether it was through a hug, a kiss, a brush or a smile my heart is overflowing with joy.

Christina Rodriguez

Christmas & New Years 2015

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Empowerment in Peru

I was lucky enough to work with an empowerment group in Saylla, Peru, which is just outside of the main part of Cusco. Working with the girls in the program touched my heart immensely. I was nervous at first when I met the girls but they immediately welcomed me into their lives and I knew that when the time came, it would be heartbreaking for me to say goodbye. My program was the best part of my trip to Peru. I loved the people I worked with and the support from the Maximo office always made me feel like I could work my best. If you are feeling called to go volunteer, make a way to follow it; it is worth it.
Much Love!
XO

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    8

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Fabulous time with the kids!

A group from work and I had the opportunity to volunteer at Villa Maria, in October 2015. From the pickup, to the home we stayed in, to the orientation and addressing all the issues we had, Chelsey and the extended team went above and beyond to make sure that our time there was as smooth as possible.
Working with the kids was a bit challenging due to the language differences, but the Maximo team helped us bridge that gap and taught us that play is a universal language!

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Engagement

    9

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    9

My incredible time in Cusco!

Couldn't have asked for a better experience from this program. Not only were my accommodations comfortable (great host family and got to live with other fun volunteers), but my clinical placement was everything I wanted it to be. I got to work alongside very nice doctors and nurses in a poor clinic that clearly needed assistance. I was able to meet tons of great patients, help complete paperwork, patient examinations, and even got to give a few vaccinations (I am just a pre-med undergrad). Knowing Spanish certainly helps but isn't make or break. I would definitely recommend this program to others!

Overall Rating

7/ 10

  • Day to Day Life

    5

  • Health & Safety

    5

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Living Situation

    5

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

Maximo Nivel San Jose

I had a great time at Maximo Nivel. The program coordinators got back to me with any issue I had within 24 hours. The were patient and understanding of me. I was only here for a week so unfortunately I didn't get to experience as much as I wanted but I did appreciate that they gave you the option to engage in the culture via free salsa lessons, speaking Spanish with the locals, and cooking classes. I wish I had the opportunity to do their planned trips but unfortunately did not have the time. I volunteered in Childcare and it was the most AMAZING part of the whole experience. I felt like I got to serve others and give back to a community that really needed some extra love!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Amazing.

My experience with Maximo Nivel in the Teaching Program was nothing short of amazing. Phomolo and the whole team were always very supportive and trusting. Teaching the kids was the best experience I had and my placement was incredible. I'm definitely coming back one day!

Overall Rating

8/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    8

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    8

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    10

First time in the Amazon

This was my first time volunteering abroad and I will say it was an amazing experience! I will never forget the things I saw and did while in the Amazon.

The staff at Maximo Nivel were great! They were very professional and friendly to work with. Out volunteer guide in the jungle was Medy, and she was very nice and adventurous! The other volunteers seemed very motivated to be there and it helped me to understand just how important our work was to the jungle conservation project with ITA and InkaTerra.

I would definitely recommend the jungle conservation project to anyone who wants to get out of their comfort zone and discover something new. The Amazon is so unique and everything felt alive and full of spirit. It will definitely cleanse your soul.

Big Mahalos (Hawaiian for Thank you) to Maximo Nivel and ITA!

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    9

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    9

All-around wonderful volunteer experience

This is my first time working with Maximo Nivel, and I gotta say that I'm impressed with their administration. Our volunteer group worked directly with Medy, who is totally awesome. The other Maximo Nivel staff we worked with were also very organized and down-to-earth people.

We volunteered in the jungle conservation project at the Casa Ita/Gamitana site. It was great that we got to contribute our time and energy on the organic farm. We also had the chance to do a night walk, snake hunt, and canopy walk, which added to the "jungle" experience. The staff and other Maximo Nivel volunteers we met at the jungle were all very welcoming and great to be around. I would definitely recommend working with this organization!!

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    9

  • Health & Safety

    8

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Santiago Clinic

This experience was amazing. You truly get a chance to immerse yourself in the culture and feel like you are making a difference. The people will also make a difference in your life as well as they are so grateful to have your helping hands. In my clinic we had the opportunity to triage the incoming patients and then shadow the doctors in the examine rooms and give vaccinations. We also got to travel to another community to give vaccines which was a really rewarding experience. If you are interested in getting hands on medical experience and getting to be a part of a new culture, I would recommend this program to anyone!!!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

One Week in Guatemala was NOT Enough and I Cannot Wait to Return!

I just returned from volunteering in Santa Catarina and staying in La Antigua. This experience changed my life. I was surprised at the things the small medical clinic needed us to do for them. They had waited for three plus years for a wall to keep their clinic from flooding, we were able to build the wall for them. In addition to the wall, we were able to pour two cement floors and build two new walls with doors to give them a playground area for the children and two new treatment rooms. I spoke very little to basic Spanish before leaving for this trip, but my host family and Maxima Nivel co-workers worked with me to be able to understand the community. I was blessed to meet the doctors, nurses, and patients of the clinic. They were all so appreciative of the work we were performing for them. Even the people of Santa Catarina were stopping to see and thank us for our contribution. I was so humbled by the experience that I personally cannot wait to return and volunteer in this amazing country again. Guatemala has forever changed how I look at my volunteer experience!!!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    7

  • Community Engagement

    8

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    7

Construction Volunteer in Cusco

I had a outstanding experience with Maximo Nivel. I have traveled many places but this was my first time volunteering and I thought the experience was great. The staff is top notch and the volunteer opportunities outside of the project we were working on were special too. This is something I would recommend to anyone traveling to the Cusco area. The only thing I didn't like, is that I didn't have more time to give. Two weeks were great, but I could have easily found myself staying much longer. Much Kudos to Maximo Nivel. Thanks for an amazing time.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Living Situation

    7

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

An experience everyone should try at least once in their lives

If you have never volunteered before then dont worry because your not alone, I hadn't either until recently. There is no reason to feel nervous when you volunteer through Maximo Nivel because they guide you through every step of the way. Before I arrived in Cusco there was always a point of that I could reach out to for help if I needed it, but usually before I could ask I had an email ready and waiting with a detailed step by step guide of how to provide any information that was required.
When I arrived in Cusco I was welcomed by one of Maximo staff with a huge smile and I was shown where my new home would be for the next month and I was introduced to my host family.

Volunteering in construction in Cusco would have to be the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Working along side other volunteers it's amazing to see how much of an impact we can make by giving up just some of our time in our lives that makes a huge difference to others in need. I was fortunate enough to be able to see the completion of one project and to start another.

Also during this experience I have met the most wonderful people. Friendships that I know will last forever.

So stop procrastinating, get out there and volunteer. I guarantee you won't regret it!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    9

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Two Months in Antigua

Honestly I had the best time volunteering through Maximo Nivel and I can't imagine doing It through anywhere else. I stayed in Antigua for two months, and in those two months I taught English at a school and I worked on the coffee farms. I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences at both projects, and those projects are only two of the many they have that you can volunteer at.
I lived in volunteer housing while I was here and it was really nice. There was plenty of space, it was clean, and it gave me the opportunity to meet a ton of awesome people. It became my home away from home.
In my free time here I was also able to take Spanish classes that were offered through Maximo. The teachers were incredible and I really learned a lot. The staff at Maximo was awesome too. They were friendly, nice, and always willing to help me out. I have no complaints Maximo!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

Smart Volunteering

Many argue the issues of "voluntourism" and how many volunteer programs, such as this, may be doing more harm than good. In many cases, this may be true, but Maximo Nivel has done an amazing job in partnering with several local non-profits, run by local people, and pairing volunteers in ophanages and after-school programs that truly require their skills. I worked in a small Mayan town just outside of Antigua, a ~40 minute chicken bus ride. The organization I volunteered for, Niños con Bendición, is run by an amazing Guatemalan couple, whose dedication to giving better education and opportunities, along with amazing values, to their community's youth is unbelievably inspiring. As a volunteer, I was able to give English and Mathematic lessons daily, along with enjoying leisure activities such as coloring, playing tag, and of course futbol! It was an amazing experience and I continue to remain in touch with the organization, fundraising and donating to help it grow and help more children in the community. Can't wait to go back!

I highly recommend this program, and I hope that anyone who plans on volunteering abroad does so with appropriate responsibility, respect, and preparation!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Aspire to Inspire!

"Go into the world and do well, but more importantly, go into the world and do good" This applies to each and every volunteer that took part in the Christmas volunteer week this past December 2014, a life changing experience for all of us! We had the opportunity to spend Christmas in an orphanage with children in need and one day we did a Medical campaign in Koyllorpucyo, a very small village in the outskirts of Cuzco. We provided basic health services (diagnose, treat and educate) to populations with no access to healthcare. The project was a perfect integration of basic sciences and clinical medicine, and it also allowed for the group to see preventative and diagnostic medicine. It was exactly what we were looking for! The hands on experience was priceless. The staff was excellent, they were very attentive and helped us all time.