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Sustainable Schools and Non-Profit Management | San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala

More photos from this internship can be found here.

More photos from this internship can be found here.

Contribute to an on-going community development project in rural Guatemala. This non-profit engages and empowers the local indigenous community by building a self-sufficient school and parks, using sustainable design and green building techniques.  Since 2005, this site has hosted volunteers and university interns from over 20 countries have made lasting contributions.

The school and nearby recreational/ecological park include a tree and plant nursery, organic gardens, soccer field, basketball court, playground, community kitchen, protected wooded area, nature trail, an outdoor classroom, and a campus of 17+ buildings.  The school gardens are a source of fresh food for student lunches and snacks, and also to generate additional revenue with the sales of plants and trees.

Interns contribute to the building and development of the school and to activities related to the running of this non-profit organization.

Internship Start Dates:

  •  This program is currently on hold. Please check back for future openings.

Duration of Internship:

  • 10 weeks, minimum

Founded in 2004, this non-profit is run by a small group of dedicated volunteers, interns, and staff.  Their focus is on finding creative solutions to economic and environmental justice via green building, employment, and education.  They seek to empower local communities to respond responsibly to challenges at both the local and global level. 

At this site, efforts are focused on building (and otherwise further developing) a primary school and vocational school for youth using green construction methods. Construction on the school started in 2009, and the main structures were completed in 2016.  That year, there were 118 students enrolled in grades K-8.  The director of the school and all teachers are Guatemalans from the local area.

Interns at this site participate in maintaining all existing projects and contributing to those that are in progress, as well.  All interns should expect to spend at roughly half of their time doing physical work on the site’s construction projects.  Depending on the intern’s interest and skill set, they may also be able to contribute to the development and running of the non-profit itself.

Green Construction:

The staff, interns and volunteers at this site build sustainably by choosing materials and designs based on the needs and resources of the local community. Examples of green construction methods employed at this site include:

  • Reused, rammed-earth tires to form the walls of school buildings
  • Rainwater harvesting cisterns and retaining walls
  • Reused glass bottles to form skylights
  • Composting latrines
  • Trash bottle fillers to line the roof and seams between wall tires

Examples of specific tasks include:

  • Mixing cob
  • Pounding tires
  • Cutting bottles
  • Cleaning materials
  • Getting water

New projects are constantly evolving at this site as it continues to develop and build.  Depending on interns’ prior experience and skill set, they may also be able to help design new projects. Example of past interns experience with this includes:  generating ideas for and creating compost piles/worm bins, mushroom cultivation, and setting up beehives.

Non-Profit Management:

Work will depend on the needs of the site, and on the specific area of interest and skill set of the intern.  Examples of work needed by the site to date have included:

  • Marketing and communications
  • Grant writing
  • Volunteer programming
  • Assisting with creation of strategic plans to promote the site’s projects

Academic Background

This site is open to interns from a wide variety of academic backgrounds


Relevant knowledge of green building and technology, marketing, and non-profit management are helpful but not strictly required.

Language Requirements

Basic Spanish is strongly recommended for facilitating daily life and work on most projects.  Increased Spanish skills, beyond the basic conversational skills, will allow the intern to more deeply experience and connect with the local culture, as well as broaden the possibilities of potential internship tasks available to them.  Less Spanish generally translates to more physical work.

Interns should be aware that they are responsible for navigating independently from the airport in Guatemala City to the host site location in rural Guatemala; Spanish skills will be very useful in doing so.

Note: Although the Mayan language of Kaq’chikel is the first language in many homes in Comalapa, the majority of Comalapa's population speaks Spanish.

Other Requirements

Physical fitness and ability to carry out the physically demanding duties of this site and to rely on walking as the primary mode of transportation.

Ability and willingness to live in rustic conditions, in a rural area without modern day conveniences, and to cook and clean on your own.

High level of: Maturity, personal responsibility, cultural sensitivity, professionalism, independence, demonstrated initiative, independent problem-solving skills, adaptability, and patience.

Estimated One-Time Expenses

  • IE3Global Program Fee: $3,450
  • Host Site Fees: $75
  • International Travel: $800-900
  • Visa Fees: $0*
  • Recommended Immunizations: $600**

Estimated Monthly Expenses

  • Housing: $100-200 (25-50/wk) depending on housing arrangement
  • Food: $75 ($18.75/wk)
  • Local Transportation: $25 ($6.25/wk)
  • Recreation: $75 ($18.75/wk)
  • Personal Expenses: $25 ($6.25/wk)

Budgeting Note: Estimated costs are based on typical internship-related costs and a modest standard of living. Each intern’s costs will vary based on lifestyle choices (eating out vs. cooking, taking public transportation vs. taxis) and recreational spending (travelling on days off, hobbies, etc.).

Additional Expense Information

Host Site Fees include:

  • Administrative costs
  • Onsite orientation and training
  • Purified drinking water
  • Kitchen and house essentials (propane, matches, cooking oil, etc.)
  • Clean bedding every two weeks
  • 24/7 Emergency support

* No visa required for U.S. citizens

** Fees vary based on medical history and insurance coverage

There are three housing options available:  in the volunteer house, with a local homestay family, or in a local hotel (listed here in order of cost, from lowest to highest).  All housing options are quite basic, with the hotel being the most comfortable accommodations.

Volunteer house:  There are a few volunteer houses, in which interns live in dorm rooms (i.e. shared bedrooms).  These houses are completely off-grid, and utilize green building practices such as solar panels for electricity and Wifi and composting latrines. Purified drinking water is filtered on-site form a local water source, and interns take bucket showers.  Shared kitchen facilities include gas stoves and basic supplies. 

Homestays: There are a few host families in the area that rent out a room to local volunteers and interns.  The homestays are approximately 15 minutes, walking, from the work site and school.  The standard of living is comparable to that the local community, and includes a ¾ bathroom, running water, electricity, purified drinking water, and a kitchen.  Interns have their own bedrooms. 

Local Hotel:  The hotel is very close to the center of town and about a 20 minute walk from the construction site and school.  Interns have private rooms, share communal bathrooms with electric showers, hot running water, Wifi, and electricity.  There is a kitchenette to cook and a fridge/freezer available for use.

Meals are not included in the volunteer house or the hotel options.  Interns staying with a homestay may have the option to pay extra to have meals provided.

Check out pictures from this internship.


Fall | Winter | Spring | Summer

Application Deadline

Summer: January 25
Fall: April 15
Winter: September 1
Spring: November 15

Basic Requirements

-See Qualifications and Requirements section