Cultural sensitivity and openness to the local culture is paramount in ensuring that a cross-cultural experience is as fruitful and as mutually dignifying as possible. In facilitating the pre-arrival preparation, it is heavily recommended that visitors download the package of preparation materials for visiting groups.
Visitors should come ready to explore San Lucas and the culture of the area and be willing to leave behind pre-conceptions. To be humble and open to learning will ensure a meaningful stay in San Lucas Tolimán.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the cost of my stay?
Groups and individuals are asked to contribute a minimum payment of $60/day per person, which covers meals, accommodation, transportation (including to and from the airport in Guatemala City), activity fees, and to cover other program and staffing costs. The Mission depends on donations to fund all the different programs, so please consider if there are other ways you can help. A list of projects that are in need of being funded is available. Please send your donation to our Eagan office three weeks prior to your departure for San Lucas, or you can donate online at sanlucasmission.org/give.
When and where can I change money? How much money should I change?
You can bring personal checks and exchange them for Quetzales at the mission. Checks should be made out to: Misión San Lucas Tolimán (Please note Misión is spelled with one “s’). We prefer that you take out no more than $100 per day, so you may want or need additional checks. Some other options are going to your local bank with international ties and exchange some cash for quetzales prior to your trip or going to the ATMs near the park in San Lucas to withdraw quetzales using your debit card.
The amount of money you need depends on how much you want to buy and how often you plan on eating out. Most visitors will want some money to buy souvenirs. Around $100 should be enough to cover some souvenirs (bags, weavings, jewelry, coffee, etc.), and eating a few meals outside the mission, but that will vary based on what you want to buy.
What do I do if a member of my group gets sick?
Please notify the long-term volunteer coordinator or a long-term volunteer if you have any illness that lasts longer than one day or has any concerning or painful symptoms. A lot of people experience a gastrointestinal “adjustment” period during their visit. If you experience travelers’ diarrhea, we recommend NOT taking Immodium or Pepto Bismol until you have been assured that you do not have amoebas. If the gastrointestinal illness lasts longer than 24 hours or becomes more severe (intense cramping, nausea, or vomiting), please notify the long-term volunteer coordinator or the long-term volunteers. Our clinic is well equipped to diagnose and treat these issues quickly and effectively.
Is San Lucas safe?
San Lucas is a relatively safe and welcoming community, but use common sense. Acts of violence, particularly directed towards foreigners, are extremely rare. We ask that visitors walk in pairs and that you do not wander around alone, especially at night. Don’t leave your purse or backpack unattended. Please be back at your hotel by 9:00 p.m.
Where can I store my valuables? Can I get into the safe to retrieve valuables throughout the week?
We have a safe where we securely store passports. The hotels where we lodge our groups are trusted business partners, so your belongings should be safe in your locked room.
Is there a telephone and internet at the Mission?
There is a landline phone at the Mission that you can use to make international calls if necessary. There is internet access in the biblioteca where meals are provided, but we ask groups to limit use to before and after meals, saving mealtimes to converse with other visitors. There are several internet cafes in town, and some of the hotels have internet.
Can I bring donations?
There has been a substantial change with how the Mission receives donations. We want to make sure that whenever we give donations, we are responding to the needs of the people we serve and not simply getting rid of things we don’t want or need. Please contact Kristal Sawatzke before making any plans to bring donations, for the Mission has limited space for storage of items.
Can a member of my group work in the school or clinic during our stay?
Work at the clinic and school is very limited. We have been asked by the community to keep the frequency of visitors passing through to a minimal basis, so that confidentiality and quality of services can be ensured. For closer interaction or collaboration with the clinic and surrounding communities, please contact the Friends of San Lucas.
Where can I purchase souvenirs?
The Mission sells t-shirts, sweatshirts, coffee, honey, books, CDs, and DVDs in the Mission office through the volunteer coordinator. Souvenirs, like Guatemala’s famous textiles, can be found at the Women’s Center, around town, and in the market. We ask that you avoid purchasing from people selling souvenirs in front of the church or on Mission property and that you also spread your business around town. If you have any problems with local vendors, please let the volunteer coordinator know.
Can I go for a run or walk in the morning or evening?
We recommend that people avoid running and going for walks alone during their stay, especially at dawn and at dusk/night. There have been problems with dogs in the past. If you choose to exercise, please do not go alone.
Who are the long-term volunteers and is it possible for me to become a long-term volunteer?
Long-term volunteers are selected based on an application and interview process with the visitor program coordinators. For more information on the volunteer program or to apply, visit www.sanlucasmission.org.
How can I donate to the Mission, and which projects can I support?
100% of our funding comes from donations. The greatest need is to cover the costs of salaries, maintenance and operating costs for the mission projects, etc., which is vital to keeping the mission running smoothly. We also have specific needs that come up each month.
You can support the Mission and our projects by donating to the “Friends of San Lucas” by mailing a check to our office in the states, 3459 Washington Dr. Ste 207, Eagan, MN 55122 or you can donate online at www.sanlucasmission.org. See the Fundraising list attached for more specific needs.
How can I stay involved and up-to-date on the Mission’s efforts?
Toward the end of your stay your LTV point person will debrief you on how to stay involved. We encourage you to keep in touch and remain involved once your trip is over through social media and virtual events. Our hope is that your first visit won’t be your last, and that this is just the beginning of a journey of learning and solidarity with the people of San Lucas. To stay up-to-date on what’s happening in San Lucas, you can subscribe to our electronic newsletter by signing up at www.sanlucasmission.org. We also are on Facebook (Friends of San Lucas) and Instagram (Friendsofsanlucas).
I don’t know anything about Guatemala! Do you have any suggestions on what to read before I visit?
Guatemala has a rich cultural heritage, but also a violent past. The following resources about Guatemala’s recent history are some possible books you can investigate if you choose to know more:
CIA World Factbook: Guatemala– Find basic information about the geography, economy, government, etc.
BBC Timeline– A chronology of key events in Guatemalan History from 1524 to present
Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala, by Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer.
Silence on the Mountain: Stories of Terror, Betrayal, and Forgetting in Guatemala, by Daniel Wilkinson
Culture and Customs of Guatemala:(Culture and Customs of Latin America and the Caribbean) by Maureen E. Shea
I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala, by Rigoberta Menchu