What to Expect


About Petén
  • The house is located in a gated suburban San Benito community where other physicians reside. A cement wall with barbed wire surrounds the house. It is very peaceful except for the morning roosters.
  • All food and bottled water is purchased at Maxi Bodega (Walmart Central America).
  • While Flores is safe both day and night most individuals are at home by 9:30 pm.
  • A very trustworthy chauffeur who has worked with us for over seven years is available for local transportation. All trips outside of Flores are as safe as in any developing country.
Accommodations - The Mission House

The Mission HouseThe Mission House is similar to a two story home in the United States. It consists of a large kitchen, dining area, living room with television, two covered porches, three bedrooms and three bathrooms two of which have large showers. Students volunteers are accommodated in the Mission House. Adjoining the Mission House are two one bedroom apartments – each of which has a small kitchen. The apartments are available for faculty and staff accommodations. Additional features include a washer and dryer, a basketball court and a garden that surround the Mission House.


Meals are prepared Monday – Saturday by our in-house cook. The kitchen and the refrigerator are stocked and available for use at any time. Meals in the communities are safely prepared in the communities by families that have prepared our meals for the past ten years.  All food prepared in the communities is brought to the communities by our staff.


Personal laundry is done by our staff housekeeper two days per week.

Wireless Internet

Wifi is available in the house for personal use. Volunteers are encouraged to bring their own laptop computer. One laptop computer is available for recording patient data. Internet is satellite based and can be slow or non-functional in thunderstorms. Multi-channel cable television is available.

Telephone & Service

The Mission House has a designated radio phone that has good reception. The number that friends and family can use to contact you is: 011-502-7823-1640. Cell phones with minutes attached can be purchased locally for $20. The price includes approximately 100 free minutes. Use of a U.S. based cell phone is expensive – however a SIM card can be installed with a Guatemalan number.

Free Time

Most Saturdays and Sundays are available for nearby day trips. Most evenings are spent preparing for the next day of medical consults, logging patient data into the computer and working on a creative project.

Spanish Proficiency

A minimum of two years of high school Spanish is required. The first week of the elective all student volunteers will be enrolled at a highly-regarded language school in Antigua during which the student volunteers will be housed with a local family. These individual classes are four to six hours long and are based on one’s proficiency of Spanish. In most clinics and at the National Hospital there are English speaking physicians and health care promoters.

For patient encounters Spanish proficient students are paired with less proficient students if necessary. In the indigenous communities our nurses provide Spanish translation for Q’eqchi patients.


While jornada means “journey”, within the context of the Guatemalan medical system it means journeying to a remote location to provide medical consultation and treatment.  As the major provider of mobile medical care for the Petén USIHA/AAIS provides jornadas on a daily basis, as well as, two overnight jornadas per month. An overnight jornada consists of packing adequate medical equipment and supplies for up to four communities in addition to all necessary supplies for sleeping and eating in the communities. Meals in the communities are typical for the community – beans, tortillas, eggs and coffee.  Accommodations in the communities is dormitory style with provided foam padding and mosquito nets.

Clinical Encounters

Medical problems you will encounter and treat: parasites, worms, gastritis, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, ptyerigium, dry eyes, blepharitis, asthma, allergy, headaches and total body aches.

Problems you may encounter: malnutrition, cataracts, leprosy, syphilis, gonorrhea, retained placenta, ectopic pregnancy, fractures, dengue, vivax malaria, spina bifida, skull fracture, seizure disorder and depression. Interested students may have the opportunity to spend time at the National Hospital in the Emergency Room or the Operating Room.

A Typical Clinical Day
    • 6:30 am
    • Breakfast
    • 7:00 am
    • Load medications and supplies and leave for communities
    • 8:30 am
    • Arrive at community, set up and begin patient encounters
    • 12:30 pm
    • Break for lunch
    • 4:00 pm
    • Finalize jornada and travel to Mission House
    • 6:30 pm
    • Dinner with sharing of clinical experience
    • 8:00 pm
    • Movie on Guatemala, cultural talk by community educators, patient data entry.

Applications forms are available on this website.  To assist with the application process, please contact the Registrar or the Department of Global Health at your University for specific requirements.

What to Pack

Please pack lightly. Clothes are washed two times per week at the Mission House. The majority of the time in the communities you will be wearing scrubs and a T-shirt from the organization. In Antigua you will be wearing shirts/blouses with slacks/skirt and either tennis shoes or sandals. A light fleece jacket is recommended for Antigua.

The bottom line in dressing is to look neat, well groomed and professional. You will quickly find that Central Americans dress as a sign of respect for others. Therefore dress appropriately –with shirt/blouse and slacks/skirt and tennis shoes/sandals in the central areas and in scrubs for the communities.


4 pairs of scrubs
1 pair of comfortable shoes – tennis shoes
1 pair of sandals (Tevas or similar)
5 pairs of underwear and socks
1 light jacket or fleece
1 set of pajamas that can be used when walking to an outside shower
2 sets of professional clothing for special occasions –see below under blouses/shirts and slacks
1 swimsuit
Shorts or revealing clothing are not culturally acceptable in either the central areas of the communities.

3 short-sleeved collared shirts
2 pairs of slacks

3 short-sleeved blouses that may be worn in a variety of combinations with slacks, skirts or sundresses
2 pairs of slacks/skirts
Biodegradable Tampax or pads stored in Ziploc bags – these can also now be easily found in any central area

Toiletries / Miscellaneous

Toothbrush and toothpaste
Baby wipes
Anti-bacterial hand gel
Sunscreen and after sun lotion
Any medications regularly used
Mosquito repellent [Cutters, Deet, Avon Skin-So- Soft, etc.] Journal
Stethoscope, Otoscope, Ophthalmoscope – re-chargeable

Please pack lightly. Given the above recommendations one carry on and one backpack containing an extra set of clothes and your laptop will be sufficient. Bring adequate zip lock bags for your toiletries as TSA requirements vary. Many toiletries are available either in Antigua or in San Benito.

All cash should be NEW $20 bills without marks or tears. There is no need to buy travelers checks. ATMS are readily available.


Here are some tips from our past program participants on travel, what to bring and more!

Clothing Tip

Good traction shoes or sandals work best if you are coming during the rainy season- May to September.

What to Bring

Pack cotton clothes or polypropylene clothing (REI) designed for tropical weather. Polypro is best for quick drying in humid climates.

Travel Tip

For plane travel include chapstick, earplugs, and eye mask.

What to Bring

Bring several books for light reading and leave them for others.

Travel Tip

Carry of letter of donation if you are bringing medical supplies or unexpired pharmaceuticals into the country.

What to Bring

Bring multiple small bottles of hand sanitizer and tissues.

Stay Connected

Let those at home know that you have arrived safely by phone or email.

Experience Tip

Start taking photos as soon as you arrive. Always ask permission when photographing children.

Travel Tip

In your carry on luggage include a change of clothes and any essential personal items.

Clothing Tip

Bring your own stethoscope, otoscope and a durable flashlight.

What to Bring

Consider rechargeable batteries with charger.

Travel Tip

Swiss Army Knife with bottle opener and scissors should be packed in checked baggage.

Stay Connected

Give your family a copy of your passport and the health and evacuation insurance form.

What to Bring

Bring several retractable pens-there is always a shortage.

Experience Tip

Keep a journal.