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FAQs

Travel

Are the areas we are traveling to safe?

Safety is always a concern when traveling and living in third world countries. Third world conditions may result in circumstances beyond the control of FHe.

SHe and FHe have been operating successfully in Guatemala for several years and is familiar with the areas to which we will be traveling. Be assured that your safety and security are a priority. In addition to following any instructions your expedition leader gives you, you should remember to avoid walking, traveling, or being out after dark in urban or rural areas. If travel is necessary, do not go alone. Also, when in city areas, be sure to keep a very close watch on all of your belongings. It is recomended that expedition participants protect themselves from being targeted by thieves by not packing or wearing nice jewelry or expensive-looking watches.

Are vaccinations required for these trips?

There are no vaccinations required for entering Guatemala, however, we strongly recommend that you visit your doctor at least four to six weeks before traveling to assure that you are up to date on all routine immunizations and to allow time for any necessary shots to take effect. If it is less than four weeks before you leave, you should still see your doctor. It might not be too late to get your shots or medications as well as other information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.

Please refer to the Center for Disease Control for the latest information on Guatemala.

Do I need a visa?

If you are U.S. citizen, you do not need a visa to enter Guatemala. If you hold citizenship in a different country, please check with your foreign ministry for visa requirements for travel to Guatemala.

Do I need a passport?

If you are a U.S. citizen, each expeditioner will need a passport to enter and exit Guatemala; a driver’s license or birth certificate is not sufficient. Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of proposed entry into Guatemala. Check your passport’s expiration date ASAP. It needs to expire six months after the day you arrive in the country in order to be valid for travel to Guatemala. If you need to apply for or renew your passport, do so as soon as possible; the process can take up to three months.

If you hold citizenship in a country other than the United States, please research passport requirements for travel to Guatemala through your foreign ministry.

Please review the U.S. State Department’s web pages on Guatemala for further details:

Need a U.S. passport?
 Visit the State Department website.

According to the State Department: “Processing times can vary depending on workload and occasional unforeseen circumstances such as natural disasters. During busier times, such as the summer travel season, we encourage customers to expedite their applications if traveling in less than 10 weeks. See Application Processing Times for more information.”

Please note that if you are under 18 and traveling with a guardian or only one parent, you must carry a special immigration form. CHOICE has these forms, which must be completed and signed by parent/s and notarized.

I’ve never been to a developing country before. What should I expect?

If you’ve never traveled to a developing country before, the contrasts between what you may be accustomed to and what you will experience may be substantial. The expeditions are conducted in rural villages; expeditions are not tourist vacations. You should be physically and mentally prepared to face frustrating and disquieting circumstances while traveling, working, and living in impoverished, primitive areas. Village access is often along bumpy roads and sometimes requires a short hike. While permanent bathroom facilities and/or heating may or may not be available, bathrooms with basic facilities will be.

Sleeping arrangements will likely involve sleeping on the floor of a rustic building or sleeping in tents, should you wish to bring one. As a rule, conditions are modest and the food is simple but plentiful.

Water in developing countries is not safe to drink unless it has been purified. Bottled water is usually available in cities, and hotels often purify their entire water systems, but it is always important to ask before drinking or brushing your teeth. Do not brush your teeth from a tap unless you have verified that the water is purified. Also make sure that any ice served to you has been purified.

The in-country director will make sure that there is plenty of bottled water available for you in the village. The people cooking for the expedition adhere to strict sanitary standards.

For more information, visit the What to Expect page.

I don’t speak Spanish or Q’eqchi’. How will I communicate once I arrive in Guatemala?

Interpreters will be available in Guatemala where necessary to facilitate communication between expedition participants and the individuals with whom we will be working. Familiarizing yourself with simple Spanish and Q’eqchi’ phrases prior to the expedition is encouraged.

Visit the How to Prepare page for more quick language references.

Will there be opportunities to travel before or after the official expedition?

Expedition participants are free to organize their own pre- or post-trip travel, but they must attend orientation the first day of the expedition and depart from the village the final day of the expedition.

Are there any special fees I need to know about?

Upon exiting Guatemala you may have to pay a $30 customs fee, so budget accordingly. This fee is charged to all visitors exiting the country, but some airlines factor this fee into the cost of the airline ticket.

Expeditions

If I am not participating in optional travel before or after the expedition, for what dates should I book the flights?

If your expedition registration has been confirmed, visit the Expedition Details page for information on dates for booking your travel.

Where does my expedition fee go?

In order to make expeditions available to all, FHe strives to keep the expedition costs as low as possible. Expedition fees are used to directly support the expedition projects as well as in-country expenses for each participant, including ground transportation, lodging, food, and security.

As FHe has 501(c)(3) status, 100% of the expedition fee is tax deductible.

What is a typical day like on an expedition?

To see what a typical day is like on an exhibition, view the Expeditions gallery on the Photo Gallery page.

What do participants do during an expedition?

The expedition will be comprised of building projects (e.g., construction of a school, school kitchen, community water system); workshops (e.g., rural health promoter, mid-wife and local dentist training, teacher development, business development); and clinics (medical and dental, also used as real-time training opportunity for locals). You will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of ways, depending on your skill set.

If you are interested in participating in a workshop or with the medical and dental clinics, please contact us.

What if I don’t have any medical, dental, business or construction skills? Can I still be of use on a FHe expedition?

Yes. No matter what your skill set is, FHe needs you. The expedition will be comprised of a number of projects and workshops that will provide many varied opportunities for you to serve. The most important thing is that you be physically fit and friendly. Instructions will be given on each phase of projects and necessary skills will be taught.

How should I dress during an expedition?

Expedition participants are required to adhere as closely as possible to country-specific dress codes in order to not offend the villagers, who typically follow a more conservative dress standard. Nearly all villages require long pants or a skirt for women. Shorts are acceptable for tourist areas, but keep in mind that they do brand you as a tourist. Tank tops are allowed only if the local women are wearing them.

We recommend that participants traveling to Guatemala bring quick-drying/Dri-FIT clothing, which is comfortable to wear in the warm, humid climate and dries more quickly than cotton.

What will I eat during an expedition? What if I have special dietary restrictions or needs?

When you register for the expedition, you will be required to complete a medical information form. If you have special dietary needs, please indicate this on the form.

Please note: Because of the rugged nature of the expedition and the absence of medical facilities at the project site, there are some restrictions regarding who may participate. You should not consider participating in an expedition if you are an insulin-dependent diabetic, if you have compromised cardiovascular or pulmonary capacities, or if you have other significant physical or mental restrictions.

Should I bring any food?

Yes. While all meals will be provided from the time you arrive in at the hotel until breakfast on the morning of the departure from the country, we highly recommend bringing a supply of comfort food for times in-between meals or if meals are delayed, as well as for a tasty, familiar snack at any point you need it during the expedition. There will be few opportunities to purchase such items during the expedition.

This is especially true if you are traveling with children, as they may not be as familiar or accepting of the local food and flavors. As a general rule, please do not share candy or food with the villagers, as there is not enough for everyone, and we do not wish to create a handout-mentality in our attempts to build self-sustaining communities.

Will there be electricity?

In general, plan your day around not having access to electrical outlets. However, a generator may be available for part of the day to charge camera batteries, etc.

I want to do everything I can to prepare mentally and physically for the expedition. What do you suggest?


TO PREPARE MENTALLY

Remember that expeditions are not tourist vacations; they can be dirty and uncomfortable. Be prepared to face disquieting circumstances while traveling, working, and living in impoverished, primitive areas. Expect the unexpected, be flexible and patient, and keep a sense of humor.

We encourage you to read about the areas to which we will be traveling. Familiarize yourself with the history, customs, traditions, and language of the people. Recognize that contrasts between what you may be accustomed to and what you will experience may be substantial. Take time to learn about people-centered development.

TO PREPARE PHYSICALLY
Travel outside of your usual environment means contact with microorganisms that are unfamiliar to your immune system.

A strong, healthy, and fit body responds to this type of stress successfully. In addition to aerobic fitness, a healthy diet will help you prepare for a safe and enjoyable trip. Just prior to an expedition is not the time to go on a weight-reduction diet. On departure you want to have a well-nourished and well-hydrated body.

Although a physical exam is not usually required before an expedition, it is a good idea. You are required to complete a health statement on your application and provide your doctor as a reference to verify your health. The expedition leader needs to know of any allergies or previous illnesses that might affect your participation. Completion of needed dental work before departure is also advised.

Visit the How to Prepare page for more information.

How many other participants will there be? What is the gender, age and geographical breakdown?

The Guatemala expeditions will accommodate approximately 25-50 people each, with age ranges from 8 years and older.
We anticipate that a majority of the participants will be from the United States.

I would like to collect supplies to bring. How shall I proceed?

We support CHOICE Humanitarian’s practice of a no-gifting policy:

Supplies must be requested by the villagers
We cannot bring supplies that the villagers have not requested through the in-country staff or other village authority. This includes clothing, amongst other items. Any requested supplies must be routed through the in-country staff or other village authority. Items that have not been requested MUST NOT BE TAKEN.

Why?
We are trying to promote self-sustainability for the villagers, not introduce them to the vast world of things they don’t have and don’t need.

What can we take?
FHe will hold a number of fundraising events to raise money for supplies on behalf of the entire FHe group. Once we have determined with the in-country staff what the most appropriate supplies will be for our expedition, we will post a list on this site.

All supplies will be distributed by the in-country staff. Please remember that collecting supplies is not required, but your efforts will be warmly received by the villagers.

Visit the Donations & Fundraising page for more information.

Can I give items to the local villagers?

While select items may be donated to the community at large (to be cleared through the In-Country Director), individual gifts of food, candy, toys or clothing are strongly discouraged. Items that foster interactive experiences such as bubbles, nail polish and sports equipment are encouraged. However, these items should be taken home with you at the end of the expedition.

Is there a code of conduct participants adhere to during expeditions?

FHe defers to CHOICE Humanitarian’s standards of personal conduct, adapted for FHe:

All participants are considered ambassadors for our country, humanitarians in general, and our organization. There is a high expectation for participants to respect the reputation of trust and consideration that has been established through years of interaction with villagers and in-country directors. All participants will be expected to maintain high standards of conduct as well as honor, morality, respect, graciousness, etc. while in the villages and in the countries where we serve. There is a strict “NO GIFTING” policy. Our gift to them is the project; their gift to us is their hospitality. Participants will be expected to abstain from tobacco, narcotics, non-prescription drugs, and alcohol intoxication. We reserve the right to terminate a participant’s involvement, without reimbursement, at any point of the expedition if there is failure to comply with these conditions.

Does FHe have a religious affiliation?

Although FHe is not officially sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or “Mormon” Church), FHe is comprised predominently, but not exclusively, members of the LDS faith. While we do not preach or proselyte on expeditions to the people we are serving, LDS church services will be offered as an optional part of the expedition experience.

I know most of the expedition participants are LDS. Do you preach to the villagers during your expeditions?

No.  FHe participants do not preach or proselytize on expeditions to the people we are serving, FHe is predominantly, but not exclusively, comprised of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons).

I’m not LDS. Will I be comfortable on this trip?

While most of the participants are likely to be of the LDS faith, belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormons), we welcome all humanitarian-minded individuals who are willing to adhere to LDS standards while on the expedition (no alchohol, no smoking, clean language, etc.).

Non-LDS participants in past expeditions with our sister organization, Singular Humanitarian experience (SHe), have been very comfortable. They’ve reported having had excellent experiences and the wish to participate in future expeditions.

About FHe

Is FHe a volunteer organization?

Yes, FHe is a 100% volunteer-run organization. Everyone who works for FHe (including the executive and steering committees) does so on a volunteer basis.