On November 19, 2003, Sonia Rivera blazed new trails and opened the nursing home "Dulce Refugio" (sweet shelter) for the elderly. She wanted to create a place of refuge and comfort for the aging members of Guatemalan society who have no family to take care of them. Sonia started this nursing home without any outside help, and over time has found the support of private donors and the government. Today the home is situated close to the public hospital in San Benito, PetÚn.
About 80 people call "Dulce Refugio" home, and 8 of these are women. Their ages range from 70 years old and higher. The oldest man, appropriately called "Papa", just celebrated his 120 birthday!
The nursing home features two large dormitories with sanitary facilities, a spacious dining room, a sick ward, and an administration office. There are 22 employees who look after the residents. Among them are nurses, cooks, social workers, a supervisor, administrative staff and guards.
What they're missing is a fun, motivated volunteer! Could this be you?
Playing games, reminiscing about old times, lending a hand in making hammocks - whatever you do at "Dulce Refugio", you will be brightening the day of many.
Sometimes the center needs help with painting or in the administrative department. How you will help depends entirely on what you are interested in. It is an excellent opportunity to improve your Spanish and gain unique insight into living (and aging) in Guatemala. Transport to and from the center can be arranged by the school.
What is a day at the center like?
In the morning the residents sit together with the social workers and nurses and talk about their daily needs, concerns, ideas, etc. Some people leave the center to run errands or go for a walk. Around noon they rejoin for lunch and usually remain in the center during the afternoon.
Some elderly people have to stay in bed because they are too weak or ill. Others walk around, sit on the porch, read, or chat. One senior shared her skill for making hammocks, and now there are several residents who are dedicated to this new pastime. Their hammocks are for sale at the nursing home.
Some of the seniors are real artists: there are poets and singers living at "Dulce Refugio". Some of the seniors also speak kek'chi as their native language, and would be more than happy to teach you a few words! Also living at "Dulce Refugio" are former artisans, preachers, and sailors.
Since the center is nearby, you could do this kind of volunteer
work in the afternoon after your studies and/or the weekends.