Guatemala with Gus and Together for Good

Go with Gus Tours is run by a local resident and humanitarian who offers various tours. He has a booth inside the port shopping area, but his tours can also be booked in advanced online. Nancy had contacted Gus prior to our cruise so that we could make arrangements to visit some schools in the area and bring supplies. The morning we landed in port, the customs officials demanded to see Nancy and me, along with what we would be bringing ashore. I was a little nervous and felt like I had been called to the principal’s office. We weren’t bringing food, or even clothing. We just wanted to bring pencils, crayons, and notebooks. We entered the boardroom to be met by eight customs officers who asked for our passports and bags. This would’ve been a moment where speaking the language would’ve come in handy. Me, being the bigmouth that I am, asked the officers “How are y’all doing today?” which was met with a few raised eyebrows. I guess I wasn’t supposed to speak to them. Fortunately, we passed their inspection and my passport was stamped with permission to do good things in Guatemala.

When Nancy and I arrived at the tour desk to meet Gus and his wife, we also met up with many passengers who had attended our Day at Sea Activity. Many people didn’t know that they could bring things to the kids, but Nancy and I had plenty to share with everyone. We were boarded a small boat and our Guatemala Adventure began.

Donations and supplies for Guatemala stop

Donations and supplies for Guatemala stop

We took a 20 minute boat ride to Livingston where we were greeted by school children singing songs, ringing bells left as a previous donation. Afterwards, many of my tour companions began to hand out some of the school supplies, bringing forth a few toothless grins from some of the younger students. After this brief visit, we hopped into the boats again to take a journey up the river to some of the poorer communities of the area and to get a glimpse of the simple life of those living in the rainforest area.

Fisherman on the Rio Dolce in Guatemala

Fisherman on the Rio Dolce in Guatemala

We passed small homes and people canoeing up the river. A few fishermen showed us their catch of the day and mothers washing clothes along the riverbank would look up and wave as we passed. Our boat passed by hundreds of lily pads and we were even followed by a flock of pelicans. We finally cruised up to a muddy hill where a few children were standing in wait. Along the bank in the woods, I could see mothers carrying their infants and holding the hands of smaller children as they made the journey to school because they heard we were coming with supplies. When we docked, the waiting children ran off to await us in their school.

The passengers got out of the boat and we unloaded the bags inside of the school, spreading the supplies on a table. The children of all ages were seated in their one room school, waiting for their presents of crayons and pencils. The mothers of these children stood outside, stretching on tiptoes peering through the cracks in the wall hoping to see the expression on their child’s face.

Students in Rural Guatemalan School

Students in Rural Guatemalan School

I stepped outside of the school and began to interact with the mothers, many who stood there in their simple skirts, some with newborns, nursing as we looked each other over. I felt as if I should’ve brought something for the mothers, and then I remembered a box of combs in my backpack. I opened the box and offered them to the mothers. They looked a bit confused, so I motioned as if I were combing my hair, and then they all grinned as I handed one to each of them. One mother hid hers, as if she were ashamed to be taking anything, but another mother was glad to have two of them, placing one in her hair for decoration. There were plenty of combs to go around, so I handed the excess to an elder of the women, whom I was sure would make sure the rest would get to the other women of their community. I guess this is an example of how we always try to provide for the children, but many times the mothers are forgotten.

Guatemala Mamas peeking to see the children's expressions

Guatemala Mamas peeking to see the children's expressions

The rest of the afternoon was spent visiting other children and even some hot springs set just at the riverbank where there is also a small cave boasting an archeological find. For $2, one can rent a flashlight and get a guided tour of the cave. I found that the hot springs provided a wonderful moment for reflection of the day’s interaction with a people that seem to have so much less than me, but seemed so happy with such little material things.

One image that is etched in my memory is that of a little boy standing at the bank of the river as we pulled away. He stood holding a coloring book and three crayons in his hand. I couldn’t help think that his education will stop when he reaches the sixth grade unless his family can come up with the $125 to send him away to school. It makes me think of my daughter who is that age and I can’t even imagine having to make a decision of this magnitude. Fortunately, Gus provides scholarships to these students through donations made to his company.


Student watching us depart while holding his coloring book and crayons

Student watching us depart while holding his coloring book and crayons

I hope to get another chance to visit this small community and share this experience with my children and bring things that I know the mothers will enjoy also. I’m thankful to Gus who provides these tours which help provide an education for the children of his area, which in turn betters Guatemala for future generations.


  1. Shannon,

    I love what you’re doing. I just traveled on the Spirit last week. It’s a shame our travels weren’t at the same time. I would have def. joined in on helping out.

    By the way, isn’t The Second City really funny?

    .-= Brian Camen´s last blog ..When does sponsorship go too far? =-.

  2. I’d loved to visit Guatemala – congrats on your great initiatives in supporting education of these children.
    .-= Mark H´s last blog ..Experience a Wild Night at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (Australia) =-.

  3. The kids just break your heart. They are so precious, and despite having so little, they all seem so happy. We could learn a lot from them.
    .-= Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels´s last blog ..But for a Headache, Curacao’s Colorful Buildings Might Still Be Stark White =-.

  4. A super idea to bring something for the kids…and the mothers. You are right, the mothers are so often forgotten and often they are the ones that bear the hardest lives in the family. Great work!
    .-= Sherry Ott´s last blog ..Photo of the Week – Brazil =-.

  5. I`ve been following your trip with great interest. I think it`s wonderful what you guys did. And what a lovely story about the kids and their mothers. Thank you for putting them in the spotlight so others can join in, helping them for a better future.
    .-= IsabellesTravel´s last blog ..Es Trenc, Mallorca =-.

  6. Inspiring. don’t make the customs guys mad! Stay cool and continue the good work. Enjoy and come home safe. We will be neighbors when you return. Moving on the 11th.
    .-= Dot´s last blog ..New Year’s Eve at Our House =-.

  7. How wonderful to link up with someone local who keeps up the good work on an ongoing basis and provides a way for visitors to give something back. Also good to give something for the mothers.
    .-= Heather on her travels´s last blog ..My travelling year in 2009 =-.

  8. Great trip and great post, Shannon. Thank you for all you’re doing and for sharing the stories with us. The photos are beautiful and the kids are adorable.

  9. I’m hoping to do some volunteer work when I’m in Guatemala in the coming months. Thanks for highlighting this program.
    .-= Anil´s last blog ..The Secret Underworld Of Turkish Germany =-.

  10. You are an inspiration, Shannon! Our heartfelt congratulations to you for your support of these children in Guatemala. Thank you for making the world a smaller place for us all.

  11. I love the way you’re doing this … giving touchable, useful things at first hand, rather than just throwing money at a perceived problem from a distance.

    I usually get given a good handful of pens and stuff at trade fairs and the like, (I can’t say the last time I bought a pen!) and usually grab a few to give away when I visit Africa … it felt a bit like ‘beads for the natives’ at first, but, in most countries they really need that stuff, because, in a lot of countries, all the Government provide is the teacher.

    And, even a cheap pen I absent-mindedly carry away from the bank is beyond the means of many.
    .-= Keith´s last blog ..Say ‘cheese’; you’ve pulled! =-.

  12. Wow, what a great trip! Makes me want to go with a bag of goodies!

  13. Thanks for reporting on your Guatemala experience, Shannon. This is a wonderful example of combining tourism with volunteerism. I’m impressed.
    .-= Donna Hull´s last blog ..Take This Rotten Book Along On Your Next Baby Boomer Trip =-.

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