When you travel internationally, you generally want to maximize your experiences in each locale. And most destinations offer a plethora of choices to the visitor. But only rarely do you get an opportunity to intimately experience the local culture and interact with the locals in a humanitarian exchange.
One such rare opportunity is available to visitors and cruise ship passengers who stop in Puerto Santo Tomás de Castilla (also known more simply as Santo Tomas), in Guatemala. The local tour organization, “Go with Gus,” offers an exceptional opportunity for visitors to do something unique while there and contribute positively to the lives of the local children and families.
On the Go with Gus Humanitarian Tour, you can visit a local school or orphanage for the Mayan children living in the local area and have an opportunity to contribute educational items to support their studies. You can also meet the teachers committed to providing an education to students who have very few advantages available to them in this poor and isolated area of Guatemala.
Because the children have so many needs, the gifts supporting their education are particularly valued. Donations as simple as books, dictionaries (English/Spanish), sports equipment, art supplies, clothing and all types of basic school supplies are needed at both the school and the orphanage. Large and small donations are appreciated year-round. Even packing just a few light items such as pencils and crayons in your travel bags will result in big smiles and many “thank yous” from the children. There are many school children living in disadvantaged areas on the Rio Dulce River who benefit from these donations. In this cultural and humanitarian exchange, the students then provide visitors with a short presentation or song to thank them for their valued donations.
Many Central American cruises include the port of Santo Tomas in their itineraries. I recently had the pleasure of joining the Humanitarian Tour to visit nearby Livingston, travel down the Rio Dulce River and interact with the locals. Go with Gus made the day’s trip a smooth, comfortable, and enjoyable one. It was truly a memorable experience and one that left good feelings all around.
Gustavo Turcios, the Gus of Go with Gus Tours, owns a local hotel in Livingston. He is highly focused on supporting the local school children and giving back to the community. The tour includes a visit to his waterside hotel, Posada El Delfin, situated in Livingston near the Rio Dulce River.
The full day Humanitarian Tour (which starts and ends to coincide with cruise ship arrival and departure times) includes a narrated boat ride around Amitique Bay, a fascinating cruise down the Rio Dulce River, an interesting stop at a local family industry on the river, a sampling of the local music and cuisine and an insider’s tour of Livingston — in addition to the enjoyable stop at the school to deliver our donations and interact with the teachers and children.
You can purchase your tour tickets in advance by contacting Go with Gus, (this is highly recommended to ensure availability) or buy them at the Santo Tomas cruise terminal once you arrive. The tour company has a ticket counter inside the cruise terminal and you will embark from there and return there at the end of the tour. The tour company also offers a similar Humanitarian Tour in Roatan, Honduras.
Rather than just focusing on the typical “city overview tour” at your next destination or a “swim with the dolphins” type of activity on your next cruise, aim for an even better experience. Consider a humanitarian outreach activity that will benefit those who live in the area you came to visit and bring positive feelings to everyone involved.
For more information on this Humanitarian Tour:
Previously published in The Ideal Trip at www.theidealtrip.com/santo-tomas-guatemala.html