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Integrated Development and Mayan School Improvement

Guatemala is the gateway to Central America and is a land filled with heart, wisdom, and opportunity for human development at all socioeconomic levels.

The intent of this volunteer program is to support regional efforts to meet Millennium Development Goals that strengthen the quality of primary and pre-primary education in extremely poor rural areas. Through distribution of donated and locally produced and procured food at school, these rural programs are working to increase enrollment and improve the daily attendance of students to increase graduation rates.

During this journey, you will deeply engage with communities that are developing their own strategies to balance rural agricultural labor practices with the need for continued access to education. Work alongside community members to improve local school infrastructure. Your group will visit Guatemala City, Iximche archaeological site, and stay in Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your group may also visit the village of San Antonio Aguas Calientes and learn from a successful micro-credit cooperative of traditional back-strap loom weavers. Traveling on to Tecpan, you will see first hand what sustainable agriculture and education look like in rural Mayan villages.

Details

Typical Program

Your experience will be interwoven with the perspectives, culture, history, and current reality of Mayan peoples. You will learn about the legacy of The Civil War, government and education structures, and the new challenges of migration and globalization.

Starting in Guatemala City, you will visit the Plaza Mayor, called the “Center of all Guatemala,” where the four great strands and powers of Guatemalan society converge: the government, the church, the army, and the people. You will learn about current issues visit an educational advocacy program dedicated to supporting children’s rights to access primary education in stable and vibrant schools.

Traveling on to Tecpán, you will spend time in a small Mayan Community specifically selected for your group. Community activities will include opportunities to explore and learn about sustainable development, rural agriculture, the educational system, and community initiatives for vulnerable groups. These service projects often include painting, light concrete, and miscellaneous school improvement tasks. We will work directly with community members to provide a dynamic cultural exchange designed to uplift the collective spirit as well as impart community knowledge to volunteers.

The week will conclude at one of the most historic and cherished Spanish colonial centers in all of Central America – Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This charming city of cobbled brick roads is full of bright colors and thriving culture, providing a grand backdrop to celebrate your time in Guatemala. From here you can embark on an afternoon adventure and hike up Pacaya, one of the world’s most active volcanos.

Duration and Directions

Groups will arrive and be greeted at La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Ground transportation including a Private Driver plus an In-Country Tour Guide and Translator are included from time of arrival, until departure. The Tecpán region where we will be working is an ideal program location because of its easy access from Guatemala City, Antigua, and Panajachel. Trips can be arranged for any length of time, however our most popular programs run 7 days to 3 weeks.

Orientation

Upon arrival and after resting from the flight, an orientation will be provided including an introduction to Guatemala including facts local customs and culture, safety, rules and expectations. Volunteers will also learn about the critical issues facing communities, including access to education. The orientation will provide an overview of activities for the week and background on the projects, people, and places we will be visiting and working with.

Volunteer Requirements

Volunteers should be adaptable and flexible, willing to work as part of a team, and respectful of local traditions, culture, and customs. Those taking part in community development projects need to be capable of doing physical work, although previous experience is not essential. Spanish language ability is useful, but not necessary.

Click here to view the packing checklist.

Check out a Sample Itinerary

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Food and Accommodations

Many traditional foods in Guatemalan cuisine are based on Mayan culture and prominently feature the key ingredients of corn, chilis and beans. While in Guatemala, there will be opportunities to try various traditional dishes including tamales, delicious black beans, and Pollo encebollado (chicken in onion sauce) among others. In Tecpan the fare is more rural with foods specially prepared for the group by local chefs and that include some specialities of the region. Menus and meals can be adapted for those food allergies or special dietary needs.

In Tecpán, a modest local hotel will provide double accommodation. This lovely hotel is located near the main square in Tecpán and is walking distance to the local market and coffee shop. While in Antigua a small local hotel is provided directly in the heart of downtown Antigua just one block from the city center.

Community and Region

Guatemala directly translates as “The Land of the Trees.” However, in the Mayan-Toltec language, it is referred to as the “Land of Eternal Springs” and is the heart of the Mayan World. It is home to the ancient and impressive Mayan civilization, whose descendants remain today. Although Spanish is the official language, it is not universally spoken among the indigenous population, nor is it often spoken as a second language by the indigenous elders. Twenty-one Mayan languages are spoken, especially in rural areas, as well as two non-Mayan Amerindian languages, Xinca, another indigenous language, and Garifuna, an Arawakan language spoken on the Caribbean Coast. This diversity of cultures offers an unforgettable experience that includes modern life in Guatemala City, magnificent jungles around the enigmatic ancient mayan ruins, colonial Antigua, and on to the friendly Mayan people in the colorful highland towns. Discussions during the trip will include themes related to access to education, agricultural impact, and food systems, as well as inter-cultural and cross-cultural dynamics.

Tecpán is located just an hour and a half northwest of Guatemala City and is known as the “First Capital of Guatemala.” This claim is based on the fact that the first permanent Spanish military center was based here. It is home to wonderful rural communities with beautiful landscapes and varied vegetation and it is just a stone’s throw from the Iximché archaeological site. As a volunteer in Guatemala, you are invited to experience the remarkable intersection of this ancient wisdom and various community development initiatives.

Via Local Partner Organizations

Via Guatemala has worked in rural communities in the Highlands of Guatemala since 2006 to contribute to a prosperous, fair and respectful society in Guatemala. Via seeks to create opportunities for all, working in the poorest areas of the country and supporting vulnerable families and communities. The work is based on a participative methodology working in close relation with organized groups in rural communities to develop instruction programs in health and nutrition, education, and agriculture.

Impact

  • Discover how international migration and the Civil War present socio-economic challenges at the community level
  • Learn how community leadership is demonstrated through communal programs involving access to education
  • Analyze the unique interdependence between Spanish and Mayan cultures
  • Understand how indigenous identity can keep its roots while adapting to modern living
  • Participate in community-defined service projects improving local schools and student health

You will be observing, engaging, and actively listening to our community partners throughout your time in Guatemala. Their ingenuity and many years of experience contain stories you will learn from and remember forever. You will learn about history and culture and gain a new understanding of the complexity of economic and agricultural priorities, as well as student achievement through continued access to education.

Testimonials

  • Loyola University Maryland “I highly recommend Via International as a great host agency for meaningful immersion programs, both domestic and international. They are rooted in the community with years of experience and relationships, organized and offer great educational input for the participants. They have everything you need for a comprehensive experience.”
    Andrea Goicochea, Assistant Director International ImmersionsAndrea Goicochea, Assistant Director International Immersions
  • University of Colorado Boulder
    “Via International is an excellent partner in engaging students in grassroots community development. During our recent service-learning trip to Bolivia, they proved responsive to our needs and adept at working with community partners and navigating local realities. The students came away with a remarkable understanding of local issues and global interconnectedness.”
    Karey Sabol, Director of International ProgramsKarey Sabol, Director of International Programs
  • Stonehill College
    “Our first experience working with Via International was exemplary.  The communication with the organizers was thorough and timely.  All aspects of the trip were carefully considered and taken care of with great respect to our group needs and the needs of 
    the receiving community. Our students walked away with a heightened commitment to learning about indigenous peoples, immigration and migration into the United States and a desire to educate their peers, friends and families regarding the information they learned.  We are definitely partnering with Via again and are grateful for such an educational, fun and life changing experience.”
    MaryAnne Cappelleri, Campus Minister for Service Immersion ProgramsMaryAnne Cappelleri, Campus Minister for Service Immersion Programs

Gallery

With over 20 trips and 300 participants per year, students around the world are capturing images and videos of our different voluntour sites. The best ones are featured here. Submit yours today by clicking here.

San Diego State University Alternative Spring Break to Guatemala

Video Credit and Special Thanks to Phoebe Nishimoto
March 2013
Antigua, Guatemala
San Diego State University students (24 students and 2 faculty) arrive in Antigua for a week of Integrated Development and Mayan School Improvement with Share Guatemala.

San Diego State University Alternative Spring Break to Guatemala

Video Credit and Special Thanks to Jaclynn Do
March 2015
Antigua, Guatemala
San Diego State University students (24 students and 2 faculty) arrive in Antigua for a week of Integrated Development and Mayan School Improvement with Share Guatemala.

Francis Parker School Service Learning in Guatemala

Video Credit and Special Thanks to Gabriel Reed
March 2013
Antigua, Guatemala
Volunteers from Francis Parker volunteering in Antigua for a week of Integrated Development and Mayan School Improvement with Share Guatemala.

San Diego State University Alternative Spring Break to Guatemala

Video Credit and Special Thanks to Phoebe Nishimoto
March 2013
Antigua, Guatemala
San Diego State University students (24 students and 2 faculty) arrive in Antigua for a week of Integrated Development and Mayan School Improvement with Share Guatemala.

Fordham University – March 2015

Photo Credit: Keila Del Valle

San Diego State University – March 2015

Photo Credit: Will Rattigan

Francis Parker School – March 2013

Photo Credit: Gabriel Reed

UC San Diego – March 2010

Photo Credit: Elisa Sabatini

Program Fees

Program Development

Is a key expertise of Via Staff providing faculty and student leaders collaborative input to refine itineraries. We create unique access to local partners and coordinate all pre-trip activities.

Travel Services

Provide 3 meals-a-day including snacks and clean water, lodging at community site, adventure activity and museum entrance fees, first aid supplies, and 24-hour supervision. (Via transportation optional)

Educational Services

Create dynamic cultural exchange through a full-time Regional Coordinator and translator, presentations by local experts and partner organizations, discussions on regional issues and initiatives, community preparation and participation support.

Community Support

Covers the cost of volunteer work projects, bringing vital resources to community-driven initiatives, and funding the purchase of tools and materials that facilitate the visitor experience.

Sustainable Development Support

Provides an important donation to mission-based initiatives for year-round program development of micro-creditnutritionleadership educationecology training, and sustainable development initiatives.

Via's Integrated Model

We’ve designed our programs to provide high-value, affordable travel while maximizing volunteer and educational impact. Via provides full-service support and coordination to simplify logistics for group leaders and engage seamlessly with community-driven initiatives and local community members. Via’s regional facilitators and educational program development provide and integrated approach that offers visiting volunteer groups a deeply immersive, inspiring, memorable, and transformational experience that is safe, stable, reliable, and impactful.

We are very proud to offer this level of access and impact. A group of 14 participants can volunteer in Guatemala for a 7-day learning immersion at an estimated cost of $925 per participant. To receive an exact quote based on your organization’s specific needs, please complete the form below.

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