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 in partnership with Share Guatemala. 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.
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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.
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.
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.
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 Organization
SHARE Guatemala has worked in rural communities in the Highlands of Guatemala since 1986 to contribute to a prosperous, fair and respectful society in Guatemala. SHARE 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, agriculture and food production, and finance.