As I zipped into my sleeping bag, I reflected on this totally crazy, awesome experience, and in many ways wondered how (why) we are having so much fun. This is -- by far -- the best trip we have ever taken as a family and perhaps even my best trip ever. Everything is an adventure. We are living it rather than observing it.
"I have been touched with the generosity and kindness of the local people. They are always willing to help and guide you when necessary. The team members are a very special group -- many generations but so kind to one another and so cohesive."—GCN trip participant
GCN is partners with the NGO, La Asociacion Wajxaqib Aj, the Mayan Center for Peace/ Centro Maya Para la Paz, whose goal is to fortify solidarity and peace in the communities. Cantel is located in the highlands of western Guatemala, an area rich with dense vegetation where the vast majority of Maya live in small scale agricultural production. The indigenous Maya population in and around Quetzaltenango continues to experience rural poverty and institutional and social discrimination. In an effort to be in solidarity with indigenous peoples and their struggle around the world, GCN collaborates with the Maya people of Cantel on community development projects, supporting their efforts to live with dignity and respect for their cultural heritage. The community-led projects with the Mayan Center for Peace may include construction, gardening, painting, weaving and other various community projects.
After arriving in Guatemala City, team members will be transported to the town of Antigua (1 hr drive) and be met by the trip leader and taken to a hotel for the night. The next morning, before heading out to the village, participants can do some banking, take a walking tour of the city, or go shopping. Midday, the team will take a bus four hours to Quetzaltenango. The team will get settled into their host families’ homes before dinner and meet with the community leaders to plan out the week. At the end of the stay, the team will return via the same route, and then stay an evening in Antigua before flying out of Guatemala City or continuing travels home or to one of the many regional places of interest. Many trip participants like to extend their time in Guatemala either before or after the GCN program and possible side trips include visits to Tikal, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala City or Antigua. Past participants have also enjoyed studying Spanish at Casa de Español Xelaju, a language institute in Quetzaltenango.
A Day in Community
As the day begins, team members awake to the view of the Santa Maria volcano through the morning mist and the sounds of singing roosters. The bright, traditional colors of the community help energize the team as they eat a breakfast of hard boiled eggs, bread and coffee. While listening to the bustle of the market, the team gets to work on the project site with the community. Some tasks may include mixing cement, working in the Mayan community center, painting, or making trips into the market for supplies. After taking a break for a lunch of tamales, grilled chicken and potatoes, the team may return to the community project or learn about traditional Mayan weaving, play soccer or baseball with the kids, or meet leaders in the local community. The team settles in for a light dinner of hot chocolate, bread and soup with the host families. As the day comes to an end, the team has time to play card games, journal and reflect on the day, before getting rest for the days ahead.
Nearest Hospital: Quetzaltenango, also known as "Xela"
Program fees cover on-site accommodations (lodging and meals), in-country transportation, orientation materials, a donation to the project, emergency medical and evacuation insurance, and a team leader to manage logistics and facilitate your cultural immersion experience. Airfare to/from Guatemala City and costs relating to activities outside of the village are an additional responsibility of the individual participant.