ENGAGE: April Service Learning Adventure

The April Service Learning Adventure is a nine-day experience designed for active teens who want to explore Guatemala through volunteering and cross-cultural understanding.  This all-inclusive journey includes hands-on volunteer work, hikes through vibrant villages, cultural and artistic activities, lakeside yoga classes, and service projects that support children’s nutrition and education.

During the first part of our adventure, we’ll have a chance to meet and learn from coffee farmers and their families and engage in service projects that support the local community.  All of our volunteer projects will be based on the needs of the coffee growing families; we might mix cement for floors, build walls in homes or in a coffee processing facility, play with children, help with agricultural work, or repair roofs before the rainy season begins.  We will also visit a community center and the local women will teach us how to prepare a delicious Guatemalan meal.dsc04122

For the second part of the trip, a private lodge on the shores of the Lake Atitlán will be our home base, and we will spend several days integrating our learning and deepening our understanding through artistic activities and outdoor adventures.  We’ll explore rural villages, swim in beautiful Lake Atitlán, take classes with local artists, learn about the Mayan calendar, and have plenty of time for play and relaxation.


Program Fee: $1765.00, includes international airfare to/from Boston. Limited scholarships are available.

Dates: April 22 – 30, 2017

What is included:

• Round-trip airfare to/from Logan Airport and Guatemala City
• 8 nights of accommodation
• All in-country transportation
• All meals in while in Guatemala
• Materials for our service projects
• Cultural activities and workshops
• Excursions: coffee farm, villages, nature reserve, Antigua, etc.
• Gratuities
• Medical travel insurance including evacuation coverage

What is not covered: Spending money for treats and souvenirs. Transportation to/from Logan Airport. Meals while in transit (dinner on the day of our departure, and lunch and dinner on our last day when we are traveling back to the US).

Who should go: Open-hearted, adaptable, and adventuresome 8th -12th grade students who have a willingness to stretch themselves, a good sense of humor, and a curiosity about themselves and their world.  Parents are welcome on this trip; however, please keep in mind that this is an experience designed for teens and there are limited adult spaces available. Participants do not need to know Spanish, but should have a desire to converse with Guatemalans, even in simple ways.

Lodging: Our lodging will be basic, but comfortable.  Boys and girls will sleep in different dorm-style rooms.  Families will have a private room, if desired, or parents may be able to have private rooms based on availability. Bathrooms will be shared and will have a western style toilet and a shower that might, if one is very lucky, have warm water.  room-wideangle

Food:  We will eat most of our meals in restaurants that cater to travelers and use the highest health standards possible.  We will enjoy a wide range of food that might include burritos, pizza, eggs and toast, oatmeal, yogurt, rice and beans, sandwiches, pasta, smoothies and stews. During our service days, our community hosts will prepare meals for us. Most of our meals will be vegetarian, and we ask that students bring an open mind and a spirit of curiosity to each meal.

Health and Safety: All hostels, restaurants, work sites, cultural experiences, outdoor activities, group programs, drivers and guides have been carefully selected to provide students with an experience that is as safe as possible.  Students and families are encouraged to consider the level of risk of any adventure before participating in this program, and we advise everyone to understand the personal responsibility accepted by both the participant and the participant’s family (including the zero tolerance drug and alcohol policy and other guidelines outlined separately in our Community Understandings.)IMG_4276

Reservations: Start the enrollment process by completing a short form that tells us why you are interested in this trip.  We’ll be in touch to answer any questions you might have about the program, and we’ll send you links to additional materials so that you can complete your reservation.  To reserve your spot, please submit all the required forms and a non-refundable deposit of $750.  The full balance must be paid by March 17, 2017. Parents should be familiar with Worlds of Light’s Terms and Conditions which outlines important information including our cancellation and refund policies.


Day 1: Arrival & Orientation
Our flight to Guatemala leaves from Logan Airport. A private shuttle will meet us at the Guatemala City airport and take us to our hotel in Antigua where we will settle in and rest after our long day of travel.

Day 2: Photography & Coffee
We’ll start our day exploring the colonial city of Antigua with a photographer who will lead us on a walking tour of his favorite sites. He’ll share the history of Antigua while showing us how to use our cameras or smartphones to capture the beauty of the city and its people. After lunch, we’ll head to Volcán de Agua and we’ll hike up the base of the volcano with a coffee farmer who will be our guide and teacher for the rest of the day. We’ll spend the afternoon in his fields learning how coffee is grown, and then we’ll go back to his home and experience first-hand how small-scale farmers process coffee from seed to cup. We will share a traditional dinner with the farmer and his family.

Day 3: Service Project & Salsa Dancing
Members of the coffee cooperative will invite us to work on different infrastructure projects that will improve their facilities.   We might be building a drying patio for coffee, repairing a roof, or replacing corn stalk walls with cinder blocks.   Though we won’t know what we will be doing until we arrive, it is likely that concrete mixing and brick laying will be involved!  In the evening, we’ll hit the town for salsa dancing lessons with a local dance instructor.

Day 4: Construction & Cooking
We’ll continue working on the construction project we started the day before, finishing just before lunch time. Following lunch we will learn how to prepare pepian, the national dish of Guatemala.  We’ll roast and grind the spices and peppers, and even make the tortillas. It’s a chance to see what it’s like to cook a meal without the many modern conveniences we take for granted.

Day 5: Volunteering & Handcrafts
We’ll hop on a chicken bus–a colorful local bus that transports people as well a stunning variety of goods–and we’ll ride to a small, rural community outside of Antigua.  We will spend the morning volunteering at a primary school and in the afternoon, one of the parents from the school will bring us to her home and show us her workshop.  She’ll teach us about a traditional Guatemalan craft and everyone will make something to take home.

Day 6: Lake Atitlan & The Mayan Calendar
We’ll say adios to Antigua and take a three hour drive through the Guatemalan highlands to majestic Lake Atitlan.  A private lancha (boat) will be waiting for us and we will ride across the lake to the village of San Juan La Laguna, a community known for its rich artistic traditions.  We’ll learn about the cultural significance of the Mayan Calendar and we’ll work with a local artist to paint our own nahuales (name-day symbol). Before dinner, we will relax by the lake, swim, and enjoy the amazing views from our hostel.

Day 7: Yoga & Service
We’ll welcome the day with an optional, all-levels yoga class!  Our “studio” will be our lakeside dock and the backdrop for our early morning practice will be the three volcanoes that surround the lake.  After yoga, we’ll make our way to Escuela Caracol, a K-6 school that serves indigenous and non-indigenous families.  We will work with Francisco, the school’s caretaker, to prepare the gardens and grounds so that the land is ready for the growing season. We’ll take a break from our work when the children aren’t in class so that we can play soccer, jump rope, do crafts, and connect with the kids.

Day 8: Kayaking & Shopping
On our last morning at the lake, we’ll go on an early morning kayak excursion and mark our final full day in Guatemala with a closing celebration.  Then we’ll head to Panajachel where we will visit the town’s colorful market stalls and can shop for handcrafts, souvenirs, and gifts.  We’ll enjoy our final group dinner at the lake before traveling to our hostel by the airport.

Day 9: Departure & Return
Our hosts at the hostel will drive us to the airport for our very early departure back to the United States. Our flight arrives in the evening, and we will reconnect with family members at the baggage claim area.

While our itinerary serves to guide the flow of the week’s activities, we will have the ability to adapt the schedule to meet the needs of the group, the needs of the local communities, the weather, and other changing conditions.