Building A Future

Program Description

Over February break we will immerse ourselves in home-building projects, working alongside dedicated families and local builders and contributing to their efforts to create a safe and healthy future for their children.

Depending on our local partners’ needs we might be involved in building cement-block homes, repairing a roofs and walls, replacing dirt floors with finished cement, digging foundations, and/or framing homes with wood or bamboo. Don’t worry if you don’t have any building experience!  All of our projects will have plenty of jobs that only require shovels, buckets, wheelbarrows, and perseverance.  And if you happen to know your way around a construction site, then the local builders will find skilled jobs for you.

We’ll stay in a family-run hostel with views of Lake Atitlan in the small town of San Juan La Laguna.  Throughout the week, we will have the chance to learn about local artistic traditions, make tortillas over a fire, play soccer and basketball with children, swim in Lake Atitlan, hike, relax, and explore the colonial city of Antigua.

This multi-generational service adventure is designed for students in 8th-12th grade and their family members.  Teens traveling without family are also welcome.

Note: If parents are medical professionals, they will have the option to volunteer in a community health clinic.


“A completely life-changing experience.”  —Student

“Even though we usually ended the day tired and dirty, it was such a rewarding trip that I signed us up to do it again.” —Parent

“A remarkable combination of feeling unrushed and reflective, yet packed with interest and excitement.” —Student

“I honestly will never forget this trip and am so honored to have had this experience. This truly inspires me to do so much more in my life.” —Student


Total Cost: $1895.00/pp.  Includes round trip airfare from Montreal.

Dates: February 22-March 3, 2019

What is included:
• Round-trip airfare to/from Montreal Airport and Guatemala City
• 8 nights of accommodation and one night of travel
• All in-country transportation
• All meals in while in Guatemala
• Drinking water and daily snacks
• Materials for our service projects
• Cultural activities and workshops
• Excursions
• Medical travel insurance including evacuation coverage
• Donations to each of the organizations where we will be volunteering

What is not covered: Spending money for treats and souvenirs. Transportation to/from the Montreal Airport.

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.  Adventuresome parents and siblings are welcome on this trip. Participants do not need to know Spanish, but should have a desire to converse with Guatemalans, even in simple ways.  IMG_4367

Lodging: Our lodging will be basic, but comfortable.  Bathrooms will be shared and will have a western style toilet and a shower that might, if one is very lucky, have warm water.

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).

Reservations: We hope to be able to offer this experience to all those who are interested, yet because spaces are limited, we encourage you to begin the application process as soon as possible. The first step is to complete an application.  Next, we’ll set up a time to talk with you about the program and answer any questions you might have. To hold your spot on the team,  you and your parent will need to submit all the required forms by December 18, 2018.  The full balance is due by January 12, 2019. Parents should be familiar with Worlds of Light’s Terms and Conditions which outlines important information including our cancellation and refund policies.

Tax Deduction: For those interested in a tax-deduction, $390 of the total program fee is tax deductible if contributed directly to our service partner’s US 501c3.


Day 1: Departure
Our flight leaves late Friday evening and we’ll travel through the night.

Day 2: Welcome to Guatemala!
We’ll be picked up at the Guatemala City airport and will settle in for our three hour drive through the scenic Guatemalan highlands. When we arrive at Lake Atitlan, a private boat will transport us to our stunning hotel and we’ll have the whole afternoon to relax after our long days of travel. You might swim or kayak in the lake, take a dip in the pool, read in a hammock, or visit with new friends. We’ll enjoy an early dinner at a restaurant with breathtaking views of the lake and the volcanoes.

Day 3: Food, Art and Community
We’ll start our day with a morning swim, and then we’ll make our way to a village perched high above the lake.  We’ll meet with community leaders to learn about how they are transforming educational and economic opportunities for youth, and then we’ll have the opportunity to take workshops from graduates of their programs. You can choose to learn to prepare several local dishes, weave your own scarf, or bead your own bracelet.  We enjoy lunch together and then head to San Juan where we’ll meet up with our service partners  and receive an orientation to our volunteer projects.

Day 4: Service Projects Begin
Our service days begin very early with homemade breakfasts prepared by Patrone.  We’ll meet the family members whose home we are building and then begin our work in small groups with local masons, builders, and neighbors on various house-building projects in the town and in the surrounding villages. We might be constructing walls, building stoves, digging a foundation, or making cement floors. Though we won’t know what we will be doing until we arrive, it is likely that mixing concrete will be involved!

Day 5: Construction & Water Filters
We’ll continue working on the construction projects we started the day before, and we will also deliver eco-filters to families so that they can have drinking water.  When we break for lunch we’ll try our hand at making tortillas with the local women who make it look so easy!  In the afternoon we’ll stop by a women’s weaving cooperative and learn about the community’s artistic traditions, and then we’ll visit several small handcraft markets down by the docks with newfound appreciation for the gorgeous textiles on display.  Dinner will be with Patrone’s family, and in the evening there will be the option to watch (and maybe play) soccer and basketball in the town center.

Day 6:  Community Visits & the Maya Worldview
After a half day construction, we’ll head on over to San Pedro, a larger community with lots of great restaurants.  After sharing lunch together, we’ll return to San Juan and visit an organization that ensures that children and teens, including those with physical and developmental disabilities, have access to education and/or employment opportunities.  We’ll also meet with a local artist who will show us how the Maya cosmovision is reflected in several styles of paintings that are unique to his community, and we’ll then have the opportunity to paint a small image in the local tradition.

Day 7:
  Sunrise Hike & Building Community
We will rise before dawn and  summit a nearby mountain while it is still dark and then watch the sun rise over the lake.  By now we will be pros at mixing cement, laying block, and finding ways to connect with all the children at the worksite.  After our last full day of volunteering, we have the late afternoon free to explore the village.  Perhaps you’ll want to re-vist a favorite shop and buy some gifts or go to a chocolate-making demonstration or relax at the hostel.  After dinner, we’ll watch a movie and use the film to spark a discussion about social and economic justice.

Day 8:  Construction & Celebration
We’ll wrap up our construction projects, say goodbye to the families we’ve been working with, and have lunch at a cafe that provides social inclusion and job training opportunities for youth and adults with physical disabilities.  After lunch, we’ll take a private lancha (boat) across the lake to San Marcos La Laguna.  We will hike up to a Maya ceremonial site, and then spend the rest of the afternoon swimming at a nature reserve on the shores in Lake Atitlán.

Day 9:
After our final breakfast with Patrone and her family, we’ll take a boat to the town of Panajachel where our private shuttle will be waiting to take us to the colonial city of Antigua.  We’ll explore this beautiful World UNESCO heritage site and browse through the many market stalls that feature handcrafts and textiles. After dinner, we’ll have a closing celebration to mark the end of our journey.

Day 10: Adiós
Our shuttle driver will take us to the airport for our morning departure back to home. Our flight arrives in Montreal in the evening.

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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.