April Break, 2019
Santa Semana (Holy Week) coincides with the start of April Vacation and so our adventure will kick-off with Guatemala’s famously elaborate Easter celebrations. The streets will be covered alfombras–carpets of colored sawdust, flowers, candles and fruit (see photo above)–and we’ll watch processions of hand-carved wooden floats winding through town. This vibrant fiesta is filled with street corner performances, banners of fruit and flowers hanging across each intersection, fireworks, music, and throngs of people. It is Guatemala’s most spectacular celebration!
After the festivities, we’ll settle into a small community on the shores of Lake Atitlan, and we will work with local leaders to deepen our understanding of community through the lens of environmental, social, and economic justice. From Spanish lessons to art classes, discussions about the Maya world-view to hands-on volunteering, soccer games with children to mixing cement for floors, we’ll witness how community participation inspires change. Over the 10-day program, we’ll visit eight communities in order to develop an appreciation for the different ways that individuals and NGOs meet the needs of their own communities.
Celebrating Community centers around the shared belief that we each have a responsibility to contribute our creativity, curiosity and passion to the world in ways that matter most to us. As part of the experience, participants will design a personal project that they will work on throughout their time in Guatemala. These self-directed projects will become a way for students to integrate their journeys, contemplate their next steps, and celebrate who they are in the world.
COSTS, DATES and DETAILS
Total Cost: TBA by June 26th after group airfare has been secured.
Dates: April 18-April 27, 2019
What is included:
• Round-trip international airfare
• 9 nights of accommodation
• All in-country transportation
• All meals in while in Guatemala
• Drinking water and daily snacks
• Materials for our service projects
• Cultural activities and workshops
• 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 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. There are limited spots for parents on this trip; adults should keep in mind that this trip is designed for teens. All participants (students and adults) should be eager to work on their personal projects throughout the program. Participants do not need to know Spanish, but should have a desire to converse with Guatemalans, even in simple ways. Please note: there will likely be numerous fireworks and continuous music during the first two days of the program as part of the Easter festivities. Participants with noise sensitivities should contact Worlds of Light prior to applying.
Lodging: Our lodging will be basic, but comfortable. Boys and girls will sleep in different rooms. 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 will need to submit all the required forms and a non-refundable deposit of $750 by January 14, 2019. The full balance must be paid by March 8, 2019. Parents should be familiar with Worlds of Light’s Terms and Conditions which outlines important information including our cancellation and refund policies.
Day 1: 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 family-run hostel on the shores of the lake where we will relax after our long day of travel.
Day 2: Good Friday Festivities in San Pedro
We’ll head to San Pedro to witness the spectacular Good Friday processions and see Guatemala’s famous alfombras–intricately designed carpets of colored sawdust and flowers–lining the streets for the Easter parades. We’ll have some time in the afternoon to begin our personal projects, and in the evening we’ll head to the center of town to connect with the children playing soccer and basketball.
Day 3: Creativity in San Juan
We’ll visit 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). We’ll then travel high up into the mountains to a small village to meet local families and distribute clothes, shoes and food.
Day 4: The Sacred Waters of Lake Atitlan
We will rise before dawn and summit a nearby mountain while it is still dark and then watch the sun rise over the lake. After breakfast we’ll take a lancha to San Marcos and spend some time at a Maya ceremonial site before swimming and kayaking in the lake. We’ll spend the afternoon with a community leader learning about the issues facing Lake Atitlan and contribute to projects to help clean up the lake. Optional: You may attend Catholic or Protestant Easter services.
Day 5: Improving Housing in San Pablo
We will take tuk-tuks to a nearby village where we will volunteer for an organization dedicated to improving housing for the town’s poorest families. We will work in small groups with local masons and families to help lay cement floors in homes that currently have only dirt floors. After our day of very hard work, we will return to our hostel to swim and relax.
Day 6: Economic Opportunities in Santa Cruz
We’ll visit the community of Santa Cruz and learn about how one organization is dedicated to changing the lives of young people and their families through education and job training. Youth in their culinary arts program will teach us 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. In the evening we’ll check out feria–an annual, community-wide celebration complete with bands, dancing, vendors, and even a ferris wheel!
Day 7: Volunteering in Tzununa
We’ll travel across the lake to a hotel with stunning views of the three volcanoes. After settling in, we’ll head down to the village and learn how town leaders are using a new community center to foster opportunities for youth and elderly in the town. We’ll spend the afternoon working on projects to support the center and then will have the chance to take a final dip in the lake or relax at the pool at the hotel.
Day 8: Exploring Antigua
We will say farewell to the magical setting that has been our home for the week, and then travel to Antigua to explore this beautiful, colonial city. We’ll visit the town’s colorful market stalls and shop for handcrafts, souvenirs, and gifts. In the evening, we’ll hit the town for salsa dancing lessons with a local dance instructor.
Day 9: Education & Handcrafts in San Lorenzo
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. After dinner, we will mark the end of our time together with a celebration to showcase the creative projects we’ve been working on all week.
Day 10: Adíos
Our shuttle driver will take us to the airport for our morning departure.
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.