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ViviendasLeón has brought student and family groups on service and educational trips to Nicaragua for more than 15 years. In the spring of 2019, we launched a new travel and service program in the Mayan highlands of Guatemala. We have forged a partnership with two established organizations with 20 years of experience in the Lake Atitlán region, and have a team who will manage the program in country. Our partners, Mil Milagros and Vivamos Mejor, are well respected and like-minded organizations that have deep roots in the region allowing us to continue work in rural communities based on trusting relationships.

Based in the town of Panajachel on the shore of Lake Atitlán, these trips are a 7-day program for educators who want to incorporate major themes of global citizenship, cultural immersion, community building, and personal agency while participating in international service. Our program introduces students to new ways of thinking as they embark on a service-learning experience that will increase their empathy and understanding while helping build community between themselves and neighboring countries.

Our three main goals are to explore the culture, history and language of the Mayan Highlands region and its people, work alongside rural families and children in their indigenous communities and spend time throughout the trip learning from local people and educators about Guatemala, while discussing the experiences we are having at the end of each day.

Trip participants stay in homestays in Panajachel, where they experience the cultural richness and warm hospitality of Guatemala. Participants will be able to practice their Spanish skills while having breakfast and dinner with their host families as well as when interacting with their peers in rural communities. Throughout the week students will visit cultural and historic sites ranging from Mayan ruins, local cooperatives, and learn from locals about their craft and ancestral rituals. At the end of the trip, we will visit Iximche, the ruins of a Mayan city and Antigua, a beautifully restored colonial town before returning to the airport.

To continue and expand our mission of eliminating rural poverty, ViviendasLeón and student groups will support and complement the work that Mil Milagros and Vivamos Mejor by building school kitchens and classrooms, among a number of other projects. Students will navigate new situations while carrying out the service projects in Santa Lucía Utatlán and work side by side with community members on these authentic rural development projects.