School and Family Travel in Guatemala 2019

“Everywhere you looked, there were happy kids teaching each other games and playing together.”

SFFS student playing with children in Las Manantiales

New Educational Service Trips a Success in Guatemala

ViviendasLeón has welcomed our first groups to the Mayan highlands of Guatemala! Travelers embarked on a service-learning experience that introduced them to local history and culture while participating in our service program.

Our Global Education Program explores local culture, history, and the language of the Mayan Highlands region while working alongside rural families and children in their indigenous communities, learning from local Guatemalans about their country, and the importance of international understanding.

The groups arrived at our home base in Panajachel on the shores of Lake Atitlán and were greeted by their homestay families. Throughout their time in Guatemala, participants dove into themes of global citizenship and cultural immersion while participating in service and exploring the Lake Atitlán region. Below are some highlights:

The Project, Santa Lucía Utatlán: Both the San Francisco Friends School and the Family Travel group supported us to start the construction of a school kitchen. Trip participants worked tirelessly digging ditches, mixing and pouring cement, moving blocks while also taking a break to play with the children in the local community. The new kitchen is part of our partnership with Mil Milagros, an organization training mothers in leadership and preparing nutritional foods for their families.

“We got a chance to enter the rustic kitchen that is currently used to prepare the students’ meals at school–the room was filled with thick smoke and one’s eyes stung and throat clenched on entering. It was sad to imagine women–often with their babies–spending every day cooking in those conditions, and it gave new purpose to our work building a kitchen that will have better natural ventilation and will improve the respiratory health of the people that use it.” >> Teacher, SF Friends School

San Juan la Laguna: Both groups traveled across Lake Atitlán to the town of San Juan. There they learned how to make leather natural followed by a demonstration. Participants saw the famous Mayan Bees (meliponines) while learning about their honey’s medical properties and importance to Mayan culture. After getting serenaded by some Marimba, participants learned about the history of coffee, the role indigenous people play in its cultivation followed by a coffee tasting at the La Voz Coffee Cooperative.

“We were inspired to think about how consumers can affect positive change through raising awareness about the needs of coffee workers and the environmental effects of climate change.”
>> Student, SF Friends School

Homestays: Family trip members spend some quality time at the end of the day relaxing and connecting with their homestay family playing games, eating dinner while sharing stories about their lives at home. School students stay in small groups with homestay families, in the same neighborhood.

“We’re trying lots of new foods, like chuchitos (salsa-filled tamales), jamaica (hibiscus juice), and a variety of new-to-us fruits such as a very sweet, bright orange avocado.”
>> Student, SF Friends School

Santa Catarina Palopó: In Santa Catarina, travelers learned about the colorful town and the Pintando Santa Catarina Project, a non-profit organization that began many years ago to transform the town through restoring and painting buildings. Participants were guided by Milsa, who highlighted her town’s handwoven dress, talked about funeral practices, and walked the groups through the callejones (alleyways) of her city. Participants joined her family for a tortilla-making demonstration, followed by lunch with her family.

Antigua: The Family Travel group experienced Guatemala during its very colorful and festive Holy Week. The group traveled to the historic and colonial city of Antigua to witness the religious processions and colorful alfombras (sawdust carpets) lining the central part of the city. Antigua is the colonial capital of Guatemala. Itwas the first project by the Spanish Government in the 20th Century to restore a historic colonial city in the America’s and rebuild it’s economy through tourism and related small businesses.

Program by the numbers:

10 hours of service was completed per person
60 school students and 12 family group members
150 students at the school will be served by the rural school kitchen project.