Guatemala is one of the most interesting and unique countries in the Americas. Filled with volcanoes, Mayan ruins, lakes, and mountains, Guatemala offers stunning landscapes with contrasting human rights issues. While about 40% of Guatemalans have Mayan origins, the country struggles with under representation of indigenous groups in government and land ownership. Though the 36 years of civil war ended in 1996, Guatemala is still recovering from the repercussions. Guatemala also has the highest fertility rate in Latin America, and half of the country is below 19 years old.
Social Entrepreneur Corps
You will spend time in two different parts of Guatemala. Antigua (the orientation site) is a laid back picturesque colonial town surrounded by volcanoes and coffee plantations. Nebaj (the principle site) is located 7 hours north of Antigua nestled in a mountain valley. About 20,000 people live in the semi-urban center of Nebaj, which is one of three communities forming the Ixil triangle. The Ixil people are indigenous to Guatemala, and are one of the most distinct Mayan cultures, especially famous for their intricately woven traditional clothing.
GESI students will work alongside the local team as social innovators. Projects will include piloting new social innovations, such as water purification, community banking, and youth empowerment programs, as well as developing strategies for cross-community implementation. Students will also consult for local organizations including “El Centro Explorativo,” a rural education center providing learning resources and extra-curricular activities for local children.
THE COMMUNITY EXPERIENCE.
Despite a relatively large population, Nebaj retains many characteristics of a traditional Guatemalan village. There are few paved roads and the majority of households still harvest their own corn and beans. You may spend time with your homestay mother learning about the art of traditional backstrap weaving used to create traditional dress. Meal times you will spend chatting with the family, often sitting around the traditional wood burning stove. It is a prime opportunity for learning to make tortillas! Homestay families are bilingual speaking Ixil and Spanish.