Community Understandings

At Worlds of Light we approach each adventure with a sense of purpose and a desire to see deeply, connect purposefully and awaken the spirit of discovery. These Community Understandings guide our time together and give participants a set of common expectations.

At Worlds of Light, we believe that each of us has the responsibility to contribute our creativity, curiosity and passion to the world in ways that matter most to us.  On this trip, service is simply one way of cultivating our sense of connection to ourselves and others. We do not participate in service projects in order to “help children” or “support those who are less fortunate.” Rather, we extend ourselves in order to understand the commonality of the human experience.

We firmly believe that our local partners best know their own needs and their own community, and therefor all activities are done under the guidance of a local work-site leader. Being invited to contribute to their organization is a privilege and a gift! During our trip, we might play soccer with children at recess, repair a fence, mix cement, pick up trash, build a chicken coop, organize library books, jump rope and play clapping games, build compost bins, or sew costumes for a class play. Some opportunities for connection might take place in structured settings while others may unfold organically. It is likely that we will not know what formal activities we will be doing until we arrive, as we will wait for our community partners to determine their own immediate needs.

Honoring the norms and cultures of the communities we visit also helps us connect with others. This includes dressing slightly more conservatively than you would at home, asking permission before taking photos of locals, using whatever Spanish words you know, trying traditional foods, being curious about local customs and traditions, and, most important, being respectful to all those we meet on our journey.

In addition to seeking ways to connect with those in the larger community, we have the responsibility to cultivate joy, kindness and respect within our own group. We honor our purposeful desire to travel together and explore the world as a small, supportive community.

Each adventure is designed to be experiential and participatory, and requires a willingness to stretch your heart, mind and body. Traveling, by its very nature, is physically and mentally demanding. For some, the challenge might be joining a yoga class or being in a van for three hours on curvy roads, and for others it might mean hiking a volcano or trying to communicate without a shared language or being away from loved ones. We ask that participants bring boldness and courage to this adventure as well as the curiosity to welcome all that comes their way.

We have planned a full, fabulous adventure, yet we believe that one of the most important traits of a traveler is to be flexible. While our itinerary serves to guide the flow of 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.

Traveling requires expansiveness, flexibility, and a good sense of humor. Perhaps the bus doesn’t show up at the appointed time, or our food takes ages to be prepared, or your shower only has cold water, or your belly doesn’t feel good, or the barking dogs keep you up at night, or your roommate is super chatty and you just want to go to bed, or you miss your friends, or you really want clean clothes, or the materials for our intended service project aren’t available and we have to do something different. What do you do? How do you respond?

Traveling anywhere can be both exhausting and exhilarating. Traveling in a developing country can be even more exhausting and even more exhilarating. The more you can good-naturedly embrace the ups and downs of the journey, the more enjoyable your experience will be.

At Worlds of Light we believe that travel is both an outer journey over unknown terrain as well as an inner journey of self-discovery. Our programs include time to quietly reflect on one’s experience through journaling, artistic expression, and simply observing the beauty of the area. These activities can help us hear a guiding, inner voice, and also help us integrate the vastness of our experience.

Each adventure also includes time for the group to intentionally mark transitions, celebrate accomplishments, and envision our future as participants on this planet.  We consider each trip—in its entirety—a rite of passage.

We assume that those who travel with Worlds of Light have a strong desire to act respectfully and responsibly in all situations and are eager to explore the world in safe and healthy ways.

Lake Atitlán has been described as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. The Lake is considered sacred by many indigenous Maya, and among travelers, Lake Atitlán is known for amazing swimming. Since there are no thru-roads in the region, the lanchas (boats) that traverse Lake Atitlán serve as the primary way to get from town to town; we will be traveling by lancha several times throughout the trip and participants should be aware that life jackets are often not available on these boats.

Due to vast income differences between locals and travelers, petty theft can occur. Participants are encouraged to leave valuables at home.

We have thoughtfully selected activities, lodging, restaurants, work sites, service projects, guides and transportation with travelers’ safety and well-being in mind. We expect participants to share the responsibility for their own safety; this includes demonstrating common sense, following the instructions and expectations set forth by the trip leader/s and the work site leaders, and honoring these Community Understandings throughout the duration of the trip.

A special note for students participating in Worlds of Light Programs.

Parents trust us to care for their sons or daughters and we don’t believe that we can responsibly ensure teens’ safety while traveling abroad if they are using drugs or alcohol. In order to safeguard the students’ safety and well-being, each teen puts aside drugs, alcohol and tobacco for the duration of the program. Students who violate the zero tolerance policy for alcohol, tobacco, or any substance use or possession during the teen trips are sent home on the next available flight at their parent’s expense, even if there is only one day left in the program.

Even though all safety precautions are taken, there is inherent risk involved in this trip that must be understood and accepted by participants, family members, and trip leaders. All activities carry with them some element of risk, and traveling and volunteering in a developing country may increase the level of risk due to unpredictable environments and infrastructure.

We prioritize eating healthy and delicious food on this adventure. Meals range from traditional Guatemalan fare of tortillas, beans and stews to more familiar options such as pancakes and pizza. We ask that participants bring a sense of adventure to each meal, and to indicate any dietary restrictions on their Health and Permissions Form. Since the water is non-potable, unlimited filtered/bottled water will be available each day.

Physical movement is integral to any Worlds of Light adventure; we walk a lot! Participants should follow the packing list and have sturdy, comfortable shoes. Most of our activities—walking, swimming, working, eating—take place outdoors. The weather is absolutely beautiful!  We will enjoy sunny, 75-85 degrees days and cool and comfortable nights. It is possible that we might also experience a light rain and some windy afternoons, but this will not prevent us from being outside. Lake Atitlán is about a mile above sea level, and the sun is bright, so sunscreen should be applied regularly throughout the day.

We will be living, volunteering and exploring in an area that does not have easy access to medical services. If a situation arises beyond what can be treated locally, participants will be evacuated for medical treatment.  Participants (or parents of teens) are ultimately responsible for all related costs of medical treatment including co-pays and/or any balances that insurance does not cover.

Throughout the trip we seek opportunities to give thanks for the beauty and abundance of our world. We approach this adventure with a sense of purpose and a desire to see deeply, connect purposefully and awaken the spirit of discovery.

Our Partners

Worlds of Light's trips would not be possible without our amazing community partners. Each of the organizations listed here is deeply dedicated to their work and committed to the well-being of their community.  We are honored and grateful to be able to  work with these groups

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Escuela Caracol is a Waldorf kindergarten and primary school on Lake Atitlán that offers a model for educational renewal centered on serving the needs of the whole child – head, heart and hands

Escuela Caracaol
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The Organization for the Indigenous Maya (ODIM) provides community-driven health care and education to the people of San Juan La Laguna and San Pablo.

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Amigos de Santa Cruz works to improve the lives of the indigenous people of Santa Cruz and surrounding villages through education and sustainable economic empowerment.

Amigos de Santa Cruz
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Alma de Colores is a social and economic inclusion initiative for teens and adults with physical disabilities. Alma runs several handcraft programs and a restaurant.

Alma de Colores
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NDG runs two primary schools and a secondary school which serve over 500 Guatemalan children that would otherwise not have been able to go to school. The organization strives to be self-sustainable and its social enterprises fund the schools. 

Niños de Guatemala
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De la Gente works with small-holder coffee farmers and and cooperatives in Guatemala to create economic opportunities that improve the quality of life for families and communities. .

De La Gente

"A trip of a lifetime! I met two of my best friends and experienced a happy community of people and places."

-Student, 2019