February 21 - March 1, 2020
San Juan La Laguna
At Worlds of Light each trip begins with an intention. This February break our intention is to connect purposefully. We'll harness our team's collective energy and creativity and, together, we'll explore ways to foster connection with ourselves, with those we encounter along the journey, and with the beauty of Lake Atitlán.
While our service project will be the most obvious avenue for building connection, we will also actively look for other ways we can deepen understanding, gratitude, and kindness throughout our adventures.
Maybe you will choose to play clapping games with children at the worksite, jump rope with kids in the neighborhood, go out of your way to thank our boat driver, or participate thoughtfully during our evening reflections. Perhaps you will ask a community leader a question, share a smile with a shop owner, use whatever Spanish you know with the hotel staff, or join a local soccer game.
When we pay attention to the possibilities, we'll will find that opportunities to purposefully connect are everywhere! The real challenge is up to you: what will you do each day to connect more deeply with yourself, with others, and with the natural beauty of Guatemala?
Over February break we will immerse ourselves in home-building projects, working alongside dedicated families and local builders and contributing to their efforts to create a safe and healthy future for their children. We'll be building bajareque homes using a regionally traditional "wattle and daub" method that relies on sustainable materials whenever possible.
Depending on our local partners’ needs, we might be involved in framing homes with wood or bamboo, making and applying adobe, replacing dirt floors with finished cement, and/or digging foundations. Don’t worry if you don’t have any building experience! All of our projects will have plenty of jobs that only require shovels, buckets, wheelbarrows, and lots of hard work.
We'll stay in a family-run hostel with views of Lake Atitlán in the small town of San Juan La Laguna. Throughout the week, we will have the chance to learn about local artistic traditions, make tortillas over a fire, play soccer and basketball with children, swim in Lake Atitlán, hike, relax, and explore the colonial city of Antigua.
This multi-generational service adventure is designed for students in 8th-12th grade. Flexible, adventurous, and community-oriented parents are also welcome.
"One of the most amazing weeks of my life!"
- Student, 2017
Costs, Dates & Details
Total Cost: $1895.00/pp. Includes round trip airfare from Montreal.
Dates: February 21-March 1, 2020
What is included:
• Round-trip airfare to/from Montreal Airport and Guatemala City
• 8 nights of accommodation and one night of travel
• All in-country transportation
• All meals in while in Guatemala
• Drinking water and daily snacks
• Materials for our service projects
• Cultural activities and workshops
• Limited emergency medical travel insurance, includes 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 Montreal 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. Participants do not need to know Spanish, but should have a desire to connect with Guatemalans, even in simple ways. Students must be willing to put aside their phones/devices for the duration of the trip. While we do have a few spots for adventuresome parents, this is a trip designed for teens. Lastly, we'll be making adobe, so participants should be prepared for messy, muddy work!
Lodging: Our lodging will be basic, but comfortable. Most nights we will be in double rooms, with each traveler sleeping in their own twin or full size bed. Our en-suite bathrooms will have a western style toilet and a shower that might, if one is very lucky, have warm water.
Food: During our service days, our community hosts will prepare meals for us. We will enjoy a wide range of food that might include burritos, tostadas, pizza, eggs and toast, oatmeal, pancakes, yogurt, rice and beans, sandwiches, pasta, smoothies and stews. On excursion days we will eat in restaurants that cater to travelers. Most of our meals will be vegetarian, and we ask that students bring an open mind and a spirit of curiosity to each meal. Please see the FAQs for more information about the diets we are able to accommodate.
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).
Tax Deduction: For those interested in a tax-deduction, a portion of the total program fee will be tax deductible if contributed directly to our service partner's US 501c3.
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.
Step One: The first step is to thoroughly familiarize yourself with this trip. Read the program description and the itinerary on this page and review the Frequently Asked Questions. Finally, carefully read the Community Understandings so you have a sense of the principles that guide our programs. (Tip: There's a question on the application that asks which ideas/concepts stood out for you when you read through the Community Understandings.) Also, parents should review Worlds of Light's Terms and Conditions which outlines important information including our cancellation and refund policies. We want you to feel comfortable and confident about this adventure, so definitely get in touch if there is anything else you'd like know. And, if you'd like to connect with a traveler about their experiences on a Worlds of Light trip, we can put you in touch with team members (students and/or adults) who would be happy to talk to you and/or your parent.
Step Two: Once you are certain that the February Service Adventure is a good match for you, complete the application.
Step Three: We'll set up a time to talk with you about the program and answer any questions you might have.
Step Four: Once you have been offered a spot on the team, you'll have a week to submit your $750 non-refundable deposit to hold your space. You and your parent will need to submit all the required forms by November 22, 2019. The full balance is due by January 16, 2020.
“The trip was SO phenomenal. I will always be grateful for the opportunities afforded to my kids to WORK, empathize, connect, learn, observe, share the experience with peers, be in community, and contribute.”
- Parent, 2019
Day 1: Departure
Our flight leaves late Friday evening and we'll travel through the night.
Day 2: Welcome to Guatemala!
We’ll be picked up at the Guatemala City airport and our first stop will be the beautiful colonial city of Antigua where we'll enjoy a delicious lunch and a walking tour of the community. We'll then will settle in for our three hour drive through the scenic Guatemalan highlands to the village of San Juan. After checking into our hostel, you might want to relax in a hammock, enjoy the breathtaking views of the lake from your patio, and visit with new friends.
Day 3: Lake, Land, and Community
We’ll start exploring the community that will be our home for the week. We'll check out the many murals throughout the town that depict scenes of social, spiritual and cultural significance. We'll meet with an artist who will show us how the Maya cosmovision is reflected in the styles of paintings that are unique to his community, and we'll then have the opportunity to paint a small image in the local tradition. We'll also take a short hike up to a lookout point where we'll have an amazing view of Lake Atitlán. After getting a sense of the community, the lake, and the land, we'll meet up with our service partners and receive an orientation to our volunteer projects.
Day 4: Service Projects Begin
Our service days begin very early with a hearty breakfast. We'll meet the family members whose home we are building and then begin our work in small groups with local builders, and neighbors on various house-building projects. We'll be building with locally sourced materials and we're likely to start the week cutting and cleaning bamboo fronds and attaching them to the frame of the house.
Day 5: Construction
We’ll continue working on the construction projects we started the day before, and when we break for lunch, we'll try our hand at making tortillas with the local women who make it look so easy! In the afternoon we'll stop by a women's weaving cooperative and learn about the community's artistic traditions, and then we'll visit several small handcraft markets down by the docks with newfound appreciation for the gorgeous textiles on display. Dinner will be at a local restaurant, and in the evening there will be the option to watch (and maybe play) soccer and basketball in the town center.
Day 6: Connection
The messy, muddy part of our project begins today! We'll mix adobe and then fill the walls with mud, ensuring a strong, breathable home. We'll break from our building projects a little early today and return to San Juan to visit an organization that ensures that children and teens, including those with physical and developmental disabilities, have access to education and employment opportunities. We'll also tour a community clinic and meet with leaders who are working to transform their community.
Day 7: Gratitude
By now we will be pros at mixing adobe, framing with caña, and finding ways to connect with all the children at the worksite! We'll have the late afternoon free to explore the village. Perhaps you'll want to re-visit a favorite shop and buy some gifts or go to a chocolate-making demonstration or relax at the hostel. During our evening program we'll reflect on all those who have supported our journey.
Day 8: Celebration
We'll wrap up our construction projects, say goodbye to the families we've been working with, and have lunch at a cafe that provides social inclusion and job training opportunities for youth and adults with physical disabilities. After lunch, we'll take a private lancha (boat) across the lake and spend the rest of the afternoon swimming on the shores in Lake Atitlán.
Day 9: Antigua
After our final breakfast in San Juan, we'll take a boat to the town of Panajachel where our private shuttle will be waiting to take us back to the colonial city of Antigua. We’ll explore this beautiful World UNESCO heritage site and browse through the many market stalls that feature handcrafts and textiles. After dinner, we'll have a closing celebration to mark the end of our journey.
Day 10: Adiós
Our shuttle driver will take us to the airport for our morning departure back to home. Our flight arrives in Montreal in the evening.
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.