Experiential Education & Community Service in Guatemala

Video and Photos

About

Nestled in Central America, Guatemala has one of the most interesting, yet tragic histories. Home to the Mayan civilization, invaded by the Spanish, and eventually ruled by successive dictatorships propped up by the United Fruit Company, Guatemala has had its fair share of political strife. A 30-year civil war helped create “liberation theology” but left many scars that remain to this day.

To travel to Guatemala is to challenge yourself physically and mentally – by climbing mountains and volcanoes, and by meeting farmers who see the coffee and mining industries as the cause of their poverty. It is shocking, empowering, exciting, and challenging all in one beautiful country.

At Operation Groundswell, we explore all the far corners of this strangely-shaped country and immerse ourselves deeply in all its culture has to offer. We dive deep into the hard issues of indigenous rights, environmental sustainability, fair trade, and food justice in our various program offerings.

Highlights
  • Get your hands dirty learning about coffee alongside local farmers on the side of an active volcano.
  • Deconstruct the myths and discover the realities of today’s global food system at origin.
  • Immerse yourself in modern Guatemalan culture and hear about its history from the descendants of the Maya.
  • Get an intimate look at Guatemala’s history speaking with former guerrillas who have traded their guns for farming tools.
  • Brush up on your Spanish in Xela with one-on-one language lessons with the certified school and social enterprise Escuela La Paz.

Financial Grants Available!

Our financial grants program can cover 15-25% of your program fee. Simply apply for an OG program and contact our financial support team. Visit our website for more information!

Questions & Answers

Reviews

9.59 Rating
based on 27 reviews
  • Impact 8.9
  • Support 9.7
  • Fun 9.3
  • Value 9.3
  • Safety 9.3
Showing 1 - 8 of 27
Default avatar
Laura
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Guatemala: Mayan Roots- the experience of a lifetime

Traveling with Operation Groundswell to Guatemala was truly one of the most valuable experiences I have had. I learned more in those 15 days than could ever be possible in my 4 years of University in a classroom setting. I have long been searching for a volunteer program that doesn't feel like the typical, white-saviour-esque "voluntourism", and with OG I found just that. By forging real relationships with community organizations acting on the ground in each of the countries they visit, Operation Groundswell can contribute meaningful work along with members of the community, instead of just making assumptions about the needs of the region. Through "learning before service", members of the group have a chance to be educated on the history and culture of the region, in order to get a better understanding of the greater context in which their volunteer projects may fit. Personally, my trip was an opportunity for me to learn how to travel ethically, and a chance for me to build the confidence I needed to later travel alone as a young woman. The program leaders do an amazing job of creating a balance between the group experience, and giving every individual some autonomy to make the trip what is best for them. Without OG, I wouldn't have the passion and the confidence to continue embarking on new adventures. I am forever grateful for this experience and hope that anyone curious about traveling and volunteering in an ethical way will give OG a look.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Not so much nerve-wracking, but the most challenging part was a 2 1/2 day, 45-km trek through the mountains. On the third day, we woke up at 4am and hiked up a mountain in the dark so that we could watch the sunrise over the lake, while enjoying fresh Guatemalan coffee. That was the most magical morning.
Default avatar
Lauren
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Exceeded All Expectations and Recharged my Batteries!

As a fairly experienced traveller before my program with OG, I was worried that I wouldn't get a lot out of the program. I was worried I'd resent the group dynamic, that I wouldn't learn much, and that the promises of real and intimate connections with locals simply couldn't be achieved in this way.

I have never been happier to be proven dead wrong. As a smaller org., Operation Groundswell has access to some of the most interesting and impactful local organizations and activists. You could see and feel the trust their partners had in OG, and the love they shared with us as participants was unforgettable. Travelling in a group with experienced leadership at the helm made conversations engaging and important, and I learned more about myself and Guatemala than I ever could have imagined.

If you're looking for an honest experience that will challenge you in the best ways possible and change your perspective, take the leap and travel with OG. I was skeptical before seeing and feeling it for myself, but travelling with OG really is backpacking with a purpose. I am confident that I couldn't have created this experience for myself. I am absolutely sure that it was worth the money. This program made me strongly believe in the power of travel to change the world, and gave me a new individual purpose too. Looking forward to seeing where OG goes, and I can't wait to be part of the journey!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Staying with a community of Indigenous women who are using back strap weaving techniques to create economic opportunity while preserving culture was INCREDIBLY cool. It was a fantastic intersection of feminism, Indigenous culture, innovative tourism/entrepreneurship and highly immersive travel. Also, absolutely delicious food.
Default avatar
Olivia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Guatemala at origin

This program was my first time really going abroad (besides a few trips to Canada). It taught me how to be a conscious traveler, and engage in the communities I interact with through my travels. It was such a great first experience to teach me how to travel well. I really appreciate the fact that OG has ongoing & substainable partnerships in the countries they go to. Seeing that allowed me to value that kind of partnership in any service I engage in. Overall, my short trip was engaging, educational & inspiring. The trip was very fun as well. It fell over New Years and we rang the year in on a permaculture farm overlooking lake atilan, it was incredible!

What would you improve about this program?
I should have signed up for a long program, 8 days was too short!! :)
Ramona
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Once in a lifetime experience

This was my first trip with OG back in July of 2017, lasting for 2.5 weeks. Words do not do justice to how amazing and experiential this program was, making wonderful and deep friendships along the way and creating an impact with the locals that has changed my travel mindset today. We got out hands dirty and volunteered for reforestation with local organizations, met with political activists and learned more about the struggled the people of Guatemala face today politically, as well as enjoying nights bon firing, dancing, eating diverse foods, and just creating memories that'll leave you hungry for more. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to backpack remote parts of the world and gain something from it as well!

What would you improve about this program?
n/a
Default avatar
Eliza
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Challenging but WORTH IT

My six weeks in Guatemala were definitely a challenge. Not only because you spend SIX NON STOP WEEKS with the same people (kinda tricky for an introverted person), but also because the experiences themselves were stretching. Living in isolated rural villages, facing a fear of water and going white water rafting, trekking three days over the mountains with an injured knee, climbing a volcano right after getting the stomach flu, shopping in a local market with a language barrier ... I could go on. Every day was challenging in a new way, and I GREW more than I thought I could! I became more courageous, more trusting, and more open as a person.

What would you improve about this program?
Being clear about the physical strain from the outset. I may have picked a different program that was less physically demanding had I known how HARD that three day trek was going to be on my knees. I'm still recovering a year later!
Default avatar
Maeselle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Operation Groundswell- Guatemala

This trip was one of the most memorable trips I have ever been on. I learned a lot about the history of Guatemala, and experienced aspects of the country that I wouldn't have been able to as a normal vacationer such as staying with Guatemalan families, working with the locals, and eating local foods. Within my group, I made really great friends, and felt that the trip leaders were really invested in what they were doing, and in inspiring us to be more curious about the culture and more conscientious of our travel experience. I would love to do another trip with Operation Groundswell.

What would you improve about this program?
Overall, I think this was a successful travel experience.
Karli
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Oh Gee am I glad I travelled with OG!

I absolutely LOVED my trip with OG in Spring 2017- Mayan Roots. Had an absolute blast and became instant friends with the entire group. Our leaders were awesome and it was so nice having one of our Program Leaders actually be someone from Guatemala who could not only give us good tips on the cities but also provided some amazing and personal insight on the theme of our trip. Love the values of the company and that participants are able to choose where the community contribution goes at the end. Homestays are definitely interesting when your Spanish is mediocre, but an incredible experience nonetheless. The Hub is AMAZING! So happy I got to experience such a beautiful country with some amazing, inspiring people! Would 10000% recommend Guatemala and OG time and time again!

Hana
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing and life-changing trip

I went on this trip with Operation Groundswell (OG) this past December (December 2017)! I loved every moment of this trip. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the days planned by the OG team and I loved meeting their members at their Guatemala Hub. I love getting to meet new people from all over the world as well! My favorite experience was climbing volcanoes with the group and then relaxing in the hot springs :) Overall, I recommend this trip to anyone looking to travel and meet new friends!