Experiential Education & Community Service in Guatemala

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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.

Questions & Answers

Reviews

96%
based on 25 reviews
  • Impact 8.8
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.2
  • Value 9.2
  • Safety 9.2
Showing 16 - 25 of 25
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Ariana
10/10

Post- OG Blues

Traveling with Operation Groundswell was an invaluable experience that I owe a great deal of who I am today to. My trip to Guatemala showed me the true meaning of selfness, finding and cultivating lasting relationships and genuinely living everyday like it’s your last. I woke up everyday feeling fulfilled, loved and safe. I was excited to start each adventure even if that meant waking up at 3am to trek to the top of a mountain to watch the sunrise. The hardest part of the whole experience is coming home with the travler blues. I wish I could give everyone the gift of an OG trip! Thank you to OG, Ben & Mikel... I will never forget any of you!

How can this program be improved?
Can it even be improved? Don’t think so!!!
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Anne
10/10

Worth every penny!

I was a participant on an OG Mayan Roots program in Guatemala during the summer of 2016 and it was by far the most immersive, educational, and overall best travel experience I have ever had. The program leaders, Christine and Nina, were highly knowledgable of the area, the language, and our partners. Throughout the trip, they provided us with the utmost support and were dedicated to their work. The partners we worked with over the course of the trip were so kind and welcoming. It was clear that OG has great working relationships with all of the groups they support and interact with. I would recommend any OG program to any person at any time. It is a phenomenal organization that I full-heartedly believe in.

How can this program be improved?
I don't know if this program could have been improved when I was on it.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Victoria
10/10

The Best

This was a great way to see Guatemala and learn about the people. It is all mountains and it is so beautiful. We learned a lot about the Mayan people and heard personal stories from some survivors of the massacres. The backpacking trip was hard but rewarding. Come prepared to get rained on. We learned how to make tortillas, went to the marketplaces and tried cool fruits, and took lots of small buses. Our OG group was really close and we had a lot of fun through it all. It was a very impactful experience that I will never forget.

Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Martin
9/10

A week with OG in Guatemala: At Origin

Operation Groundswell provides an extremely unique experience wherein they give travelers insight into social/environmental issues specific to a country by working with different non-profit/advocacy groups who are trying to make the world a better place. They're also realistic with the experience they provide and don't create a facade of 'voluntourists' being able to make drastic impacts in short periods of time. Rather than solely focusing on the volunteering aspect, OG also incorporates workshops, tours, and discussions to create an educational experience that helps you to become aware of some of the issues the country facing.

For the At Origin trip, a large focus of the trip was on the importance of coffee production and how it affects the country both at the local and international level. We were given the opportunity to visit different coffee farms, observe the process of how coffee was made, and live with coffee farm families who gave insight in their day-to-day activities. If you only have a short time amount of time to travel and would still like experience something outside of the typical tourist experience, OG should definitely be put into consideration!

How can this program be improved?
Since this specific program has so many activities planned for such a small time frame, it was hard to fully take in the sites and experiences sometimes. The program also costs more than it would actually be if someone were to go to Guatemala themselves and explore the country for a week; however, that higher cost is paying for a well organized trip with an extremely unique experience.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Amanda
10/10

The Biggest Regrets Are the Chances Not Taken

I'm the person who gets buyer's regret while I'm waiting in line to purchase something, so I hope you can believe me when I tell you that the price of this trip is minuscule compared to what I've gained from this 9 day program! OG's Guatemala Team and its' partners exhibit the most incredible amount of passion, diligence and perseverance for the causes they stand behind and the projects they have brought to life - and continue to inspire and motivate me every day. To know that I was able to help directly with some of these projects by getting my hands dirty - and also meeting, connecting with, and working along side the people who dedicate their lives to these projects - is an incredible feeling. Staying with local families and riding chicken buses allowed me to get up close and personal experiences that I wouldn't have gotten anywhere else. My mind was blown more than once on this trip, resulting in knowledge and confidence that I have since used to make conscientious decisions in my every day life. I found appreciation for the smallest things that we take for granted. I found humility in righteous causes. I found happiness in its purest form. OG has enriched and changed my life for the better. What will you find during your program?

How can this program be improved?
Honestly, I would not change my experience even a little bit. I, however, do wish I could relive my program over again.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Eric
9/10

Guatemala Reading Week

During my first year of University, I really did not know what to do for my reading week until I got an email from my schools International Office.

At first I was extremely hesitant to go on the trip due to the cost, being a student it is quite hard to cough up the money but in the end it was probably the best decision I made.

It was my first trip to South America, and first time independent traveling. It truly was an experience of a life time.

Not only was OG a great way to give back to local communities, it was an awesome way to meet people, learn about different culture and how life is lived when you are not handed all the luxuries of being in a developed country like Canada.

This trip was a good mix of volunteering, education and site seeing. We had great program leaders who helped immerse our group in the culture, made us feel safe at all times and truly added on to the experience.

I would 10/10 recommend going on an OG trip, currently I am looking for my next one!

How can this program be improved?
Cheaper costs
Yes, I recommend this program
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Emma
10/10

Most Educational Week of my Life

I went to Guatemala with high expectations. Our itinerary sounded amazing. What I didn't expect was that the nooks and crannies between the activities on the itinerary was where the real experience happened. I rode in a tuk-tuk for 30 minutes listening to Total Eclipse of the Heart and Time After Time on a continuous loop-- the driver's special mix tape for tourists. I had a good bm on top of a volcano-- still one of my proudest moments. I made new connections with incredible people. I learned that I couldn't get rid of my anxiety by facing my fears, but it also couldn't stop me from seizing amazing opportunities. I gained confidence in my own abilities as a traveler, which inspired me in my international excursions since. Most of all, I learned that people, regardless of language, lifestyle, and location are all just as complexly human as I am. As obvious as this statement seems, it took traveling to a completely different part of the world for me to fully understand it. I grew up more in that week than I did during the rest of my college career. If everyone participated in a trip like this, I truly believe the world would be a better place.

How can this program be improved?
I would have enjoyed seeing more of Guate, in addition to the more rural places we visited. Essentially, this boils down to a wish that I could have been there longer.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Megan
9/10

Comfortably uncomfortable

You definitely get comfortable with being uncomfortable while meeting the most incredible people as you journey across this country.

It is a great program with approachable and knowledgable staff and there is so much to learn in such a short period of time that you feel like you have been there forever but also for no time at all.

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Yes, I recommend this program
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Thomas
9/10

Life Changing

Don't expect to sleep in the lap of luxury on this trip. But if you want to meet good people, see extraordinary places, and expand your mind beyond what you every though possible, then go on this trip.

PS: If you have the option to hike Santiaguito, do it.

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Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
wonderer
9/10

Balance abroad

This program was a wild ride with ups and downs and loops and turns, and just like a ride you wanted it to continue after it was finished. The days and weeks are well balanced out with activities and educational experiences that range from hiking volcanos to working with women's co-operatives. We got to live with the locals and see the land through our own eyes not just how a tourist company wants you to see it. We learned to create our own opinions and thoughts on issues and diversity that the country is facing. We took those opinions and thoughts and focused on something constructive that we could help with. There were many hard days emotionally and physically but as hard as those day were there was an equal if not greater day to counter it.

How can this program be improved?
Honestly this program was fantastic it had a great balance of volunteering, adventure, learning experiences, excitement and I met amazing people there's not much more I could ask for except for maybe an endless summer.
Yes, I recommend this program

Interviews

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About Operation Groundswell

Operation Groundswell is all about backpacking with a purpose. With ethical travel at the crux of our philosophy, Operation Groundswell designs financially accessible programs that tell a story, addressing key challenges unique to each region and...