Guatemala One Health

If you eat, you're invited. Explore Food Justice, One Health, and Sustainability in Guatemala!

Join a 3 week, 3 semester credit January Term program that takes students from the black sand coasts up into the tropical mountain forests of Guatemala. This program will be an intensive and interactive study abroad and service opportunity to engage with the culture, food, lifestyle, agriculture economy, and human, animal, and environmental health of Guatemala first hand through expert lecturers, service projects, and site visits. During this program, students will critically examine, through a One Health Lens, the social, political and cultural impact of food production on the environment, animals, and people of Guatemala both in and out of the classroom setting.

In addition to completing a variety of workshops, service projects, conversations and activities relevant to our educational theme we will also indulge in the pure beauty that the Guatemalan landscape so frequently provides. From towering volcanoes to lush jungles full of life, you can expect to bear witness to a multitude of breathtaking landscapes and once in a lifetime experiences.

Guatemala is a study in contrasts. A rich history of Mayan culture and civilization is juxtaposed against a history of conquistadors, dictatorships and a decades-long bloody civil war. Guatemala is also one of the world’s largest producers of sugar, coffee and bananas yet has the fourth highest rate of malnourished children in the world and the highest in Central America. Additionally, Guatemala contains an impressive number of distinct eco-regions and high biodiversity and yet agriculture is increasingly encroaching on virgin forests as Guatemala strives to develop into an economic and political world player. Why should there be such a disconnect between production and consumption, ecology and sustainability? Students on this program work toward finding solutions to this problem.

The Journey: eating your way through Guatemala like a local...not a tourist.

This program offers an opportunity for students to study and experience the intersection between environmental health, human health, and animal health while traversing the coasts, mountain forests, and vibrant cities of Guatemala. This fast paced experience starts in Guatemala city where students explore the legacy of Guatemala's civil war and of Guatemala's Disappeared and the impact of this legacy on Guatemala's culture and economy today. Students begin to engage with this history through site visits, expert lecturers and service with Human Rights organizations and Non-Violent Communication Mediators.

Next you will travel to Antigua to explore fair trade coffee production, cooperative cacao bean-to-bar enterprises and low-impact sustainable organic farming. Experts in the field engage with students with discussions about the global impacts of local actions. As budding food activists, you will travel to the site of the infamous Rio Negro masacres to service with a Traditional Medicine Women's cooperative that uses agro-ecology to preserve native vegetable and medicinal seeds and farming traditions. You willl service with them over the course of a week to help build community capacity and help improve food security in the local economy.

Continuing on, you will visit a Maya-run permaculture organization working to improve access to appropriate technologies for indegenous farmers. Learn Mayan astrology while participating in seed saving workshops and enjoying Guatemalan farm-to-table food.

Before ending your journey at the Pacific coast at a sea turtle conservation park, you will visit a copperative run by former revolutionary guerillas turned farmers who have developed a multi-tiered approach to address their communities food security issues. Get your hands dirty by participating in service that explores organic composting, seed sowing,  vermiculture production and youth education programs.

To top off your experience, you will connect human health, environmental health and food justice concerns with the conservation of endangered species and their habitats. Depending on sea turtle nesting schedules, you may witness and assist in the release of sea trutle hatchlings to their ocean environment. Or, you may explore ecotourism concerns in one of the largest animal rescue centers in Guatemala.

Where you'll stay in Guatemala

Students will experience a combination of:
  • Homestays
  • Youth Hostels
  • Volunteer Cabins
Program Directors: Lindsey Berk and Matthew Orchard of Origins of Food

Lindsey Berk and Matthew Orchard started Origins of Food to reconnect people with where food comes from. After a few years of leading backpacking volunteer programs around Latin America, and organizing food production based workshops along the way, they realized how vital the connection is for knowing where the food we eat comes from, and how those connections have been almost entirely lost for most people living in our busy, modern world. Their mission is to go beyond the supermarket shelves and bring people face to face with the farmers, community organizers and food producers who are making a change in today's food system, and joining the good food revolution. Origins of Food invites people to meet the individuals who are producing what we eat, how they do it, and why.


The program welcomes students of any nation who have a high school diploma or equivalent credential.  TOEFL equivalent 550.  No Spanish language requirement.


IPSL students study with local experts working on the ground in the fields of food production, fair trade, food justice and security, environmental conservation, human rights and animal welfare.  This course is a hybrid between on-site and online work and connects academic scholarship, real world experience and participant observation together to explore some of the most pressing global food issues we are confronting today. An official transcript is issued by the IPSL school of record, College of Mount Saint Vincent, upon successful completion of the program. Students can typically use their Spring semester Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA loans) to finance this accredited academic program. Please check with your campus financial aid office, your study abroad office and for information.

Required Courses

Guatemala One Health: Ecology. Culture. Justice. 

The IPSL and Origins of Food Guatemala One Health: Ecology. Culture. Justice. J-Term Program captures the interconnectedness of people, the environment and animals that we use for food. This topic is looked at under a One Health lens, which will be expanded and explored through site visits and service projects to local Guatemalan farms and agriculture productions. Students will reflect upon their service and participate in experiential learning with a One Health lens through group seminars three times per week, expert lectures and site visits every day, weekly wirtten reflections and a final reflection paper/project. 

This is a  course offered both in Guatemala and remotely and is offered over the course of three weeks in Guatemala and two weeks online in the U.S. for a total of five weeks.

Contact Hours: 45
Recommended U.S. Credits: 3


Volunteer service opportunities may include:

  • Weeding, composting, tilling, planting, etc in farm cooperative fields
  • Seed-saving workshops
  • Community capacity building in food security
  • Youth environmental conservaiton educaiton
  • Providing infrastructure for permaculture projects
  • Potable water improvement
  • Waste water treatment projects
  • Soil conservation projects
  • Irrigaiton water cachement systems
  • Sea turtle hatchling and nest excavation work
  • and more!

Things to do

This is a unique, comparative, on-the-go program that consists of daily academic and cultural excursions and service. The fast-paced exploration of Guatemalan argiculture and food concerns allow students to engage with over ten community organizations in multiple locations around the country. As students travel together, learn from experts and become exposed to the cultural multiplicity of this vibrant country, the coursework grounds the student's experience and positions them to delve deeper into these issues using One Health theory.

AFSNext seal of approval

This program is implemented by a trusted organization within the AFSNext partnership community and has our full endorsement. While not managed or operated by AFS, it maintains the same exceptional quality standards, which are set by a network of experienced international non-profits operating within the international education field.