Join this year's AFS Project: Change contest winners on a two-week volunteer adventure in Guatemala. Your team will effect lasting environmental change by empowering children in Antigua, Guatemala to make educated decisions impacting sustainability. Through creating fun and active lessons for students of all ages and social backgrounds, you'll build leadership skills and get to see the immediate impact of your work. Join the team to not only make an impact, but also work alongside Guatemalan community leaders, advance your Spanish language skill, and even have the chance to explore some of Guatemala's most beautiful attractions. Project: Change is so much more than your typical tourist trip—it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join fellow teenagers in making a difference in the world.
Once you and your team arrive in Guatemala, you’ll have some time to settle in to your community in Antigua. As you get comfortable with your surroundings, you’ll begin your project with an introductory meeting on the importance of environmental sustainability. Then you and your team will take a crash course on the basics of Spanish so that you’re prepared to engage fully in Guatemalan culture (no prior language experience needed!).
After you’ve developed a solid background on the topic of environmental conservation, it’s time to put your knowledge to work in schools. Your team will be creating activities and lessons to find creative ways to engage and empower students to make educated environmental choices. Working with students of all ages (preschool through high school) and social backgrounds, your volunteering with have endless impact. By playing an active role in program development, you’ll also gain essential leadership skills to take with you well beyond your time in Antigua. Lastly, you’ll continue to learn basic Spanish to ensure that you’re able navigate Guatemala as an informed traveler.
Diving deeper into indigenous culture and looking for creative inspiration for your lessons everywhere you go, you and your team will travel to the Pre-Colombian site, Iximché, which was the first capital of Guatemala. It’s still used today for ceremonies by local indigenous people, so you may be able to observe a ritual as you learn about modern Mayan culture. Then you’ll visit the nearby lake Atitlán, where you’ll have the chance to relax and take in the beautiful scenery, including three shimmering volcanoes in the distance. You and your friends will spend the night in Panajachel, a lakeside community with stunning views, known for its laid-back culture and artisan goods. The next morning you’ll head to the city of Chichicastenango to wander around the local market. This is great time to stock up on unique souvenirs!
After returning to your home base in Antigua, you’ll continue to visit local schools and educate students on the importance of sustainability. Having spent a few days away, returning to their classrooms will help you see the change you’re already making. You’ll continue your course of active, creative engagement, ensuring that not only your students but you, too, are having as much fun as you are learning. After classes, you’ll spend your time doing unique local activities like dancing lessons and tortilla making to truly understand the culture and people of this beautiful place.
You and your team will continue practicing your Spanish in-context as you explore the surrounding area of Antigua. You may have the chance to visit the ruins of Spanish Baroque churches and explore colonial buildings like the City Hall and Capuchinas Convent. You’ll also continue your sustainability project in local schools, building relationships with students as you learn about their culture and experiences.
After giving back to the community, it’s time for some relaxing downtime! You’ll spend the weekend with a local host family, where you can experience a fresh perspective on Guatemalan culture and see how the country’s rich past influences contemporary life. As you get to know your host family, you may have the chance to taste delicious homemade dishes like pepian (a thick meat and vegetable stew) or tamales with potatoes and meat. This immersive cultural experience will be the perfect culmination of your time, and will bring you to an understanding of the people and place better any tourist trip or textbook ever could.
As your two weeks in Guatemala come to a close, you’ll finish up your sustainability project in local schools. Working with a bilingual school in the U.S., you may set up a pen-pal correspondence to ensure that your impact continues well beyond your time in country. By the time you’re ready to head home, you’ll be able to look back with pride on all you’ve accomplished. With new leadership and community development skills in your back pocket, and lasting impact made in schools throughout the region, you can return home knowing that you spent your summer making a difference in the world.
This program is inspired by Grand Prize Winner Erin’s S.’s submission to the 2016-2017 Project: Change contest.
To learn more about Erin’s volunteer project idea and the inspiration for this program, check out her video.
The AFS Project: Change contest invites students in grades 8-12 to submit their ideas for a volunteer project that addresses a major global issue facing our world today. The Grand Prize winner has the chance to put their vision into action on a customized two-week program abroad.
All aspiring change-makers are welcome to join!