W20 Guatemala – Rights & Resistance

Be World Ready’s Rights & Resistance program takes students on an immersive journey through Guatemala where they will be challenged to think about peace and reconciliation, law and order, human rights, resistance, and the struggle for justice. We’ll travel from the streets of Guatemala’s capital where thousands of peaceful protesters forced the resignation (and arrest) of the country’s President to more remote corners of Alta and Baja Verapaz where previously war-torn communities are working to reclaim their rights and rebuild their livelihoods. We’ll play in the field with ambitious youth, hike with courageous land defenders, talk shop with local officials, and break bread with determined human rights activists. We’ll examine the enduring effects of colonialism, racism, poverty and inequality and see how communities across Guatemala are responding in their pursuit for justice.

Day 1 – 3|Guatemala City

February 22 – 24, 2020

We will begin our adventure in Guatemala’s big and bustling capital of Guatemala City. Following arrivals at the La Aurora International Airport, we’ll get acclimatized to the sights, smells, sounds, and smiles of the region. We’ll explore the city’s historical centre on foot, visiting the National Palace where thousands of peaceful protesters recently forced the resignation (and arrest) of the President. We’ll also connect with the Human rights Commission and join Paulo from the organization HIJOS (Children of the Disappeared) to tour some of Guatemala’s politically charged street art while learning about the enduring trauma of Guatemala’s 36-year armed conflict and its implications for the country.

  • Local & Climate: Guatemala City is BIG. think 4 million people and growing. It’s got a slightly gritty vibe and streets are pretty chaotic. At 1500m above sea level, so while it can be warm to hot during the day, evenings can get cool and chilly.  It will also be RAINY SEASON, so be sure to pack a rain jacket and waterproof cover for your pack.
  • Activities:
    • Day 1 will be the first full exposure to both Guatemala and OG’s educational travel style: So, as part of orientation, we’ll facilitate a number of ice breakers, team building games and conversations about Guatemala, and how we want to perform as a group of backpacktivists.
    • On day 2, we’ll continue orientation and begin to talk more about Guatemala’s history and search for justice with a visit to the FAFG where we’ll learn get a glimpse into how forensic anthropologists are exhuming victims from the internal conflict and promoting healing. 
  • Learning: Students will be learning about Guatemala’s struggle for justice and ongoing fights for human rights. Visits to places like the “Casa de La Memoria” (House of Memory) and the FAFG along with the street art and posters will provide an  intro into Guatemala’s 36-year armed conflict and process towards to peace and reconciliation.
    Students will also be exposed to OG’s playful and experiential learning style: we’ll have lots of discussion, group games and reflections to help spur that learning and orient students to Guatemala.
  • Accommodations: Quetzalroo is located in Zone 10. It’s a pretty standard family-run backpackers hostel with bunkbeds and shared dorm rooms. Marcos is the manager and has a big personality. He offers a lot of local knowledge and if asked can guide a badass bicycle tour of the city.  The hostel also has a rooftop where we’ll do some of our morning briefings and evening reflections.
  • Transportation: We’ll take taxis or a private micro (kinda like a club van) from the airport. Then we’ll mostly be exploring by taxi and by walking (or maybe biking) in the city.
  • Food: Lots of beans, corn tortillas, eggs and chicken!  We’ll be delving into these local staples right away.
  • Physicality: Aside from the optional bike tour of the city, we won’t be doing any hiking or crazy adventure activities on Day 1 or 2 but we will be walking around the downtown quite a bit and days will be full of other types of  activities and engagements.
Day 3 – 5| Pacux, Rabinal

February 24 – 26, 2020

From the capital, we’ll drive north into the region of Baja Verapaz and on to the city of Rabinal. There the edge of town, we’ll join ACHI in the “model village” of Pacux for a couple of days of hands-on learning. We’ll learn about the effects of conflict from a community of refugees who are working to reclaim their rights and rebuild their livelihoods. We’ll play games and roll up our sleeves with local youth who use outdoor education and agroecology to plant the seeds for a better future.

  • Accommodations: Family homestays in Pacux. Family homes are basic concrete structures with electricity and running water but may not have flush toilettes or paved floors. Bucket showers are the standard and there isn’t a lot of privacy. But families are very friendly and patient communicating across languages.
  • Physicality: REMOTE, long hike up to the community, boat ride, hot weather, project work will likely include construction
Day 5 – 7| Rio Negro

February 26 – 28, 2020

Next, we’ll set off in pick-up trucks before hiking the remaining 5km over rolling hills and down into the beautiful riverside community of Rio Negro. Here, we’ll stay for two days of listening, learning, and working alongside a courageous group of Maya Achi who have faced nearly 40 years of repression, culminating in the infamous Rio Negro Massacres of 1980-82. Besides getting our hands dirty, we’ll have the opportunity to fish with local community members, and hike to the community’s ceremonial altar while discussing the community’s pursuit of justice in the aftermath of the conflict.

  • Local & Climate: The Rio Negro is a small community of two dozen families spread out along two bays of the Rio Negro river. The community endured a series of massacres in the ‘70s-’80s during the civil war and is now only accessible by water or by foot. There is no cell service and only limited electricity. The climate is hot (25-30 degree days) and typically dry but heavy rains coming only during rainy season (May-Oct). Nights are slightly cooler with temperatures dropping to 15 degrees.
  • Partners and Projects: The community of Rio Negro is our partner. Project work, as always, is TBD, but we will likely be collaborating on some sort of construction or repair project in the community.
  • Activities: While we do some project work in Rio Negro, the main reason for our visit there is to stand in solidarity with the community. We will spend most of our time in and around the beautiful community center, hike up to a tragically historical site, and have a bonfire. This is a heavy visit, and can be quite emotional.
  • Learning: We will learn about the Rio Negro massacres, and we will hear Don Sebastian’s story of survival. We will learn what it means to stand in solidarity with a community. We will learn about how remoteness and access to resources affects people’s way of life and allows for those in power to commit human rights abuses in these locations.
  • Accommodations: Big shared room in the community center, mattresses on the floor.
  • Transportation: Pickup trucks, boats, walking
  • Food: Home cooked, basic chapin cuisine
  • Physicality: REMOTE, long hike up to the community, boat ride, hot weather, project work will likely include construction
Day 7 – 8| San Cristobal Verapaz

February 28 – 29, 2020

In the morning, we’ll say farewell and leave Rio Negro by boat, passing by the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam, a massive feat of engineering that serves as gatekeeper for the community and was a catalyst for some of their most tragic confrontations with the military and police. Then it’s on to San Cristobal in Alto Verapaz we’re connect with our friends at the Community Education Center of Pokomchí (CECEP), and visit a museum highlighting the history and culture of the Pokomchí Maya. We’ll also have the option of breaking bread and staying with local families. On our long journey back south, we’ll make a quick pit stop in the indigenous metropolis of Xela (pronounced Shay-la). There, we’ll visit with local students, talk to local members of the Civil National Police (PNC), and a meet with revolutionary-turned-reformer Willy at Café La RED KAT for an delicious meal and insightful discussion on the challenge of bring about justice in modern day Guatemala.

  • Local & Climate: San Cristobal is a small city as is the capital of the Maya Achi cultural territory. We’ll be staying close to the centre of town where much of the city’s life plays out with street food, music and vendors doing their thing from morning till night. At an altitude of ?, temperatures are a little cooler here (20-25 degree days and 8-15 degree nights) but the sun is strong.
  • Activities: 
    • Disorientation – On the afternoon of day 8 we’ll celebrate disorientation, a staple of all OG programs. This is a chance to kickback relax and reflect in a beautiful setting where we’ll re-live memories of the program, recap the lessons that we’ve learned, discuss how to stay connected, and collaborate on projects in the future.
  • Partners and Projects: We will meet the larger team at CECEP. Although we will not be doing any more service work, we can explore the cultural museum and talk to Sucely and her colleagues about their work and efforts to protect the Maya Achi language and territory.
  • Accommodations: We’ll be staying in a local family-run hotel. Think basic double or triple occupancy rooms with private or shared bathrooms. There is generally (but not always) hot water, electricity and if we’re lucky, WIFI.
  • Transportation: We’ll take a boat from the Rio Negro to the Chixoy Dam. A Massive hydroelectric project where we’ll ride in the backs of pick-up trucks to San Cristobal (1.5hrs). In San Cristobal everything is walkable.  On Day 8, we’ll take a shuttle back to Guatemala City (3.5hrs) to meet our outgoing flights.
  • Round Trip Airfare
  • All Accommodation
  • Meals
  • Travel Insurance
  • In Country Transportation
  • Community Outreach
  • Hikes & Activities


Second Payment
Third Payment
Fourth Payment





*Price may increase or decrease depending on exchange rates, final vendor quotes and number of participants.

1849 +/- ($500 BWR grant applied)

TRIP DATE 02/22/2020





This opportunity is available to all Niagara College students and alumni within 6 months of graduation. Please note that part-time students are not eligible for the Be World Ready Grant.

This program is considered highly intense due to the fast-pace, hands-on fieldwork, and hiking combined with the variable terrain and subtropical climate. A moderate to high level of physical fitness is suggested to participate in this program.


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*Note: if we will be flying through the United States of America, you must have permission to enter and leave the United States. If you require a U.S travel visa it is your responsibility to obtain this document and email [email protected] a copy/photo.