Experience the World of the Maya
The traditions and ancient culture of the Maya are facing the challenges of a generation in a globalized world. Students volunteering with Global Leadership Adventures will travel to this beautiful country and learn first hand about the ways the Maya are preserving and protecting their heritage and culture. Diving head first into this rich culture and learn how to make beautiful textiles, teach the local children, meet grassroots leaders, and make friendships that will last a lifetime.
“After the weaving lesson we went through a traditional wedding ceremony using volunteers from our group. It was extremely interesting to see how they get married and it was great to actually be a part of such a religious custom. Following the wedding ceremony we learned how to make tortillas and coffee. In the cultural center we all purchased amazing woven items or bags of coffee. I am pleasantly surprised about how close the group has already become. It has only been a full day and I feel like I have been here for a week.” -Hannah
GLA students will spend much of their time volunteering at a local school refurbishing and building classrooms. Students will play a large part in helping the children doing arts and crafts, playing sports, and learning English. The school GLA partners with is unique in that it is run by Maya teachers and actively promotes indigenous language and culture, further immersing students into the Maya culture.
“The recess was the highlight of our morning, because that was the precious time when we could interact fully, for an hour, with the kids. We enjoyed giving them piggy-back rides, speaking to them in Spanish, and (surprisingly!) going without technology— allowing us to simply live in the moment and relish the emotional connections we established – connections that transcended language barriers, age and nationalities.”
The rich culture of Guatemala allows for many interesting guest speakers and community leaders to come and interact with the GLA groups. Students are given the unique opportunity to learn about the Guatemalan Civil War, which ended in 1996, by a former guerrilla that is now a human rights advocate, and hear the contrasting perspective of a former military general. A traditional Maya Shaman will teach students about Maya cosmology and medicinal plants used by the Quiche people of the region. Students get an up close and personal experience of the culture of the Maya.
Xela, the city where the program is located, is near many cultural treasures in Guatemala. Students will have the chance to adventure out into the Maya ruins at Takalik Abaj, visit a charming colonial town, Antigua, explore Lake Atitlan, and visit the largest Maya craft market in the world, Chichicastenango.
“At the Mayan ruins we were able to view and participate in a traditional ceremony. We walked around the grounds and saw where great temples, palaces, and astronomy observatories once prospered.”
Lake Atitlan is the deepest lake in Central America and is surrounded by 3 volcanoes, making for a breathtaking view. Students spend the day at the lake and are able to experience the surrounding markets and city.
The outdoor market of Chichicastenango is one of the largest craft markets in the world. Vendors and buyers from the entire Quiche region and beyond come together in Chichi, twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays. The market occupies the central plaza and the side streets within several blocks around it. Students get the chance to perfect their bargaining skills while shopping for goods!
“We drove for about an hour with the view of clouds rolling over the mountains out the window. Once in Chichi, we unloaded into a classy hotel to use the restroom before facing the market. We split into groups of three to tackle the largest indigenous craft market in Central America. As the group set out, we saw our friends drown in vibrant colors and dedicated Guatemalan salespeople. The few hours spent in the market were hectic in the best of ways. Ponchos, wallets, worry dolls, fruit, backpacks, and jewelry became common sights throughout the twists and turns of the vendors. We met back at the hotel for lunch and recuperation from the morning bargaining. ” -Cami and Sarah
The colorful culture of the Guatemalan people makes this country a magical place to learn about tradition and history, while making a lasting impact within the community. Guatemala is loved by students who are interested in culture, traditional religion, nature and social issues, all while being in a beautiful setting.
Want to learn more about the Guatemala Children of the Maya experience? Check out the program guide and put yourself in the shoes of our volunteers in Guatemala.
Interested in studying abroad, but still have questions? Read more about why you should volunteer abroad while in high school with our 5 Benefits of Educational Travel for a little extra motivation!