Written by Emily O´Brien, University of Guelph, Dedicated OGer since December 26th 2011! After fully recovering from the grueling, yet amazingly epic trek through the Colca Canyon, us OGers were ready for our next stop in the town of Pîsco. Although we were excited...

As the weather begins dipping below that magical freezing point, our thoughts begin to wander to warmer, beachier places. Groundswell HQ is feeling the freeze no thanks to the performance of our lukewarm heating system. If water was at this room temperature, it would definitely...

Greetings from Peru! This blog post comes to all our friends and family a bit later than planned and we apologize: We were too busy conquering THE WORLD´S DEEPEST CANYON!! After three days trekking through the Colca Canyon, the OG Peru Winter Break crew has arrived...

People are busy. We live in a world that often defines your worth by how busy you are. The busier you are, the more important you must be. Many of us strive towards a busy life, and often forget along the way, what it means...

Just yesterday, I had sent an email out to a professor, asking her to forward on information about our trip. When I popped open Gmail just a few minutes later, I got a response. All it said was "Please read the attached document, written in...

Operation Groundswell wants to meet you. And we want you to meet us. That's why we're kicking off an info session tour this November. Come and say hi! University When? Where? University of Guelph Wed. Nov 16 @ 5:00pm Mackinnon Room 228 McGill University Tues Nov 22 @ 12:00pm Bronfman Mgm't Building Room...

Tzibal is a small indigenous village located about two kilometers from Campur in what I affectionately call Guatemala’s “egg carton hills” but don’t try to find it on a map. There are about 380 Q'eqchi' residents who rely on the farming of coffee, cardamom, bananas,...

Jonah's thoughts from his scouting mission to Haiti. Pretty amazing stuff.   "It's complicated." That's the long and short of the general consensus here in Haiti. I've heard this simple summation of Haiti's tumultous history, bleak present and even murkier future from the most pessimistic SUV driving...

Having conquered Santa Maria everyone displayed a new determination and the calves to match, and seemed keen to stretch their new legs “off the grid”. So following our week in Xela OGG hooked up with Quetzaltrekkers again to undertake a week long trek across a 70km stretch of the Sierra Cuchumatanes, the highest non-volcanic mountain range in Central America. The walk took us from the Ixil Triangle, a unique and isolated enclave of Ixil Maya, who had endured perhaps the most intense and sustained repression during the civil war, to the colourful Mam Maya community of Todos Santos, where the traditional white and red striped trousers still adorn the men’s legs and the blue ribboned straw hats still sit atop people’s heads.

In 2010, repeated recommendations came from the international community to suspend Goldcorp’s controversial Marlin Mine in the North-Western highlands of Guatemala. The open-pit mine however, continues to operate. Its presence in the indigenous municipalities of San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipacapa continues to generate allegations of serious human rights violations and fomenting social upheaval.
In February, the International Labour Organization (ILO) recommended that the Marlin Mine be suspended for having failed to ensure the right of communities to free, prior and informed consent, a stipulation of ILO Convention 169 and condition of the 1996 Guatemalan Peace Accords (see the ILO decision). Then on May 20th the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHRC) also demanded that the Guatemalan government suspend the operation so as to ensure the provision of human rights and environmental protection while a full investigation is conducted. On June 18th, the United Nations Special Rapporteur added that “according to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, projects that have a significant impact on the rights of indigenous peoples such as the Marlin mine, should not be implemented without the consent of the communities affected Indigenous Peoples.” And “if there is a substantial risk of injury to the health or physical well being of the people due to the mine, the Ministry of Energy and Mines must proceed with the suspension of activities...” (See Rapporteur's Press Release) The Guatemalan government agreed, but has failed to enforce the order.

Quetzaltenango, better known as Xela, is Guatemala’s second city and exemplifies the intersection of its colourful indigenous and ladino cultures. It was and remains a home away from home for me and plays host to an interesting variety of NGO’s, Spanish schools, and progressive intellectual and political personalities. It also sits in the ominous shadow of Volcan Santa Maria, a dormant giant that has nevertheless left an indelible mark in the minds and bodies of OGG’s participants.

Antigua in the ominous shadow of Volcan Agua
 Antigua, known to me as Guatemalan Disneyland, was once the country’s capital and remains a colonial jewel nestled between 3 of Guatemala’s most iconic and notorious volcano’s (Agua, Fuego, and Pacaya). After bursting out the doors of OGG’s first Chicken bus, sharing stories about its colours and characters, the group settled into Hostal Holistico, a cute little refuge in the city’s centre, where they would be staying for the next 3 nights. 

Balance. Growth. Symbiosis. Change. Unlearned. Transition. Expectations. Fulfillment. Mirror. Acceptance. Foster. Now. Patience. The group returned after ITT refreshed and recharged with more positive attitudes and energies than had been experienced throughout the trip. While each one of us had a different ITT experience, most traveled...

It's only been eight days since the Amazon Adventure Crew parted ways in Lima, but if we learned one thing on this trip, it's how much can happen in that short amount of time. A water tank can be built in an Amazonian village. That same...