Brewing Justice

Register now!

Operation Groundswell’s “Brewing Justice” program goes deep inside the original Banana Republic where a fertile land conceals bitter fruit. So, from the bustling markets of Guatemala’s big cities to the smallholder farms of the western highlands, we’ll explore places where land and livelihoods are intertwined with identity and examine why coffee and malnutrition often grow side-by-side. We’ll meet with producers in their fields, talk shop with fair trade retailers and get our hands dirty learning service alongside our community partners. We’ll follow a coffee bean from seed to shelf and learn how Guatemalans are challenging the inequities of a global marketplace.

The combination of service-learning, cultural immersion, and adventure will challenge us to think critically about our next cup of coffee and how we as consumers can start to brew social justice.

Fees + Community Contribution

$1,690 CAD + $100 CAD

April 26 – May 5, 2019
  • Deconstruct the myths surrounding fair trade and ethical consumerism while processing coffee alongside local farmers in Sacatepéquez.
  • Learn the traditional arts of natural dyes and back-strap weaving with the women of San Juan La Laguna who continue to express their Mayan Tz’utujil culture through craft-based economies.
  • Hike to one of the country’s iconic volcanos, soak in mineral hot springs, and wade into sacred lakes while exploring Guatemala’s natural beauty up close and personal.
  • Immerse yourself in Guatemalan history and culture while living with a community of revolutionary coffee farmers in Santa Anita.

Sample Itinerary

*This itinerary is based on our previous experience with the region. Programs change every year based on the needs of our partners. This should give you a sense of what our program may look like.

Arrivals & Orientation in Antigua
After picking everyone up at La Aurora Int’l Airport in Guatemala City, the group will travel to the country’s former capital for relaxing evening at our home in Antigua. The following day, amongst the cobblestone streets and colonial arcades, the group will begin its adventure with an orientation to the region including the sights, sounds, smells, and flavours of this corner of Guatemala. Then, after a little team building, we’ll begin exploring the coffee chain by going seed to shelf with De La Gente (“from the people”), a sustainable agricultural cooperative based in neighbouring San Miguel Escobar. There on the slopes of Volcán Agua, we’ll stretch our legs and learn from members like Filiberto and Timoteo, how to pick, process, and roast our own coffee before breaking bread over a homecooked meal. To cap off our time in Antigua, participants may have the opportunity to “cup” with local coffee experts or scavenge the local markets and prepare a traditional Guatemalan dinner complete with tortillas and guacamole.

The Guatemalan Dream in Xela

Next, we’ll head north to the indigenous metropolis of Xela where we’ll join revolutionary-turned-reformer Willie at Café La Red Kat for a delicious meal and an insightful workshop about the challenges facing small-scale farmers, and their struggle to integrate into the new socio-economic order. We’ll also connect with Fair Trade outfit Y’abal and learn to make artisanal Chocolate with Escuela La Paz as we dig deeper into different artisanal and craft economies that are steeped in Mayan history and culture.

BUT no visit to Quetzaltenango would be complete without a trek to one of the country’s iconic peaks! This year, we’ll be teaming up again with Eduardo and Caqchiquel Tours, a local family-run guiding enterprise. Together we’ll get an early start, make our way to Volcán Santa Maria and begin our hike to El Mirador where, if we’re lucky, we might see one of Central America’s volcanos erupt! Then it’s over to the Fuentes Georginas, for rewarding soak in natural hot springs.

Coffee Revolutions in Santa Anita

After a brief 2hr journey to the north-west, our group will arrive in the community of Santa Anita and home of a unique coffee cooperative that was founded by combatants from Guatemala’s 36-year internal conflict. These guerrilleros-turned-farmers see coffee differently: not only is it an exportable commodity but also a symbol of campesino solidarity. So, by staying in family homes, we’ll have the opportunity to break bread, share stories, build friendships and deepen our understanding of the coffee business and how one small enterprise intends to start a coffee revolution.

We’ll also temporarily join the ranks as coffee farmers and take to the fields for a day harvesting ripe, red coffee fruit. If we’re lucky, we may also to collaborate on the construction of the community’s new beneficio or mill where the coffee is washed, de-pulped, fermented, dried, and sorted – all in preparation for the international market.

Disorientation at the Hub, San Juan La Laguna

We’ll conclude our adventure at Operation Groundswell’s Guatemala Hub, located on the shores of beautiful Lago Atitlan. Here, we’ll learn alongside our local partners who use the site as a living laboratory and engage with the coffee and craft-based economies in San Juan. Ongoing pilot initiatives hosted at the Hub include Tilapia ponds, veggie gardens, organic compost and medicinal plants. We’ll also get to kickback, relax and reflect on our incredible journey. We’ll discuss lessons learned, assess our impact, and prepare for the journey home.

Departures from Guatemala City

Finally, we’ll travel back to Guatemala City for one last night in country’s iconic capital. Staying in the historical Zone 1, nearby to the country’s National Palace and central market, we’ll discuss lessons learned, evaluate our impact, celebrate and prepare for the journey home. Then on our last day we’ll say a fond farewell and return to La Aurora Int’l Airport to meet the group’s departing flight.

Scroll below for more program details

What’s Included?

A comprehensive program itinerary and educational curriculum focused on the issues facing your specific region

Experienced and caring program leaders with you 24 hours a day

All lodging and accommodations throughout the program

Three local meals a day

All group tours, entrance fees, and excursions

All group transportation on the ground

Regular discussions and workshops to help you internalize and reflect on your experience

Support from OGHQ whenever you need it


This is not purely a vagabond’s adventure, nor is it a five-star jetsetter’s cruise. We will be sleeping and eating as a team in hostels, homestays, and guesthouses that reflect a backpacker’s ethos. Grassroots travel and homestays will allow us to immerse in the local culture but living as Guatemalans do sometimes means living without some of the comforts to which we’re accustomed. Creepy crawlies are common while comfy beds can’t always be guaranteed – so come prepared! Wherever it is we’re staying, we’ll make it feel like home in no time.

Meet Your Regional Director

Ana was born in San Jose, Costa Rica and has since travelled whenever possible in pursuit of her passion for education, development, and nature! She has worked as an English teacher in public and private schools in Costa Rica, and volunteered in Quijingue, Bahia (Brazil) on community development projects. After completing her Masters in Translation, she worked with Peace Corps, Costa Rica until returning to the world of NGOs as a Program Coordinator in Riobamba, Ecuador. Now, she’s super excited to be part of the OG family and looking forward to establishing new partnerships, working with and training awesome program leaders, and designing more amazing programs in South America!

If Not Now, Then When?

The world is changing. Help change it for the better. Join the growing community of ethical travellers.