Seeds of Change

Applications Closed

Applications Closed!


Seeds of Change

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  • Get your hands dirty cultivating coffee alongside a band of revolutionaries-turned-reformers in Santa Anita.
  • Brush up on your Spanish in Xela with certified language school and social enterprise, Escuela La Paz.
  • Immerse in Guatemalan culture and explore Mayan cosmology with the Chico Mendes Reforestation Project.
  • Hike in the footsteps of guerrilleros through remote forests and see the sunrise over a super volcano at Lago Atitlan.

Program Dates

August 3 – 23
Applications Closed!

Fees + Community Contribution 

[currency_amount cad=”$2,500 + $250″ usd=”$2,150 + $215″][currency_change default=”USD”]


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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.

Location: Guatemala City

Our group will acclimatize to the sights, sounds, smells, and smiles of the region while getting a crash course in Guatemala’s economic, social, and political context. We’ll explore the cobblestoned streets of the country’s colonial centre and get the dirt on coffee from campesinos in Sacatepequez. Then we’ll join Pedro from HIJOS (Children of the Disappeared) in Guatemala City for a tour of the capital’s socio-politically charged street art. We’ll meet with the Museo de los Mártires to talk about the search for justice and begin to explore the amazing potential and notable pitfalls for post-conflict Guatemala.

The Guatemalan Dream
Location: Xela

We’ll then travel by chicken bus through the Western Highlands to the city of Quetzaltenango, popularly known as Xela (pronounced Shay-la). There in Guatemala’s ladino and indigenous metropolis, we’ll immerse ourselves in highland culture, scavenge colourful markets and discuss the prospects and challenges for the region’s indigenous and campesino communities. We’ll then join Escuela La Paz for group Spanish lessons customized to our capabilities, learn to dance the salsa, and collaborate with our partners who are supporting former guerrillas and migrants through cuisine, urban agriculture, and fashion.

The Coffee Revolution
Location: Santa Anita La Union

After a unique Xela “despedida”, or farewell fiesta, complete with tipico dinner and Mayan dance, we will journey to the community of Santa Anita La Union, where we will work with a coffee cooperative run by former civil war combatants. These guerrillas-turned-farmers perceive coffee differently: it is not just an exportable commodity but also a symbol of revolutionary solidarity. By staying with local families, sharing traditional meals, and exchanging stories we’ll gain a better understanding about life in the boca costa.

We’ll also spend our days collaborating side-by-side with our hosts in the fields and maybe even contribute to the construction of the community’s new “beneficio”, or mill, where the coffee will be washed, depulped, fermented, dried, and sorted.

Mayan Roots
Location: Pachaj

Next, it’s back to the heart of the highlands and the tiny town of Pachaj where we’ll check in with Armando and the Chico Mendes Reforestation Project. For two days, we’ll live again with local host families while learning about Mayan cosmology and how reforestation is being used to defend local culture and livelihoods. We’ll also get our hands dirty collecting seeds, clearing invasive species, and cultivating some of our own home-grown seedlings.

Adventures in the Altiplano
Location: Pachaj to San Juan Laguna

We’re off on an epic three-day trek across the highlands. Joined by Armando’s daughter, Nicte and Kuk Tours, we’ll follow in the footsteps of guerilleros as we traverse the highland plains and cloud forests of Solola en route to San Juan La Laguna. Along the way, we’ll stay in the homes of local families and pass through communities few travelers ever see. Finally, we’ll celebrate the last day on the trail with what promises to be a spectacular sunrise over Lago Atitlan, Guatemala’s most famous supervolcano!

Growing Change at the Hub
Location: San Juan la Laguna

We will conclude our exploration at or near Operation Groundswell’s Hub, located on the shores of beautiful Lago Atitlan. The Hub is a physical embodiment of OG’s culture, philosophy, and mission. It is a place where solidarity is cultivated in and between people through conversations and collaborative projects. It is also a site where OG can test and develop new ways to create positive impact alongside our participants and our local partners. Our team will join artisans, activists, and agronomists on and off the site. We’ll plug into social and community development initiatives and learn how to put the culture back in agriculture, practice weaving in the tradition of Tzutujil women, and see how coffee can be used to support land rights.

Location: San Juan Laguna/San Lucas Toliman

On our last night together, we’ll gather around a BBQ and bonfire for disorientation. A staple of every OG program, this is the time to kickback and reflect, discuss lessons learned, assess our impact, and prepare for the journey home!

Then off we go to the airport to say adios and adelante!

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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


With OG, you live like the locals.
This is not 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 we are, we’ll make it home in no time.

Meet Your Regional Director

Christine Sanderson

Christine fell in love with Latin America’s cultures, landscapes, and language as a teenager living in Chile and couldn’t get enough. She continued her southern adventures working on an archeological dig in Peru and establishing a community library and youth music program in rural Nicaragua, before finally diving head first into the land of beans & corn tortillas (a.k.a. Guatemala).  Since then, she’s led two seasons of OG programs and after hiking in the highlands, experiencing fast-paced local transit, and becoming addicted to Guatemalan coffee, there’s no turning back!  She’s now living and working at the Hub full time as Guatemala’s Regional Director.  When she’s not in the office you can find her playing with the Hub dogs, Luna & Cappu, climbing another volcano, or out practicing her salsa moves.

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