OG & Niagara College present…

Health(care) in Guatemala

It Takes a Village

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Scholarships are available. Apply before March 15 to secure your spot!

Program Description

For an action packed 8-days, we’ll step out of the classroom and into the complex world of healthcare in Guatemala’s western highlands. From big bustling cities to small rural communities, we’ll live and learn alongside local health practitioners, administrators and activists. We’ll visit frontline nurses, ride along with volunteer responders and meet with underserved patients. We’ll examine the gaps in public service delivery and explore how a diverse village of local community, business, and non-profit actors are stepping in to fill them.

So, get ready to challenge yourself with service learning, cultural immersion and adventure. This is our chance to explore healthcare in a new and different landscape while reflecting on the challenges facing practitioners in Guatemala and back home in Canada.

Program Basics

Program Sponsor

2020 Program Dates

February 22-29, 2020

2019 Program Fees + Community Contribution

$1,750 CAD*

$1,650 CAD*

*Includes $95 Community Contribution

Program Highlights

  • Visit big city hospitals and small rural clinics and learn about Guatemala’s healthcare system alongside local practitioners.
  • Join the nurses of Primeros Pasos and social workers of EDELAC to how two NGO’s are affecting health and wellness in the shadow of Volcán Santa Maria.
  • Ride along with members of the Red Cross and Bomberos and see the challenges for Guatemala’s volunteer first-responders.
  • Dip your toes in natural hot springs, and wade into sacred lakes while exploring Guatemala’s natural beauty up close and personal.
Not the program for you?

Check out Guatemala: Rights and Resistance


*This itinerary is based on our previous experiences 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.

Orientation & Healthcare 101 in Guatemala City

We begin our adventure at the front doors of La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City. There in the hustle and bustle of Guatemala’s capital the 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 join JR from Hijos (Children of the Disappeared) for a very different type of tour exploring Guatemala’s recent history and the city’s socio-politically charged street art. Finally, we’ll visit the Hospital Roosevelt, the largest public hospital in the country, and begin to unpack the healthcare system in Guatemala. Get ready for a whirlwind orientation!

The Guatemala Dream in Xela

Next, we’ll travel by bus through the Western Highlands to the city of Quetzaltenango, popularly known as Xela (pronounced Shay-la). Here in Guatemala’s second city, we’ll immerse ourselves in highland culture and engage with a variety of healthcare initiatives that serve the regions indigenous population. We’ll stay with local families and get a little lesson in medical Spanish at Escuela La Paz. We’ll also team up with EDELAC, the Red Cross and Primeros Pasos to learn about some of the local challenges by engaging with their nurses, social workers and first responders. Finally, we’ll celebrate our time in Xela with a little trip to nearby Zunil and the therapeutic waters of the Fuentes Georginas.

Community Health in San Juan La Laguna

At Operation Groundswell’s place-based operations or Hub, located on the beautiful shores of Lago Atitlan, we’ll have the opportunity to rest our legs, and centre our minds in the vibrant indigenous community of San Juan. The Hub is also the physical embodiment of OG’s culture, philosophy, and mission. It is a place where solidarity is cultivated in and between people and local partners through conversations and collaborative projects. So, our team will team up with two of OG’s local partner, La Voz and the Centro May, who one of OG’s partners and engage with a local health initiative underway. On our last night, 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 our return home.




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


Whether it’s a hostel in downtown Xela or a bamboo bungalow on the shores of Lago Atitlan, we will be sleeping and eating as a team in ways that reflect a backpacker’s ethos. Grassroots travel and homestays will allow us to immerse in the local culture but living with local folks may sometimes means living without some of the comforts we’re accustomed to. Cold bucket showers are standard and continuous electricity can’t always be guaranteed – so come prepared! Wherever we are our friends will help us feel right at home.


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!

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