Guatemala – Brewing Justice

You will be immersed in the bustling markets of Guatemala’s big cities, as well as the smallholder farms of the western highlands. You will follow a coffee bean from seed to shelf, while examining the potential pitfalls for the world’s second most traded commodity. You’ll meet with producers in their fields, learn from fair trade advocates, talk shop with innovative retailers, and brainstorm with social entrepreneurs. You’ll get your hands dirty learning the business alongside local producers, and see how some Guatemalans are challenging the inequities of a global marketplace. The combination of hands-on projects, cultural immersion, and adventure will challenge us to think critically about our next cup of coffee and how consumers can brew social justice.

UN Sustainable Development Goal 8 - Decent work and Economic GrowthUN Sustainable Development Goal 10 - Reduced inequalities UN Sustainable Development Goal 11 - Sustainable Cities and communities

Community Partners

Operation Groundswell

Dates of Travel

Saturday, February 15, 2020 – Saturday, February 22, 2020  

Participant Numbers

  • 7 Student Participants
  • 1 Student Team Leader
  • 2 Team Leaders

*Note: this experience can accommodate up to 14 participants (including team leaders), assuming airline seats are available; however, this may mean additional participants pay an increased fee (based on new flight prices).


  • Deconstruct the myths surrounding fair trade and ethical consumerism, while cultivating coffee alongside local farmers in Sacatepéquez.
  • Hike to one of the country’s iconic volcanos, soak in mineral hot springs, or 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.
  • 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.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of your Impact Experience you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate the ability to explore ideas, issues, and global systems from viewpoints other than your own, through reflective practice, group discussions and program activities
  • Work under conditions of ambiguity or uncertainty by engaging with community partners, community members and working as a team
  • Demonstrate an understanding of intercultural competence, sensitivity and humility by completing pre-departure workshops, activities in OWL and the ASB Reflective Practice Workbook, and engaging in the 1-2 week community-based experience
  • Deconstruct the myths surrounding fair trade and ethical consumerism while understanding how this translates beyond Guatemala, to your next cup of coffee back in Canada
  • Demonstrate increased awareness of the history and culture of Guatemala

Ideal Participant

This experience does involve hiking and some physical activity. Your team will be exposed to a true local Guatemalan experience. The ideal participant is open-minded, flexible, and prepared to challenge their thinking. Participants with a business background, and an interest in linking business with social good, may be particularly interested.


Total cost (subject to change) – $3,400 CAD

Total Costs include:

  • Flight
  • Registration and programs fees with Operation Groundswell
  • Contribution to the project and comprehensive on-site support
  • Insurance (health, flight cancellation, baggage)
  • Transportation to/from airport
  • Transportation in Guatemala
  • Accommodation
  • Meals
  • Administrative Fee (buff, team leader contribution, journal)

Note: Impact Experience participants will be responsible for any luggage costs assigned by individual airlines, airport tax, souvenirs, or additional food/snacks during the trip.

Preliminary Itinerary

Day 1-3 (Orientation & Coffee 101) – Guatemala City, Antigua and San Miguel Excobar 

You will be picked up at La Aurora Int’l Airport in Guatemala City, where you’ll quickly take our orientation to the country’s former capital, Antigua. Here, amongst the cobblestone streets and colonial arcades, the team can acclimatize to the sights, sounds, smells, and flavours of the region. Then, after a little team bonding, you’ll kick-start our exploration of 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, you will stretch your legs and learn from founding members Filiberto and Timoteo about how to pick, process, and roast your own coffee before breaking bread over a home cooked meal. To cap off our time in Antigua, participants can scavenge ingredients in the local markets and prepare a traditional Guatemalan dinner complete with tortillas and guacamole.


DAY 3-5 (The Guatemalan Dream) – Xela, Quetzal, Quetzal Tenango

Head north to the Indigenous metropolis of Xela where you’ll join revolutionary-turned-reformer Willie at Café La Red Kat for a delicious meal, and an insightful chat about the challenges facing small-scale farmers, and their struggle to integrate into the new socio-economic order. You’ll also connect with Fair Trade outfit Y’abal and explore the colourful markets in what is considered to be Guatemala’s premier vegetable growing region. No visit to Quetzaltenango would be complete without a trek to one of the country’s iconic peaks! Get an early start and make your way to Volcán Santa Maria to begin a 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 a rewarding soak in natural hot springs.


DAY 5-7 (Coffee Revolutions) – Santa Anita, Quetzaltenango

After a brief journey to the north-west, your team 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, you’ll have the opportunity to break bread, share stories, build friendships and deepen your understanding of the coffee revolution.

You will also temporarily join the ranks as coffee farmers and take to the fields for a day harvesting ripe, red coffee fruit. If you are lucky, you will get to collaborate on the construction of the community’s new mill where the coffee is washed, de-pulped, fermented, dried, and sorted – all in preparation for the international market.


DAY 7-9 (Disorientation and Departures) - San Juan La Laguna, Solola

Conclude your adventure at Operation Groundswell’s Guatemala Hub, located on the shores of beautiful Lago Atitlan. Here, you’ll learn from our local partners in San Juan and explore traditional fishing practices, medicinal plants, permaculture and natural dyes. You’ll also get to kick back, relax and reflect on our incredible journey. You’ll discuss lessons learned, assess our impact, and prepare for the journey home. Finally, with our heads and hearts full, you’ll return to Guatemala City where you’ll say a fond farewell!


*PLEASE NOTE – Itinerary is draft, and subject to change at any time.


Operation Groundswell coordinates appropriate accommodations that reflect the atmosphere of the region. They do this by working closely with guesthouses, hotels, and homestays to ensure that they are adequately safe and hygienic.


All group meals on the program are included, and participants will be responsible for any personal snacks. Some information about food is available in the preliminary itinerary above.

Need to Know

  • This experience does not involve travel through the USA.
  • You are responsible for ensuring that you have the required travel documents and travel visas necessary to participate in the experience.
  • If you require disability-related accommodation or have other special considerations, we encourage you to contact us before applying. We may require further information to determine how we can best meet your accommodation needs.