Xela, Guatemala

Central America Mar 4th, 2017 to Mar 12th, 2017
Cost: $1,090.00 Partner Organization(s): Primeros Pasos Service Type: Medical, human services Number of Participants: 12


We plan to leave early Saturday morning, March 4th, and return Sunday, March 12th. We will fly into Guatemala City, where we will have a hired bus waiting to take us to Antigua, a city of rich culture. We will then depart Sunday afternoon for Xela. From Monday to Friday, we will work with Primeros Pasos on a variety of projects such as building gardens with Mayan women for the nutritional program and working in a health clinic just outside Xela in the Palajunoj Valley. We depart Friday evening for Lago Atítlan where we will spend our remaining time enjoying the beauty of Guatemalan nature.

During our entire stay, we will only use hostels and transportation recommended by our site contact and used by them for other volunteer groups. All hostels will include showers and safe drinking water. Once in Xela, Primeros Pasos will provide transportation to and from our hostel and that days’ work site.

The trip cost includes most meals for the week. Once in Xela, we will purchase groceries for all breakfasts, and most lunches and dinners.

Participants should look forward to a hard but fulfilling week of service! Spanish ability is not necessary, but is highly recommended, as it will greatly improve your ability to learn from and get to know the people we will be working with.


Primeros Pasos, our partner organization, works with rural communities in Xela to create sustainable education and health programs. They aim to improve quality of life through projects such as the Nutrition Recuperation Program and Children’s Health Education initiatives. For five days of the trip, we will work with Primeros Pasos on projects such as these. We will also be given a tour of the medical clinic where participants will learn what health care looks like through an NGO. Through direct interaction with people of another community and education about their way of life, we hope to change our perspective of service, others, and ourselves.

xela2      xela3


Bordered by Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador, Guatemala is the northernmost Central American country. It boasts an incredibly abundant and diverse ecosystem, including Tikal National Park, the first mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site. Guatemalan culture represents a fusion of Mayan and Spanish influences, as apparent in their food, art, literature, and music.  Due to a history of civil unrest, political corruption, and economic strife, Guatemala continues to face great instability in all arenas. Its huge indigenous population, constituting over 60% of the population, still faces discrimination and inequality, leading to poverty and limited access to resources such as clean water, electricity, and medical care. According to the National Institute of Statistics of Guatemala, indigenous workers earn US$1,938 each year, as opposed to other Guatemalans’ earnings of US$2,784 per year. In 2011, 53.7% of Guatemala’s total population and 70.5% of the rural population lived below the poverty line. We hope to explore the implications and effects of this discrimination and the complicated role of volunteer groups abroad throughout our week in Guatemala.


Source: http://www.primerospasos.org


Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, locally known as Xela, is the country’s second largest city. Primeros Pasos works just outside the city in Palajunoj Valley. Despite their close proximity, the resources urban Xela enjoys do not extend to the rural and impoverished Valley. With only a single public health post employing one doctor and one nurse, Primeros Pasos serves as an invaluable resource for these rural communities. They most often see conditions such as malnutrition, respiratory infections, and intestinal parasites. While treatable, these diseases take many lives due to a lack of resources in the area. Primeros Pasos uses educational tools, empowerment projects, and free or low-cost health services to ameliorate the health issues these communities face.


We will travel to the city of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in order to learn more about Guatemalan culture and history through museums and monuments. At the end of the week, we will head to Lago Atítlan, a crater lake surrounded by volcanoes, for outdoors recreation such as hiking, ziplining, cliff diving, and swimming. Lago Atítlan has been dubbed “the most beautiful lake in the world” and the end of the week will be a fun time to relax and enjoy the scenic views. Primeros Pasos only works until 1 PM each day to avoid intruding on the community members’ privacy and family time, so we will have afternoons free to explore the city and historical sites in Xela such as la Plaza Central, the city market, and la Catedral del Espiritú Santo. Holy Week falls around the time we will be in Guatemala and we look forward to watching the parades and festivities that will occur in the city while we are staying there. We also plan to spend an evening in Xela taking a Salsa dancing class and learning about the role of dance in Guatemalan culture. We will be flexible with which days we do these activities depending on what participants want to do.

Processed with VSCO with 6 preset


Amanda and Paige both participated in the Guatemala trip last year and loved it so much they had to go back. They can’t wait for this year’s trip!

Amanda is a third year studying Spanish and History. She enjoys good food, long walks on the beach, UVA men’s basketball, and exploring new cultures. Amanda can’t wait to go back to Guatemala for another wonderful service trip through ASB.

Paige is a second year Foreign Affairs and Russian & East European Studies major. Paige loves languages, traveling, hiking, and Drake. She cannot wait to return to Guatemala and enjoy (in her opinion) the most beautiful country in the world.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take – Wayne Gretzky – Michael Scott” – Amanda & Paige (so therefore you should apply to Guatemala!)

Feel free to contact Amanda (aet9qs@virginia.edu) or Paige (pek7yz@virginia.edu) for more information


“Before Guatemala, I had been a little skeptical about the effectiveness of service trips and whether they were truly beneficial. However, ASBs mission and commitment to long lasting relationships with their partner organizations and continued service showed me that service trips really can have a positive effect, both on the organizations they work with and ourselves”- Paige

“ASB is a great experience. Not only because of the opportunity to travel and see places you might not get a chance to see, but from the community building and service aspect. Volunteering so closely with other people builds such a special relationship with everyone involved. Even though the trips only last a week, their impacts on the communities and individuals are much more lasting.” -Amanda