Reading Village is a non-profit organization based out of Boulder Colorado. They are preparing for their 5th and 6th semi-annual trips to Guatemala and are seeking travelers, who have an interest in seeing the world and promoting literacy in rural Guatemalan communities. Learning Journey travelers will tour the countryside alongside fellow philanthropists, Reading Village Board Members, and Program Scholars. Participants will witness, first hand, the capacity of literacy to create generational change in resource-constrained settings, catalyzing a transformation from impoverished to empowered communities.
Each group of Learning Journey travelers will intimately explore Guatemala over the course of eight days. You will travel to the program sites, work with teen reading promoters, and explore the connections between poverty, education, and prosperity. The purpose of the trip is to offer a unique and profound learning experience through intercultural exchange, service, and responsible tourism. As co-travelers, you will form a learning community, sharing insights and emerging questions with each other along the way.
While the ability to speak Spanish is not required, this intimate cultural experience is an opportunity to act not only as an ambassador of the organization, but also of your local community in Colorado, as well our country. Unlike traditional tourism, traveling with a nonprofit organization provides a unique opportunity to engage with the communities that you are traveling in. Whether you’re eighteen or eighty, there’s something to learn from Guatemala. For eight days you will visit the colonial town of Antigua, explore the ancient Mayan ruins of Iximché, and tour a coffee cooperative on Lake Atitlán. What’s more, you will get to know our teens personally, the challenges they face and the impact they have. You’ll visit their homes, share a meal with their families, and have an authentic experience of Mayan traditions and rural life.
These journeys are not just for the children who are directly affected in Guatemala, but for the travelers who will witness some of the poverty and desperation of many parts of the country. When interacting with locals it is important to recognize that you have more access to power (in all its forms: wealth, travel visas, privilege, political clout, education) than the vast majority of Guatemalans with whom you will be interacting. This experience will not only enrich your life but will touch your heart at the same time. You will have the opportunity to explore some of the rich culture, participate in many of the tourist attractions and then be able to reflect on the experience with other members of the organization.
This year’s journeys will be from April 25th – May 2nd and November 2nd – 9th and will cost $1,900.00 per person, $3,600 for two people when registered at the same time. Half of the trip fee is tax deductible. The trip fee includes: hotel, breakfasts and lunches, private ground transportation, admission to cultural sites and guides. It does not include airfare to and from Guatemala, dinners and all of the preceding items outside the days of the scheduled Journey dates. Groups are limited to 10 people.
About Reading Village
Their Founder and Executive Director, Linda Smith, has long been witness to the creativity, spirit, and resourcefulness of people living on the margins. It's what fuels her desire to take action in solidarity with them and forms the foundation of Reading Village's powerful and sustainable model for change. For 25 years Linda’s work and volunteer efforts included addressing homelessness, mentoring inner city youth, teaching public school and promoting community and environmental sustainability. During those years she also traveled to Guatemala, achieved her goal of becoming fluent in Spanish and then built a business to import and sell Guatemalan woven goods. She made a promise to herself that she’d one day do something more for some of the 2 billion people on the planet who live in extreme poverty. She made good on that promise twelve years later in 2006 when, at a crossroads in her life, she envisioned an organization that would expose some of the poorest and least literate children in the Western Hemisphere to the joy and power of reading – giving them the tools to make a better life for themselves. Reading Village is that organization.
With a population of nearly 15 million, Guatemala is the most populated country in Central America. It is also one of the poorest. Seventy five percent of the population lives below the poverty line and 58% live in extreme poverty (World Bank). Over half the population is Indigenous Maya, and the remainder is primarily of mixed European and indigenous heritage – referred to in Guatemala as Ladino. Raw with the wounds of nearly four decades of civil war, the country is full to the brim with survivors struggling to break free from seemingly perpetual poverty. The literacy rate of Guatemalans over the age of 15 is just 74% – apart from Haiti, this is the lowest literacy rate in the Western Hemisphere. What’s more, social and cultural prejudices and barriers such as racism, gender discrimination and poverty, show up plainly in these literacy statistics: males (80%) are more likely to be able to read than females (69%), and Ladinos (82%) are better off than their indigenous peers (58%). When it comes down to it, indigenous women are the most marginalized in the country – with literacy rates of just 30% alongside high rates of poverty and poor health.
About Their Programs
They invest in teenagers through scholarships, mentoring and leadership development, enabling them to complete high school (an accomplishment that less than 10% of their peers achieve). In return, they volunteer as “reading promoters” – each teenager runs several weekly reading circles for the young children in their community. And together reading promoters and program alumni initiate supporting projects to develop a culture of reading within their own villages, where only 50% of adults can read. In this way, our reading promoters become the first generation of adults in their communities to read to their own children. And the children they have taught over the years will continue the legacy of reading, learning and aspiring, improving the quality of life for themselves and the entire community.