Guatemala - Fair Trade and Social Justice

Operation Groundswell’s “Brewing Justice” program goes deep inside the original Banana Republic where a fertile land conceals bitter fruit. So, from the bustling markets of Guatemala’s big cities to the smallholder farms of the western highlands, we’ll explore places where land and livelihoods are intertwined with identity and examine why coffee and malnutrition often grow side- by-side. We’ll meet with producers in their fields, talk shop with fair trade retailers and get our hands dirty learning service alongside our community partners. We’ll follow a coffee bean from seed to shelf and learn how Guatemalans are challenging the inequities of a global marketplace. 

The combination of service-learning, cultural immersion, and adventure will challenge us to think critically about our next cup of coffee and how we as consumers can start to brew social justice. 

Travel with other students, a UTM staff member and our partners from Operations Groundswell 


  • Examination of ethical consumerism with a critical focus on fair trade, direct trade and trade justice. 

  • Exploration of the coffee industry as well as other production chains and how they connect consumer and producer in a global market place including a discussion of identity, land distribution, immigration, and income generation. 


  • Dates: Approxiamtely 10 days after the April exam period. 

  • Estimated Cost: TBD 


Date Description


Orientation Session  


Pre-Departure Session 


Travel to Guatemala 


Post-Trip Session  


Things to Keep in Mind: 

  • You will need a credit card to make a payment. Visa Debit cards are not accepted; 

  • The first installment is not refundable and must be submitted by the application deadline for your application to be considered complete; 

  • All other installments must be submitted only AFTER your application has been approved; 

  • ALL payments must be submitted by the required deadline for acceptance and participation in the UTM Abroad program; 

  • Payments are non-refundable. Please refer to our Terms of Participation page for more details. 

  • All payment deadlines are posted directly in the payment system. 

Payment Schedule  

Payment Number 

Payment Due 

Amount Due 


At time of application 











Documents and Forms

Things to Keep in Mind: 

  • Access all forms and submit all documents through the UTM Abroad Portal; 

  • Use Firefox or Google Chrome; 

  • Use a desktop computer rather than your mobile device; 

  • You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to print forms completed through the UTM Abroad Portal. Adobe Acrobat Reader should be installed before beginning the application process and can be downloaded here; 

  • Your browser must enable cookies and JavaScript. For security reasons, your log-in session will automatically be timed-out if you have not entered data during this time; 

  • Save your progress as you go by clicking "save" at the end of each section to avoid losing the information you have already entered in the form. 

UTM Abroad Portal

Student Checklist

Things to Keep in Mind: 

  • The list linked below is meant to serve as a guideline as you progress through the UTM Abroad Academic Experiences, not as an exhaustive list. 

  • Additional tasks particular to your program will be communicated to you via email. 

  • Deadlines will be communicated to you via email. 

UTM Abroad Student Checklist


Our partners at Operations Groundswell will lead you through a truly immersive experience filled with planned daily excursions, educational programming, and opportunities to interact with the local community. 

*The following is a sample schedule and is subject to change.* 

Day(s): 1-3 

Location: Guatemala City, Antigua, San Miguel Escobar 
Accommodation: Hostel Antigueño (or equivalent) 
Transportation: Private shuttle, public bus 
Meals: Local restaurants 
General Summary: 
After picking everyone up at La Aurora Int’l Airport in Guatemala City, the group will travel to the country’s former capital for relaxing evening at our home in Antigua. The following day, amongst the cobblestone streets and colonial arcades, the group will begin its adventure with an orientation to the region including the sights, sounds, smells, and flavours of this corner of Guatemala. Then, after a little team building, we’ll begin exploring 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, we’ll stretch our legs and learn from members like Filiberto and Timoteo, how to pick, process, and roast our own coffee before breaking bread over a homecooked meal. To cap off our time in Antigua, participants may have the opportunity to “cup” with local coffee experts or scavenge the local markets and prepare a traditional Guatemalan dinner complete with tortillas and guacamole. 

Engaged Learning Component Part 1: 
OG’s partner, DLG, has requested that participants serve the organization by spending 4-6hrs interacting with local farmers and learning about the coffee industry as well local and global initiatives aimed at improving livelihoods for small producers. 

Day(s): 3-5 

Location: Xela 
Accommodation: Lar Antiqua (or equivalent) 
Transportation: Private bus 
Meals: Homecooked 
General Summary: 
Next, we’ll head north to the indigenous metropolis of Xela where we’ll join revolutionary-turned- reformer Willie at Café La Red Kat for a delicious meal and an insightful workshop about the challenges facing small-scale farmers, and their struggle to integrate into the new socio-economic order. We’ll also connect with Fair Trade outfit Y’abal and learn to make artisanal Chocolate with Escuela La Paz as we dig deeper into different artisanal and craft economies that are steeped in Mayan history and culture. 

BUT no visit to Quetzaltenango would be complete without a trek to one of the country’s iconic peaks! This year, we’ll be teaming up again with Eduardo and Caqchiquel Tours, a local family- run guiding enterprise. Together we’ll get an early start, make our way to Volcán Santa Maria and begin our 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 rewarding soak in natural hot springs. 

Engaged Learning Component Part 2: 
OG’s partners’ Desgua and Café Red Kat have asked that participants serve with 2-3hrs of educational programming aimed cultivating north-south collaboration in the areas of immigration reform, ethical consumerism, and human/indigenous rights advocacy. Similarly, partners, Y’abal and Escuela La Paz, wish to promote solidarity through a combined 4-6hrs of activity-based learning focused on Guatemala’s rich histories and cultural traditions, as well as economic opportunities and challenges associated with the artisanal textile and cacao industries in the region. 

Day(s): 5-7 

Location: Santa Anita 
Accommodation: Homestay 
Transportation: Private bus 
Meals: Homecooked 
General Summary: 
After a brief 2hr journey to the north-west, our group 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, we’ll have the opportunity to break bread, share stories, build friendships and deepen our understanding of the coffee business and how one small enterprise intends to start a coffee revolution. 

We’ll also temporarily join the ranks as coffee farmers and take to the fields for a day harvesting ripe, red coffee fruit. If we’re lucky, we may also to collaborate on the construction of the community’s new beneficio or mill where the coffee is washed, de-pulped, fermented, dried, and sorted – all in preparation for the international market. 

Critical Service-Learning Component Part 1: 

As OG’s primary partner within the Brewing Justice itinerary, APCASA has invited participants to join them for both community-engaged learning and project-based community engagement. In this regard 2- 3hrs will be spent with local community members discussing Santa Anita’s development before undertaking a minimum of 6-8hrs working on the ongoing maintenance and development of APCASA’s coffee production including the tree nursery and/or coffee fields. There may also be opportunities to participate in the ongoing construction of the community’s dry mill pending the approval of a Project Proposal. 

Day(s): 7-9 

Location: San Juan 
Accommodation: The Hub Dorm (or equivalent) 
Transportation: Private bus 
Meals: Local restaurants 
General Summary: 
We’ll conclude our adventure at Operation Groundswell’s Guatemala Hub, located on the shores of beautiful Lago Atitlan. Here, we’ll learn alongside our local partners who use the site as a living laboratory and engage with the coffee and craft-based economies in San Juan. Ongoing pilot initiatives hosted at the Hub include Tilapia ponds, veggie gardens, organic compost and medicinal plants. We’ll also get to kickback, relax and reflect on our incredible journey. We’ll discuss lessons learned, assess our impact, and prepare for the journey home. 

Critical Service-Learning Component Part 2: 

The Hub is the perfect place for participants to continue their project-based community engagement while synthesizing the learning of the previous 6 days. In this regard, OG and Alma de Colores invite participants to engage with a number of the ongoing pilot projects and initiatives aimed at improving productive capacities, creating accessible job opportunities and revendicating traditional agricultural and artisanal practices around Lago Atitlan. Accordingly, a minimum of 6- 8hrs will be dedicated to community engagement at and around the Hub, weather permitting, with another 4-6hrs spent in hands-on workshops and discussions oriented towards connecting their local experience to the global context and the participants’ lives at home and on campus. 

Day(s): 9-10 

Location: Guatemala City 
Accommodation: Hotel Spring (or equivalent) 
Transportation: Private bus 
Meals: Local restaurants 
General Summary: 
Finally, we’ll travel back to Guatemala City for one last night in country’s iconic capital. Staying in the historical Zone 1, nearby to the country’s National Palace and central market, we’ll discuss lessons learned, evaluate our impact, celebrate and prepare for the journey home. Then on our last day we’ll say a fond farewell and return to La Aurora Int’l Airport to meet the group’s departing flight.