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First Service Learning Trip of the New Year

First Service Learning Trip of the New Year 

On New Year’s Eve we welcomed 14 students and 3 staff leaders from University of Wisconsin Eau Claire to Guatemala for a two week service learning trip. Building on last year’s experience we designed an expanded set of activities for UW-EC’s winter break trip, and we were excited for them to experience DLG’s take on coffee, Guatemala, and experiential learning through community immersion.

UW-EC above Antigua after a morning hike

The group kicked off the new year with a tour of Antigua, learning about Guatemalan history and culture as they explored the historic town. After getting a more theoretical perspective on the coffee supply chain through a role-playing game, they jumped into the world of coffee, with San Miguel Escobar Cooperative members Felix, Gustavo, and Alfonso guiding them through a hands-on tour. While learning about all the work that goes into growing and processing coffee, students worked side by side with the farmers to harvest the ripe red coffee cherries. 

After a delicious home-cooked Guatemalan lunch, students learned how the coffee fruit was transformed through the process of depulping, fermenting, washing, drying, milling, roasting, and grinding to make a delicious cup of rich Guatemalan coffee in Gustavo’s home. Throughout the week they continued to eat most meals with cooperative members, as they participated in artisan workshops, hiked a volcano, and shopped for food at the local market to cook their own group dinner.

Students then headed off to Santa Anita, DLG’s smallest partner cooperative. Santa Anita is located not far from Xela, Guatemala’s second largest city, and is composed of former guerilla fighters who fought against the government during the civil war. Community leaders gave trip participants a first-hand account of their history, and how they first took up arms, and then reinvented themselves as coffee producers after the Peace Accords. During their visit (which for many was the highlight of their trip), students learned a lot from this small community. They helped prepare pilones (plastic bags with soil to grow baby coffee plants) and sorted coffee, participated in a talk with the women’s group, hiked to a waterfall, spent time with host families and watched a cultural performance by the youth group. But most inspiring was hearing Don Rigoberto, the Santa Anita cooperative president, speak about living through the 36 year long civil war as a guerilla fighter, founding the Santa Anita cooperative with other displaced families and sharing their struggles and triumphs. Don Rigoberto was especially proud to host students from Wisconsin as he has visited the Badger State for various coffee trainings. After some teary goodbyes, the students headed back to enjoy their last few days in Antigua.

Students in the coffee fields showing off the fruits of their labor with Felix, Gustavo, and Alfonso, three member of the San Miguel Escobar Cooperative

The two weeks flew by, but we fully enjoyed starting the new year by sharing the work of De la Gente, the culture of Guatemala, and the life of coffee producers with the group. Thank you for a great visit UW-EC and we look forward to seeing you again next year!

If you are interested in organizing a group tour or a service learning trip to Guatemala, you can read more about the opportunities to travel with De la Gente on our website or contact us at tours@dlgcoffee.org for more information.