Community development specialists offer travel seminar to Guatemala

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is offering an exceptional opportunity to learn about the people and culture of Guatemala. A nine day travel seminar to Guatemala will be held January 21–29, 2013, departing from Des Moines. The program provides comprehensive learning about Guatemalan life, culture, history and sustainability, with special attention to indigenous Mayans living in villages along volcanic Lake Atitlan.

Seminar participants will experience Guatemalan music, art, foods, agriculture, textiles and education while exploring the country’s beautiful landscapes.  Participants will gain an understanding of this remarkable culture and become better equipped to connect with the many Guatemalans who immigrated to Iowa.

Leading the program are Himar Hernandez and Diane Van Wyngarden. Both are Economic Development Specialists for ISU Extension. Hernandez specializes in assisting Latino businesses and educating Iowans about Latino cultures. Van Wyngarden has extensive experience leading educational travel seminars and providing learning venues not normally available to the public. They teamed to offer this unique experience and will serve as the group leaders throughout the seminar.

Guatemala is a magnificent and fascinating land of high mountains, active volcanoes and Lake Atitlan, said to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. The rich culture and heritage of the Maya are obvious in Guatemala’s scenic highlands, where half of the population is direct Mayan descent and speak more than 20 indigenous languages. It is also a land of grinding poverty. Guatemala is among the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Nearly 60% of indigenous families live in poverty.  Malnutrition rates are high, education rates are low and infant mortality is a constant worry. However, strategic efforts are bringing hope to these families.

A unique feature of this program is the opportunity to meet indigenous Mayan families in their homes and personally improve their living condition. Participants will spend one afternoon working as volunteer teams. The teams will assemble a cook stove kit and donate the stove to an indigenous family. Stove material costs are included in the program fee.

The fee for the 9-day program begins at $1,750, which includes 8 hotel nights, 21 meals, ground transportation, chartered boat rides to indigenous villages along Lake Atitlan, all entry and speaker fees, two group leaders and local guides. Optional upgrades include group round trip air fare from Des Moines to Guatemala and hotel single occupancy. Seating is limited to 25 persons and available on a first-reservation basis.  This program is open to all adults. The itinerary includes walking steep grades and is physically challenging for some adults. Consult with the leaders regarding activity requirements.

For more information contact or Diane Van Wyngarden at or Himar Hernandez at . View itinerary and information online at Scroll to “Guatemala Seminar.”

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