Guatemala: Fair Trade and Social Justice

Guatemala banner - April 24 to May 1, 2018

Applications for this experience are now closed. Check back with us in January 2018 for more opportunities.

The Program

Operation Groundswell’s “Brewing Justice” program goes deep inside the original Banana Republic where a lush fertile land conceals bitter fruit. From the bustling markets of Guatemala’s capitals to the smallholder farms of the highlands, we’ll explore Guatemala’s incredible landscape where land and livelihoods are intertwined and coffee and malnutrition go hand-in-hand. We’ll meet with producers in their fields, talk shop with retailers and get our hands dirty on community-based initiatives. We’ll immerse in highland culture and see how coffee gets from seed to shelf.

The combination of hands-on projects, cultural immersion, and adventure will challenge us to think critically about our next cup of coffee and how consumers can brew social justice. 

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


  • Deconstruct the myths surrounding fair trade and ethical consumerism while cultivating coffee alongside local farmers in Sacatepéquez.

  • Immerse yourself in Guatemalan culture and hear about its history from former guerrillas who have traded their guns for farming tools.

  • Climb active volcanos, soak in mineral hot springs, and wade into sacred lakes while exploring Guatemala’s natural beauty up close and personal. 


  • Dates: Tuesday, April 24 to Wednesday, May 2, 2018
  • Estimated Cost: $2500-$2800

Important Dates

Participants must be available on the dates specified below for the pre departure and post-departure sessions as a requirement of participation in this experience. Plus, participation in the pre departure sessions and reflection after the experience will get the experience recognized on the Co-Curricular Record!



Monday, September 11 to Wednesday, November 15

Application Period

November - exact date to be determined

Pre Departure Orientation: Creating Connections

March - exact date to be determined

Pre Departure Session: A World of Opportunity

Monday, January 15, 2018 from 2-4pm DV3130 OR

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 from 1-3pm DV3130

Safety Abroad Mandatory Session at UTM (students can also participate in sessions offered at St George)

Tuesday, April 24 to Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Travel Dates

May - exact date to be determined on a Saturday for approximately 4 hours

Post Trip Session: The good, the bad and the travel bug


Our partners at Operations Groundswell will lead you through a truly immersive 9 day experience filled with planned daily excursions, educational programming and opportunities to interact with the local community.

Day 1-3

Location: Antigua, San Miguel Escobar


After picking everyone up at La Aurora Int’l Airport in Guatemala City, we’ll take our orientation to the country’s former capital, Antigua. Here amongst the cobblestone streets and colonial arcades, the group can acclimatize to the sights, sounds, smells, and flavours of the region. Then, after a little team bonding, we’ll kick-start our exploration of the coffee chain by going seed to shelf with De La Gente, 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 founding members Filiberto and Timoteo how to pick, process, and roast our own coffee. To cap off our time in Antigua, participants can scavenge ingredients in the local markets and prepare a proper Guatemalan dinner complete with tortillas and guacamole. 

Days 3-5

Location: Xela, Quetzaltenango


In the ladino and indigenous metropolis of Xela, we’ll join revolutionary-turned-reformer Willie at Café La Red Kat for a delicious meal and an insightful chat 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 Yabal and scavenge the colourful markets in what is considerate Guatemala’s premier vegetable growing region.

BUT no visit to Quetzaltenango would be complete without a trek to one of the country’s iconic peaks! This year, we’ll get an early start and make our way to the Siete Orejas (literally “seven ears”). After pushing ourselves up ridges and scrambling down the valleys, we’ll summit the Cacique Dormido, a now dormant volcano. And if we’re super lucky, we might even see nearby volcán Santiaguito erupt! 

Day 5-7

Location: Santa Anita, Quetzaltenango


After a traditional Mayan dinner and dance with Xela-based partner Escuela La Paz, our group will journey north-west through the Guatemalan Highlands to the community of Santa Anita, where we will work with a coffee cooperative founded by former civil war combatants. We will stay in local homes, share meals, exchange stories, and build solidarity. We will also collaborate on the construction of the community’s new beneficio (or mill) where their coffee will be washed, depulped, fermented, dried, and sorted. 

Day 7-9

Location: Lago Atitlan, Soloa (The Hub)


We will conclude our adventure at Operation Groundswell’s Guatemala Hub, located on the shores of beautiful Lago Atitlan. Here, we’ll rest our tired legs and weary minds and reflect back on our incredible journey. We will discuss lessons learned, assess our impact, and prepare for the journey home.

Finally, with hearts full of memories, we will return to Guatemala City where our group will say a fond farewell! 

APPLICATIONS FOR THIS EXPERIENCE ARE NOW CLOSED. Check back with us in January 2018 for more opportunities or contact us at should you want more information.

 “I started this journey thinking of it as just another school trip that would give me little break from the everyday hectic Toronto life. But, the streets, the villages and most importantly the people of Guatemala changed my entire experience”