ABOUT YUDA TRIPS
In 2006 Brent, Laurie, and Phillip Whiting (co-founders of Yuda Bands) visited a friend in Guatemala they had met 10 years earlier while living in Panama. This friend told them all about his efforts to give back to his childhood community by starting the first high school in the town. This friend (Daniel- read the whole story here) had such a big heart that he was letting dozens of students attend for free. The problem was that he was not able to pay rent on his building or pay his teachers. So when the Whitings returned to the States they started spreading the word, looking for sponsors in a hope to keep Daniel’s school open. Thanks to generous family, friends, and neighbors 30+ students were sponsored and the school stayed open!
Some of the original sponsors asked to visit the Guatemalan students they were helping and in 2007 the Yuda Bands service trips were born. However, the Yuda Bands service trips are not our main focus. Rather the main thrust of the organization is building scholarship funds for educating youth in developing nations and implementing leadership and character building training to make the most of that education (learn more about that here). Our trips SUPPORT that never-ending quest. Unlike other service/mission trips, we do not practice a visit-serve-leave approach– we’re focused on real lasting change. There in lies the difference with Yuda Bands Service Trips.
So why is this important for you? Two main reason:
- The service trips are not a business of their own, which means our trip costs are 50% + less expensive than competitor prices.
- Yes, we have a blast (see individual country itineraries below) but our focus is on making an impact. When you participate in one of our service trips you are adding strength to a constantly running program that will continue after you leave. That’s called SUSTAINABILITY
GUATEMALA SUMMER TRIP
Volunteer Fee: $1,500
Estimated Airfare: $550
Departure City: Las Vegas
Trip Length: 10 days
Service Hours: 31.5
Total Participants: Up to 22
Ages: 14+ unless accompanied by an adult
GUATEMALA CHRISTMAS BREAK TRIP
Volunteer Fee: $1,500
Estimated Airfare: $725
Departure City: Los Angeles
Trip Length: 9 days
Service Hours: 26.5
Total Participants: Up to 22
Ages: 14+ unless accompanied by an adult
ZIMBABWE & BOTSWANA SUMMER TRIP
Volunteer Fee: $2,000
Estimated Airfare: $1,400
Departure City: New York
Trip Length: 15 days
Service Hours: 35
Total Participants: Up to 22
Ages: 14+ unless accompanied by an adult
Service trip volunteers are required to depart on our escorted group flight with a trip director from the assigned gateway airport*. Volunteers are responsible for the cost of the international airfare as well as arranging their own domestic travel to the gateway city. In some rare circumstances, volunteers may make their own travel arrangements to their country of destination.
*Departure airport subject to change up to 90 day prior to departure.
Christmas Trip to Guatemala
Due to the students being out on break during the time of our travel we will not complete the leadership conference and the students will not be involved in our community service projects.
Over half of your 10-day Guatemalan experience will be spent in the rural town of San Martin Jilotepeque and it’s remote “aldeas” or villages. Definitely off the beaten tourist path, you’ll find yourself submersed in the real Guatemalan world. Many parts of San Martin have remained unchanged for centuries, including the bigger than life market place, where live chickens are still purchased and carried home hanging upside down by their feet. During your time in San Martin, you’ll be amazed at how language and culture barriers will slip away as you become life-long friends with our incredible Yuda Bands sponsored students. Once we leave San Martin Jilotepeque, you’ll get a taste of the beauty and intrigue Guatemala presents to the world, as we visit renowned tourist locations like Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Volcano Pacaya and Tikal National Park.
WHAT WE DO
One of the highlights of the trip is when a former Yuda Bands project leader, and the student his or her school sponsored, meet face to face. If you hosted a project at your school, this is an experience you’ll never forget. The Guatemalan student and his or her family are very aware of the door of opportunity you so willingly opened for them. As they welcome you into their small, humble home and express their sincere gratitude, you will have no doubt that the effort you put forth during your project was well worth it. It’s very rare that you get to see the end result of your service in such an impactful way. During these visits you’ll deliver clothes for the whole family as well as one month’s supply of food.
FOOD AND CLOTHING PROJECT
A portion of your trip fee will cover the expenses of the community service project as well as the food project. Upon arriving to San Martin you’ll have the opportunity to put together a one month supply of food for your student and his/her family. If you did not sponsor a student through the Yuda Bands project then you’ll be able to select a student to support before leaving for Guatemala. A list of your family’s needs will be sent to you approximately two months before the trip. This will give you enough time to hold a clothing drive in your community to gather the items your family needs. Besides clothes we recommend you gather things such as hygiene and personal items, and small toys to give the young children.
Yuda Bands builds scholarship funds for youth in multiple developing nations who cannot afford a basic high school education. That education is then supercharged through an extremely successful program called L.E.A.D (Leadership Education Attitude Development), where three major components combine to teach students powerful tools for success. One of which is the L.E.A.D. workshops. Each participant will prepare a 15-20 presentation on an assigned topic to present to a group of 25-30 Guatemalan students. With the help of Spanish translators you’ll gain confidence in your own teaching ability as you help the local students learn skills that will in turn bring more job opportunities for them after graduation. More about L.E.A.D >
COMMUNITY SERVICE PROJECT
The second component to the L.E.A.D. Program you will participate in a large community service project. You’ll be serving side by side the Yuda Bands students. Community service projects provide an opportunity for students to give in a way they can afford. When Yuda Bands students give service in their community each quarter something changes inside as they realize they literally have the power to impact their community and change their future. They witness the result of identifying a concern, analyzing a problem, and working together to find a solution. The result is an unprecedented and empowering vision of hope and change
We will take a short flight from Guatemala City to the heart of the rainforest or northern Guatemala to explore the ancient Mayan citadel Tikal. Possibly dating to the 1st century A.D., Tikal flourished between 200 and 850 A.D. and was later abandoned. Its iconic ruins of temples and palaces include the giant, ceremonial Lost World Pyramid and the Temple of the Grand Jaguar. At 70 meters, Temple IV is the tallest pre-Columbian structure in the Americas and offers sweeping views. To add to an already practically perfect day you’ll zip through the treetops with howler monkeys to complete a 9 zip line canopy tour before the return flight back to Guatemala City.
PANAJACHEL AND LAKE ATITLAN
Lake Atitlán is a body of water in a massive volcanic crater in Guatemala’s southwestern highlands. Ringed by steep, verdant hills, it’s known for its Mayan villages and volcanoes with striking pointed cones. The busy town of Panajachel, where vendors sell traditional textiles, is a popular gateway to the lake. We will cross the lake and explore the town of Santiago as you experience a unique part of the lake many tourists miss.
Pacaya is an active complex volcano in Guatemala, which first erupted approximately 23,000 years ago and has erupted at least 23 times since the Spanish invasion of Guatemala. Pacaya rises to an elevation over 8,300 feet. Accompanied by an expert guide you will hike (horse are available if you don’t want to hike) to hot spots where you’ll roast marshmallows from the heat rising through the earth’s curst. On the way down you’ll slide/run down the volcanic ash as you enjoy breath taking views of the beautiful Guatemalan countryside.
Antigua is a small city surrounded by volcanoes in southern Guatemala. It’s renowned for its Spanish colonial buildings, many of them restored following a 1773 earthquake that ended Antigua’s 200-year reign as Guatemala’s colonial capital. Notable architectural examples include baroque La Merced church. It’s an integral part of the city’s famous Semana Santa, a holy week with parades and rituals. It’s also a great spot to buy local artesian souvenirs.
Depart the US en route to Guatemala City, Guatemala accompanied by a Yuda Bands representative. Once we land in Guatemala we will travel by private van to our first hotel in Guatemala City where we will be staying for the first night.
After breakfast we’ll have a chance to make introductions, receive detailed itinerary, go over a few details, and answer any questions you may have. We’ll travel in a private van heading toward San Martin. In the afternoon we’ll visit some of the amazing artisan families that make the Yuda Bands and they’ll teach us how to tie the bracelets. In the early evening we will attend a welcome event featuring Yuda Bands sponsored students. The students work hard preparing traditional entertainment to welcome you to their country!
This morning we’ll visit the local market, where people come from outlying areas to buy and sell their goods, much as they have done for centuries. It’s a very authentic experience!
After spending some time at the market, we’ll regroup to finalize the preparations for the food and clothing project by packing clothing and other items into boxes or large sacks, and labeling them with the name of the Yuda Bands Sponsored student for whose family the items were donated. We’ll also put together a month’s supply of food for each one, separating bulk food into smaller packages and adding it to the boxes or sacks.
After lunch, we’ll deliver the boxes of food and clothing. We’ll spend quality time visiting each home, where you’ll get a feel for what life for the average Guatemalan is really like.
Today we will host a leadership conference. The conference will be near the center of town and will last approximately 3 hours. About half of the Yuda Bands sponsored students will participate in the morning session, with the other half coming for the afternoon session. Skills you have acquired just by growing up in the United States qualify you to teach these youth and they are excited to learn from you. Information about teaching at the leadership conference will have been sent to you previously and you and your group will already be prepared.
After Lunch will meet up with Daniel Galvez the designer behind the Yuda Band designs. He’ll then help you make your own Yuda Band, including carving your own piece of coconut if you’d like to try (you may want to be thinking of a design right now!) We’ll also visit a private high school where many of the Yuda Bands students attend, giving you an idea of what school is like in Guatemala.
After lunch, we’ll deliver the boxes of food and clothing. We’ll spend a few minutes visiting each home, where you’ll get a feel for what life for the average Guatemalan is really like. Translators will be present so feel free to ask any questions or carry on a conversation with the students or their family members.
You’ll want to wear work clothes today! We’ll spend the morning working along side the Yuda Bands students doing a service project in their community. The friendships you’ve made with the Guatemalan students thus far will be enhanced today as you work together to make their world a better place. The project will last until a little after the middle of the day.
This afternoon we will see some cultural demonstrations. We’ll learn how traditional corn tortillas are made. Corn tortillas and black beans are the main staples of the Guatemalan diet. We’ll also see a demonstration on how the indigenous women make their traditional blouses, called huip- ils (wee peels), which are woven on hand made looms. In the late afternoon we’ll visit an eco reserve to see exotic animals and plants and go swimming.
This is our last day in San Martin, Jilotepeque and in the morning you’ll have a little free time you can spend however you’d like. Some free time options are: Attend church, visit the live animal market, walk around town, relax in the hotel, pack luggage, etc. We will also arrange a soccer game with some of the youth you worked with yesterday.
After lunch we will drive to Panajachel. Panajachel is a town on the shore of Lake Atitlan, a large lake surrounded by volcanoes. We’ll be arriving in the late afternoon and checking into our hotel, which is near the restaurant and shopping area of this tourist town. We will spend the evening souvenir shopping and enjoying the lively town atmosphere.
After breakfast, we’ll walk down to the pier and take a boat ride across Lake Atitlan to a town called Santiago. We’ll spend time exploring and shopping along the town’s main road where there is a great selection of typical Guatemalan souvenirs.
After the morning boat ride/shopping activities, we’ll leave Panajachel and travel to the colonial city of Antigua. We’ll arrive in the early evening and get checked into our hotel. The evening is yours to explore Antigua, famous for it’s catering to tourists with shops, restaurants, horse-drawn buggy rides, and quaint colonial architecture.
You’ll have the morning to explore more of Antigua, from shopping at the large artisan market, to touring a jade factory or an old colonial monastery which has been turned into a luxury hotel. After lunch we’ll move on to the next activity of the day, climbing Volcano Pacaya.
The drive to the volcano from Antigua is a little over an hour. Once we arrive, we’ll be met by our guide who will escort us along our hike. Because Pacaya is an active volcano, it is constantly being monitored for safety purposes. The pathways that are permitted for hiking are subject to change. Our guide will keep us safe as we explore this interesting and intense volcanic terrain.
After hiking Volcano Pacaya, we’ll make the drive back into Guatemala City, returning to the hotel where we stayed the first night we arrived in Guatemala.
This day will begin early with a fight to the northern part of Guatemala known as Petén, where the Mayan ruins of Tikal are located. There will be vans and drivers waiting at the airport to take you the additional hour long drive to the ruins in the middle of the rain forest. Once at the ruins, an English speaking guide will help you experience Tikal to the fullest. You’ll be doing lots of walking around the ruins in addition to climbing a few stairs to get to the top of pyramids so be sure to wear good shoes! After spending most of the day at Tikal, the group will head back to the airport but not before stopping to do Canopy Tour (zip lines through the tops of the trees) just outside the entrance to Tikal National Park. It will be a truly unforgettable day!
We’ll fly home today! Transportation to the airport will be provided and we will leave as a group. We hope your experiences have been unforgettable and that the friendships you’ve made will last long beyond your days in Guatemala!