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Moving Forward by Giving Back
Today, we have the privilege of sharing a hopeful and inspiring story about tourism at its best. Last year, our Editor-in-Chief, Clare Hancock, bumped into Kelly Campbell, the co-founder of The Village Experience, a socially pro-active tour company dedicated to “uplifting impoverished communities in the developing world through efforts in international trade and tourism.” Clare was immediately interested in learning more about trips provided by The Village Experience and the work they have been doing in communities across the world. Just a few days ago, Kelly invited us to share their story as well as a collection of breathtaking photos taken during their latest trip to Guatemala where they established a training facility for women, installed water filters and eco-stoves in local homes, set up a food assistance program, built new classrooms for school children, and made plans to expand the city of Ceylan’s recreational parks. This is their story.
We at The Village Experience have been working in Guatemala since we first began in 2008. We believe that Guatemala is a country steeped in rich culture, diversity and history and we encourage others to travel with us to experience the people and the landscapes and connect one-on-one with the communities and projects that have been created. As a center of tourism and a UNESCO World Heritage City, the ancient capital of Antigua is truly one of a kind and a must see. Be prepared to get lost among cobblestones while photographing the beautiful churches and ruins that line the streets. Expect to haggle in the many artisan markets that showcase unique handicrafts from indigenous communities all over the country. Sip some of the world's best coffee and people-watch at a cafe on the town square.
Antigua is a place to slow down and take it all in. During Holy Week, or Semana Santa, locals participate in elaborate processions throughout the city and create sawdust carpets to show their reverence and respect to their Catholic faith. It has become one of the largest Easter celebrations in the world and should be on everyone's bucket list. A mere three hour flight from the United States, staying in a boutique hotel bathed in candlelight and local decor, enjoying local Guatemalan cuisine and exploring this city is guaranteed to make for a great trip.
We strongly believe in the power of tourism to uplift economies and create jobs in the developing world. Along with creating long lasting relationships everywhere we go, we also believe in working hard to create sustainable projects that the community can benefit from and our supporters can learn from and be inspired by.
In Guatemala, we have created a wonderful partnership with local non-profits, Vamos Adelante and Constru Casa, and the community of Ceylan, located deep in the jungle at the base of the active Volcan Fuego. From the community needs assessment we conducted in this small village, we quickly learned that the local people were in desperate need of school classrooms, vocational training and access to healthy food and clean water. We set to work and enlisted our community to tackle these problems.
Now, a monthly food distribution program for the elderly and malnourished has been set in place to ensure they are receiving the basic nutrients they need to survive. Clean water filters and eco-stoves have been consistently provided to families in the community to prevent disease. Four new classrooms for the local school have been built and two more are scheduled to break ground this fall.
On our trip to Ceylan in April, we oversaw the arrival of brand new sewing machines for the vocational skills training center the women will use to learn sewing and tailoring techniques. This training will provide the women with valuable skills to take out into the world and also enable them to affordably make clothing for their families. We were especially touched when the older women in the community expressed their desire for a place to sit and enjoy their families. We knew a park/playground/garden area would be a great addition to Ceylan. The community council has donated land for this project and construction will take place in the fall.
We are proud of the relationship we have cultivated with the people in Ceylan and the progress that has occurred in recent years. If you are interested in visiting Guatemala and getting to know the community of Ceylan, check out the upcoming trips we have on The Village Experience - moving forward by giving back...
By Kelly Campbell, Co-Founder of The Village Experience
All photos were taken by Peter Jonathan.