Unique Collaborations

for a wide variety of disciplines and development contexts.

University Projects

Our university collaborations are the backbone of Partners in Service. Below you can explore a number of past projects we have been able to develop with the help of our academic partners.


Department of Physics

Randolph-Macon College

Xeebaj II Erosion Solution

Engineering Students from Randolph-Macon were inspired to solve an erosion problem in the community of Xeebaj II. Following a survey of the local geology, including soil sample analysis and a topographic survey, as well as meetings taking suggestions from the community, the students designed a retaining wall and drainage system solution for the site. 

See their in-depth solution report here




Spirit of Fashion

VCU Fashion Design and Merchandising students participated in an innovative program to assist Maya artisans create viable apparel and accesories for North American consumers using their design and merchandising skills. They produced alternative, or fair trade, products to be successful in boutiques throughout the US and Canadian markets. Fashion students learned about traditional processes and products of Mayan aesthetics.

Students were also introduced to issues of monopsonies, subsidies and embargoes, and other aspects of rent seeking with a focus on raising awareness about how government intervention through USAID disrupts market development opportunity.

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Women's Empowerment

This innovative program introduces students to issues of justice and development while providing support to grassroots women’s organizations. The course looks at the history and evolution of gender roles in rural indigenous communities. In addition to readings and lecture, students participate in a number of community programs like ice breaking games, knitting, weaving and cooking classes. A powerful aspect of this program is learning about the empowered role of women in traditional indigenous cultures as well as comparative views on the meaning of sexuality, gender, and life. Students also partner with women in local communities to build improved fuel-efficient stoves that provide women with the time and energy to participate in empowerment programs.

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Guatemala: Rural Development for Socio-economic and Ecological Resilience

A unique program that exposes students to grass roots community organizing and culture, including a curriculum developed in response to problems faced by relief and aid agencies in Haiti. University-trained officials lack an understanding of the political organization and culture of marginalized communities that complicated relief efforts. This class aims to familiarize students with grass roots organization models and culture.

Topics and themes to be examined through the course include land hunger and distribution, social vulnerability, community health, indigenous rights, land degradation, household energy use, common property resource management, sustainable livelihoods, agricultural development and disaster risk reduction

Full program overview here

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Highland Health Care and Culture: Medical Anthropology from an Indigenous Perspective

The program focuses on an overview of the Guatemalan health care system, medical Spanish, alternative Maya medicine (ethnobotany, midwives, bonesetters and shamans), and Maya culture (past and present). Students also partner with community health organizations to conduct needs assessments, public health campaigns and staff health fairs.

Students are provided a variety of speakers concerning the environmental factors impacting local communities, including Gold Mining and Pesticide use. Students are encouraged to think about how clinical health care fits into the global health equation.

A student's reflections on the trip here

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Students will use experiences in an arts-based, service-learning project in Guatemala as the foundation for examining relevant social and cultural issues through personal reflection, education and portfolio development. In addition to travel overview and lesson creation, pre-trip preparations will include readings and discussions targeting social justice, arts and literacy advocacy, community building, art/craft/story as cultural legacy, and education. In Guatemala, students will become familiar with various social, educational, economic and environmental issues facing the indigenous Highland Maya. In country, students will work in a Mayan community alongside women leaders, teachers and elementary school children to create and teach lessons and offer community art projects.

Some sample student projects from the trip can be found here

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M1 students participate in public health activities and support Maya health workers as they conduct base line studies and follow up assessments. The primary role of students is to support community-based health programs in establishing information systems and tracking capacity. Maya medical practices are reviewed with a focus on understanding the “Western” scientific interpretation of valuable traditional knowledge. The program’s focus is the integration or synthesizing of Western and local knowledge to empower local actors with improved but appropriate practices.

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Readings in history, ethnography, and theology are paired with lectures from Maya and Catholic priests. Special focus is given to the political economy of Religion in Guatemala and the dichotomy of Christian Counter Insurgency, Liberation Theology and the Evangelical movement. Students will participate in social justice and community organizing activities with the Highland Women’s Association.



Rachel Carr from Rutgers University shared her experience with HSP virtually on her Health & Healing in Guatemala blog.

"I truly enjoyed my time in Guatemala. I couldn't have asked for a better experience, more wonderful and kind professors, a more fantastic group of students who became like a big family, or more amazing Guatemalan people that we met everywhere we went - from our bus driver to the sweet cleaning lady I had the chance to talk to. To the adorable children from whom I purchased hand made goods from as well as children from the village, to our incredible tour guide and friend, Lupe!". 

Check it out here.


High School Trips 

Partners in Service also specializes in service-learning for high school students and youth. The region of Guatemala in which most of our projects take place, Quetzaltenango, is a world-renowned hub for Spanish language immersion, and throughout our over 20 years of experience we have grown relationships with local Spanish schools, ecological preservation organizations, and communities to ensure each trip is a unique and unforgettable learning experience. Our multi-disciplinary high school projects have ranged in focus from cultural and linguistic immersion to ecological preservation, business and marketing, artisan craftsmanship, even geology. We design every detail to stoke a passion for service and education, down to each meal being an experience in indigenous foodways.



Examples of Past Projects

Our High School teams have helped construct cooking stoves for families, participated in reforestation projects, worked with local education professionals in an arts program, building water, sanitation and drainage systems, as well as participated in horticultural projects. What's more, many of the high school groups we work with design their own project to help communities in a way that directly relates to their coursework.



L’école Victor-Brodeur

Students from École Victor Bordeur, a French immersion school in British Columbia, undertook a very unique adventure of French, Spanish, and Ki'che language immersion while assisting our Maya Arts Program in Guatemala. 

A student's blog of this trip can be found here.

Flint Hill School

For an immersive experience in marketing and fundraising for business, high school students from Flint Hills School built a computer lab for a school in Quetzaltenengo, Guatemala. To better understand the intricacies surrounding fundraising and marketing, the students developed and carried out their own fundraising events to support their project.



Sample Itinerary

  • Saturday

    • Arrive in Guatemala City on flight from United States - departure city depends on group
    • Drive to Lake Atitlan in private van where team will spend first night
    • Visit butterfly preserve
  • Sunday

    • Tour largest outdoor indigenous market in Guatemala
    • Visit coffee coop in San Juan
    • Drive to Quetzaltenango where team will be housed do the week
    • Visit with Mayan community activist
  • Monday

    • Work in Community - for most teams this will be Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan
    • Speaker: Maya culture and cosmovision
    • Maya ceremony in the evening
  • Tuesday

    • Work in community
    • Meet with local environmentalist for talk on conservation
  • Wednesday

    • Work in Community
    • Relax at natural hot springs
    • Meet with women's organizer
  • Thursday

    • Work in community - participate in reforestation project
    • Community Celebration
    • Salsa dancing night
  • Friday

    • Travel to Antigua and check into very cool hotel
    • Shopping and sightseeing in Antigua
  • Saturday

    • Return flight to the United States