A different kind of field trip

From Madrona to Guatemala and back, Global Visionaries has offered the chance of a lifetime for hundreds of high school students interested in traveling abroad since 1997.

Twice yearly, executive director Chris Fontana and program manager Aimee Hibbets lead groups of 30 to 50 local high school students to Guatemala for a two-week service-learning trip in microbusiness and philanthropy.


With a staff of six in their Madrona office, the nonprofit organization engages the students first in a year-long Leadership Training Program. Meeting as often as twice monthly before departure, the program teaches crosscultural understanding, global justice, racial tolerance, leadership, microbusiness and fund raising.

"The earlier you impart this know-ledge on students, the better," said Amy Hebert, the program's communications director. "Being able to travel abroad and learning these global lessons have such a great impact on high school students."

Following the training workshops, the Global Visionaries leads two different trips each year in February and June.

The most recent addition to the program involves work with Guatemalan coffee farmers in the Café Esperanza project. The February group works with farmers to plant coffee trees, while the June group harvests, roasts and packages the beans. Students sell the beans locally and send 60 percent of their profits back to the Guatemalan farmers.

"They really make everything for themselves from scratch. Everyone really benefits from the work," said Joni Abdo, Global Visionaries auction coordinator, whose daughter traveled with the program two years ago.

While in Guatemala, students also choose one of three service teams that are assigned a number of tasks, ranging from building homes and schools from the ground up, volunteering in hospitals.

After returning from the program, students are required to perform a service project in the community. Students can choose from five different projects, including work with EarthCorps for environmental restoration, a partnership with local elementary schools to promote their global lessons and work with Seattle Parks and Recreation.


Students are required to raise funds to finance their own trip.

The program costs nearly $2,200 - excluding airfare -but the program offers 32 different scholarships annually. Currently, 40 percent of the students enrolled receive some sort of scholarship, but program directors have their sights set on a 50-percent target.

On April 21, Global Visionaries will hold its sixth-annual Fiesta de Guatemala auction at the W Hotel in Downtown Seattle.

Last year, the auction raised $75,000 for 32 low-income scholarships, but Global Visionaries hopes to raise $100,000 this year.

For more information on the project or the April 21 auction, visit www.global-visionaries.org.[[In-content Ad]]