You are here

Solidarity in its true form ̶ “Education In Action”

With the support of the PSAC Social Justice Fund, Education in Action inspires PSAC members and others to get involved in meaningful solidarity with indigenous communities in Guatemala.  When we work together, a better world is possible.  

Each year, members volunteer and travel to Guatemala to participate in the Education In Action project with the Comité Campesino del Altiplano (CCDA), a farmer’s coalition working for labour rights and long-term social change in Guatemala. Since 2007, EIA volunteers helped to build 82 homes for impoverished families, 4 schools, 4 community centres, a medical centre, and a kitchen. PSAC Members have also joined in solidarity work such as urgent actions, accompaniment, coffee sales, international visits, and took part in the Guatemala International Women’s Day march. 

Founded in 1982, the CCDA has members in over 1,100 communities. Their programs are helping to rebuild and strengthen their communities by supporting education, salaries of school teachers, access to clean water, health services, women entrepreneurship, organic agriculture workshops, organic production of Café Justicia coffee, and composting for organic farming. The CCDA’s organic certification program was created to promote the identity and culture of the Mayan people. The program helps to discover ways to rescue the Mayan culture and maintain its customs and languages.

Produced by Mayan communities, and the foundation of the “Education In Action” project, Café Justicia is a philosophy and a practise of solidarity that builds cooperation between consumers and producers while ensuring that the decisions regarding production and distribution are carried out by the cooperatives organized by the CCDA Café Justicia is organic, “fair trade plus” and grown on the hillsides above Lake Atitlán. 

During the 40 years leading up to the end of the civil in 1996, the military had been levying a campaign of terror and genocide against Mayan communities, in order to distribute their land amongst plantation owners.

Mayan farmers and their communities depend on a fruitful harvest to survive. Many communities have been evicted from their lands by the Palm Oil and other extractive industries, leaving thousands of families homeless, making room for land grabs.  Though privately owned plantations hire indigenous people to work, they seldom adhere to the rights of workers. Labourers regularly are paid less than minimum wage to do precarious work. These working families struggle each and every day.

The reality is that Guatemala has a population where more than half are malnourished.   This reality is difficult to witness when the country has such rich resources, most of it exported to North America and Europe.  All over the globe, the first peoples have been marginalized, surviving with these conditions is a continuous challenge.  Education In Action strives to work in solidarity, supporting their struggle for human and labour rights. 

This year (2016), PSAC members experienced life in Guatemala and they learn about:

  • How communities labour to obtain justice
  • Women's issues and initiatives
  • Public services
  • Safe work and jobs with dignity
  • The empowerment of indigenous youth through education
  • The benefits of belonging to the cooperative, the CCDA

The Education In Action volunteer group visited with:

  • Leaders of the CCDA who share their work and campaigns with us
  • CCDA’s Coffee plantation to learn about the production of Café Justicia
  • The Centre of Environmental Law and Social Action (CALAS).  
  • CALAS is one of the most important centres for environmental justice in the country, which carries out research, education, advocacy and legal protection on the rights of indigenous peoples affected by mining, bio-piracy, and environmental destruction
  • Mining communities like San Rafael Las Flores and La Puya, San Pedro Ayampuc
  • Mayan women entrepreneurs in Sololá
  • Twenty-five women have developed fish farms and raise Talapia to support and feed their families and their community. When needed, they sell their fish in the market place which helps buy medicines and other necessities for their families.
  • Mayan women weavers priding themselves in the traditional art of weaving.

2016 Volunteers:

  • Laura Aucoin, CEIU, Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Lauren Baert, CIU, Sarnia, Ontario
  • Lynette Robinson, USGE, Bedford, Nova Scotia
  • Leah Mandeville, UNW, Yellowknife, North West Territories
  • Glenn Gregoire, UCTE, Perry Sound, Ontario
  • Sandra Stuart, Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Ken Freisen, USGE, Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Kimberly Wong, Vancouver, British Columbia

PSAC members volunteers since 2007:

AGR local 30048, local 0014
CEIU local 631
IU local 10008, local 019
PSAC local 70181

UCTE local 76
UNDE/DCL 50705
UNE local 80081, local 60400
UNW local 10 local 9
UPCE local 70180
USGE local 80002, local 60074, local 50026
UTE local 70030, local 7000

Volunteer articles & video

  1. How does the CCDA work with Communities to Obtain Justice, Laura Aucoin, CEIU (video)

2. Public Services, Lynette Robinson, USGE

  1. Safe Work and Jobs with Dignity
Last Updated on: January 15, 2019