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RISING MINDS’ MISSION Founded in October 2006, Rising Minds is a US-based, 501 Š 3, non-profit organization that works to bridge cultural, economic, and developmental gaps through the integration of education, awareness, and action. We aim to inspire locally committed and globally active leaders through personalizing complex global issues, empowering proactive change-makers, and facilitating contextualized educational outreach



GOA To develop and maintain progressive international partnerships that are mutually beneficial and emotionally powerful.


To support and facilitate educational programs aimed at community involvement and the formation of locally committed and globally active leaders.


To nurture cross-cultural relationships within local communities, joining people from all races, beliefs, and backgrounds.


To contextualize learning, cultivate awareness, and personalize global issues in an engaging and active setting for students, volunteers, and travelers.

To collaborate with local organizations and entrepreneurs to support sustainable and equitable development. To encourage personal growth and empowerment through hands-on, experiential learning programs.



Rising Minds’ ore Practices


Rising Minds is not a hand-out charity. Rising Minds forms international partnerships based on exchange, not charity. Our partnerships illuminate the fact that we all have as much to learn from one another as we do to offer. Through hand- ups, as opposed to hand-outs, hand-outs Rising Minds‘ involvement promotes empowerment, fosters accountability, and contextualizes differences. Any and all material or monetary support involves a form of checks and balances, and strate gic planning so as to not perpetuate dependence

Rising Minds’ budget is 100% transparent. We are a small, grassroots organization that gives volunteers and donors a personal connection to what they are supporting. We can account for every dollar donated. We keep our overhead as low as possible to ensure that donations are being put to appropriate use. If you are interested in how our budget is distributed or have questions please feel free to contact Courtney at

Our initiatives are empowering, replicable and community-driven. Rising Minds’ initiatives involve local communities in identifying and addressing their own needs in environmentally-conscious and replicable ways. We do not believe it is our place to tell others what they need, nor how they should live, but instead utilize an exchange-based approach, sharing ideas and working with, rather then for, communities

Rising Minds facilitates international involvement for partner programs. With the belief that the most sustainable and effective programs are started by local initiatives, we recognize that it is not our place to spearhead change in international communities. Where it is, is on an interper sonal level. Rising Minds aims to transform the way that international relations happen so as to better support proactive, sustainable development. Our involvement is empowering, respectful, personal, and conscious so as to not overstep cultural boundaries, nor underestimate our abilities to have positive impacts. Our programs interweave cultural immersion, service, and transference, so as to make lasting connections and meaningful change in both home and international communities


Rising Minds offers a variety of volunteer opportunities around Lake Atitlan – ranging from sustainable construction involvement to teaching English, and beyond. We have developed 14 community partnerships with locally founded and locally run community-based cooperatives and educational programs, offering on-the-ground developmental support. Rising Minds highly values volunteers’ interests, passions, and skills by creating a space for them to personalize their role. Our volunteer program is aimed at providing cross-cultural dialog, supporting local communities, and empowering both Guatemalans and visitors so as to address social, economic, and environmental needs.

The foundation of all of our work is empowerment. It is with our greatest intentions that we have developed a no-cost volunteer program that empowers as well as educates. Rising Minds gives you an opportunity to share as well as experience, and, most importantly, allows you to be valued, proactive, and supported

We hope to attract volunteers who are more interested in sharing their

giving their time to us. People who come to participate and not to observe see that something needs to get done and do it before they are asked. Peo open mind and an open heart. People that understand that change is made doesn’t happen overnight. People that are able to recognize the best intent and use that as a basis to overcome issues. Our volunteers are a crucial pa essential part of our outreach program.

r time with us than e. People that will ople that have an e over time and tions of situations art of our team, and


Mano y Mano Project Aimed to empower volunteers and personalize their role, Mano y Mano projects are individually designed activities that volunteers share at their service site.Volunteers are supported in the creation of their projects with a 1 on 1 meeting with our volunteer coor dinator and through the completion of a project outline form. Â Mano y Mano projects create the space for volunteers to create their own role and contribute to the growth and development of our partner organizations

PROCESS: O Program orientation O A meeting with our volunteer coordinator O Completion of project outline form

EXAMPLE: O Passionate about music? Create musical instruments out of recycled materials and host a concert for our youth leadership program.

Paso y Paso Projects Every volunteer comes with their own unique set of skills and interests.  As a part of our on-the-ground development support we help address needs that our partner organizations have presented.  This wide-range of opportunities assure that each volunteer is able to find a placement that is in need of their skills.  These recognized needs can be found under the specific partner organization descriptions

PROCESS: O Partner orientation O A meeting with our volunteer coordinator O Personalized project deadlines O Project testimonial EXAMPLE: O Visit a new village on the lake and create a town profile of it’s economic, cultural and geographic significance.

Transference Project We are living in a global society. A world that needs to personalize our global connection. A world that needs people like you! After traveling, living in different and unfamiliar areas, you become an ambassador for what you experienced. It then becomes (what we believe is) your responsi bility to do something! It’s incredibly important that your experience doesn’t end with you.  Transference projects are a way in which all of our volunteers bring their learning home so as to personalize educational outreach and affect change in their home communities

PROCESS: O Completion of project outline form O A meeting with our volunteer coordinator O Email contact with Rising Minds Staff member

EXAMPLES: O Host a fundraising event O Start a Rising Minds college club O Support the bracelet initiative

Communication Outreach As a volunteer, what you experience on a daily basis is evolving. We have created a space for you to share your experiences to not only help in our communication outreach but also give you a chance to share your most profound moment of the day. Naturally, communication outreach is essential for the sustainability, growth, and reach of our programs. What you have to say matters. This is a chance to make your experiences have an impact on a daily basis. We have created a volunteer blog that we would like you to post short updates on. The twitter account should be a one-line highlight, while the blog can be something more that summarizes your experiences and learning. These daily overviews may be used to not only for inter-organizational communication, but also may be included in our promotional materials (such as monthly mass emails, thank you letter excerpts, website narratives, blogspots, newsletters, etc).

PROCESS: O Sign-up during weekly meeting

Feedback Feedback is essential for any growing organization; and who better to receive feedback from than people that are involved? All volunteers are asked to complete a feedback form outlining five basic questions. These forms serve as incredible tools for the development of our program

PROCESS: O Our Volunteer Coordinator will email the file to you. O Complete form before you leave.

All volunteers are asked to write a reflection of their experience. These reflections/testimonies should highlight general impressions, most significant learnings, and your overall experience. These testimonies could be used on our website, and are certainly used for the development of volunteer programs.

Reflection of

Experience/Testimony PROCESS: O Write before you leave.

Email Blast Before volunteers go home we ask that you send out a mass email to your friends and family sharing your experience. This is an essential step in personalizing outreach and initializing proactive p communication

PROCESS: O Write before you leave. O CC and


get oriented

Get a feel for the program. Meet the people involved. Understand the daily flow. See our mission and passions in action. Your first day should be treated as a day for orientation and introduction.

We could not be more thrilled that you have decided to volunteer with us. With that, we hope that you take your role and responsibilities as a volunteer seriously. During your first one-on-one meeting with our Volunteer Coordinator you will create your volunteer schedule, outlining what responsibilities you will take on and days that you will work.

It’s tremendously important that you stick to what you commit to, not only for your own personal experience, but also for the integrity of our organization. If you cannot make it, for whatever reason, it is expected that you communicate with our volunteer coordinator

create your schedule

immerse yourself

While there are many cultural differences that color, intensify, and provide meaning to our cross-cultural interactions and experiences, all too often foreigners play into and perpetuate cultural stereotypes; romanticizing what's different and losing grasp of what's real. These create exploitative stereotypes where all too often

Guatemalans are seen as victims. When you play into these stereotypes you’re giving value to the poverty, for example, which encourages people to maintain the appearance of poverty, which doesn't allow interactions to be honest or development de to be meaningful.Â

We are a small grassroots non-profit that is always striving to improve and to help facilitate the best experience and interactions possible for all involved. If there is ever a time that you feel unsupported, or just have general feedback, please speak gene up. Open communication is something you can expect from our Volunteer Coordinator, and something we expect from you.

enjoy your experience







Be engaged

Question people. peopl Question situations. Question yourself. Get to know people through unassuming conversations. Come to understand situations through critical assessment and proactive involvement. Examine why you feel the way you do, where your thoughts are rooted, what kind of beliefs you have, and what kind of biases you bring to each situation and conversation.Â

Be original

Critically assess what you experience, what you observe, and how your involvement is going to be meaningful, effective, and proactive.

Be proactive

Don't romanticize or victimize people, or situations of which you have no first-hand knowledge or experience.

Be real

We love that we attract a wide-diversity of volunteers, with different styles and lifestyles. While we wholly embrace and appreciate the uniqueness of each of you, in order to maintain respectful partnerships we ask that you all be aware of how your actions could be interpreted. Basic things to consider are your dress and behavior while at your service site and within the surrounding communities. Guatemala is a small place, and just like any small place, everyone knows everyone, everyone knows what’s going on (whether you think so or not). During your time as a volunteer please refrain from using drugs (including marijuana), drinking in excess in public areas, smoking in public in the communities in which we work, and wearing clothing that you wouldn’t wear in front of a conservative grandmother.

Be considerate

Rising Minds is working to reform international relations and the way that aid happens is through programs and partnerships that empower rather than provide. As noted numerous times throughout this handbook we are not a charity that gives money or materials to initiatives, but rather an organization that helps create a strategic, sustainable way for organiza tions to generate their own means. We implore that if you are interested in donating, organizing, or remaining involved with the organizations with which we work, please communicate with us directly first. Otherwise, we risk jeopardizing and/or undermining our relationship with our partner organizations. If you have any questions please contact Courtney (


Sustainable Construction

For Communities, By Communities


ising Minds’ Sustainable Construction initiatives exemplify the mission and community development work of Rising Minds. Working with community partners, we employ creative strategies to address environmental degradation and building needs, all while strengthening the voice and involvement of program members. Anyone can build a school, a playground, or a community center; it’s not about what we are doing, but rather how we are doing it. Our partners identify the need, and together we address it. Our partners provide many of the free and low-cost raw materials for the building, as well as hands-on labor. Rising Minds provides the technical assistance and a team of volunteers to work side by side with our partner program until the construcon is complete. Rising Minds’ sustainable construction program utilizes alternative building materials, such as old tires and/or

trash-stuffed bottles, to lessen costs and keep trash out of the waterways. The lower cost of building materials and the low-tech means of building assure that the techniques we use could be replicated by members of our partner programs without our further involvement, thereby decreasing foreign dependence. Volunteer: Help build a school from bottles or a playground from used tires. Contact Rising Minds about our current building schedule.   Mano y Mano: Have construction or engineering experience?  Help design a project.      Paso y Paso: Edit footage and create a film to document the process of sustainable construction.

Small Business Development

Providing hand-ups as opposed to hand-outs


ising Minds works with small businesses/cooperatives to promote sustainable business practices, community involvement, and transparency.  Rising Minds meets small businesses half-way, providing on the ground developmental support in the form of trainings, increased employment opportunities, and, in some cases, microloans. Rising Minds’ supports each business to reach their own respective potential, in a way that caters to the needs, desires and drive of those involved. needs

Volunteer: Help teach small business development classes to a women’s cooperative. Paso y Paso: Conduct interview with local artisans to create an educational handout  about their life and work.

Seed Project

Using education and seeds to tackle malnutrition


ising Minds is providing seeds, teamed with nutritional trainings, to women in the Guatemalan Highlands so as to lessen food expenses and confront malnutrition. For many Guatemalans food is the primary expense. Malnutrition is a significant health threat in rural Guatemala, and according to the World Health Association as many as 68% of indigenous children are chronically malnourished. Although corn and beans are commonly grown, the lack of availability of seeds is commonly cited as a reason for the lack of additional vegetable gardens. By combining nutritional trainings with the actual seeds, families will not only have the

materials needed to lower their food costs and reduce malnutrition, but also be armed with the knowledge of why eating a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables is important. Volunteer: Help women plant seeds in a community garden. Mano y Mano: Teach a cooking class on how to incorporate more greens into Guatemalan cooking. Paso y Paso: Create an educational poster on the nutritional values of different fruits and vegetables.

Youth Leadership Program

Investing in our future


ising Minds’ Youth Leadership Program promotes critical thinking, creative expression and community involvement amongst the youngest in the surrounding villages around Lake Atitlan through its hands-on, engaging activities.  The Program is targeted at children ages 7-14 and takes academic enrichment and empowerment as its main objectives. Employing alternative to traditional teaching style lessons, Youth Leadership Program focuses on practical activities, contextualization of learning, and the development of teamwork and communication skills in order to promote conscious leadership. We offer comprehensive curricular support for their current subjects, engaging and interactive English classes, ecological trainings that stimulate alternativ

approach to their environment, creative art projects using recycled materials, and sports for development, empowerment, and effective teamwork.

Volunteer: Help Rising Mind’s staff teach a class at the Youth Leadership Program. Mano y Mano: Teach an interactive class within an area of your expertise. Paso y Paso: Send out an e-mail blast to solicit for donors for our youth sponsorship program.

CPR and First Aid Training

Volunteers and youth leaders training public school teachers


n communities located more than 45 minutes from emergency response care, there is a pressing need for training on how to respond to immediate, life-threatening situations. Rising Minds is implementing a First Aid and CPR training course in communities throughout the Lake Atitlan basin. Along with trained youth, we will provide CPR and first-aid trainings to community leaders, such as teachers. Our primary goal is to be able to share the skills necessary to respond to basic and immediate life-threatening situations, such as choking.

Volunteer: Teach a course to youth leaders and public school teachers in CPR and First Aid. Mano y Mano: Solicit donations from First Aid supply companies for kits to place in each school. Paso y Paso: Create an educational poster on how to perform the heimlich maneuver.

Community Gardens

Planting the seeds to lessen malnourishment


uatemala has one of the highest childhood malnutrition rates in the Western Hemisphere. To alleviate this epidemic, Rising Minds will be helping to plant community gardens. Teamed with nutrition education these gardens, planted and maintained by the local community, will provide fresh vegetables and herbs to educational programs in the area. By cultivating a deeper understanding of nutritional necessities and providing the sources, these community gardens will help nurture a rounded-diet and aid in lowering l the malnutrition rates among indigenous children and families.

Volunteer: Help women tend their community garden. Mano y Mano: Teach women how to make chemical free pesticides. Paso y Paso: Research the nutritional value of plants growing in the community garden.

English for English Teachers

English for teachers, English for everyone


ridging both language and economic divides, Rising Minds English-language programs provide interactive and engaging lessons to students, teachers and to the general public on the south-side of Lake Atitlan. In addition to improving language-abilities, Rising Minds English programs promote dynamic teaching tactics that make learning fun while equipping public school teachers with the skills and resources to effectively teach English in local schools. schools

Volunteer: Help teach English in an ESL class. Mano y Mano: Help develop curriculum and materials for ESL classes. Paso y Paso: Design certificates to award to teachers upon completion of the course.

Eco-Art Trainings

Recycling for economic opportunities


ising Minds provides hands-on Eco-Art trainings for indigenous women in surrounding villages. Through a comprehensive practical training course, the women are challenged to creatively produce very low cost supplies for local educational programs, their children, and with the potential to design and sell accessories.  Through that, Rising Minds bridges economic divides by suggesting eco-friendly techniques using recyclables to lower production costs for the women and benefit the environment at the same time.  We provide avenues for the women to reach customers and sell the handicrafts, as well as offer small business development courses to help them make their businesses thrive.

Volunteer: Help women practice making different eco-art crafts to sell. Mano y Mano: Teach a course on how to make earrings from beer caps. Paso y Paso: Develop a conscious consumer survey.


Preserving the past for the future


he loss of cultural practices and indigenous language is a concern voiced by the members of the oldest generation in San Juan la Laguna. In order to confront and prevent the erosion of traditional knowledge and foster a greater appreciation of cultural preservation, Rising Minds is working in conjunction with the Center for Indigenous Elders to record and share the stories of the people, places and events that have shaped San Juan. By combining these stories and histories we hope to create a series of books for the outside world that can help share and ultimately preserve the beautiful culture of the lively elders in San Juan.

Volunteer: Interview an Anciano and record their story. Mano y Mano: Draw illustrations and create a children’s book from the Elder’s stories. Paso y Paso: Research publication grants.

Bracelet Initiative

Conscious consumerism through friendship bracelets


ising Minds’ Bracelet Initiative is a holistic fundraising effort that supports conscious consumerism and small business development, while raising funds to sustain our non-profit organization. We buy hand-woven bracelets directly from Guatemalan artisans, set up informational displays in businesses, and ask for a one dollar contribution for each bracelet. This initiative is a simple and creative means of not only raising money and spreading awareness, but also building re lationships across borders.

Volunteer: Approach local businesses in your hometown to adopt the bracelet initiative. Mano y Mano: Become a regional coordinator for the bracelet initiative. Paso y Paso: Input the bracelet initiative sales into the salesforce application.

Rising Minds Expeditions

Create your own adventure


ising Minds Expeditions is an immersion-based travel program. We create customized trips to Central America that empower individuals and support sustainable community development. Our expeditions weave together service, cultural immersion, and adventure to contextualize learning, cultivate awareness, and personalize global issues. Through our programs, RME participants become better able to recognize and identify how their individual actions have global impacts. Equipped with tools and impassioned by their expe riences, RME participants transform their learning into action so as to make positive sustainable change in their home communities.

Volunteer: Find out when the next Rising Minds Expedition is set to take place. Mano y Mano: Organize a Rising Minds Expedition with your college or church. Paso y Paso: Write proposal letters to related college clubs, churches and organizations.


Cultural lmmersionW

Our cultural workshops are taught by local Guatemalans a whom we work. These workshops are not only at the heart of and visitors, but also provide a means for our partner organiz


as a part of cooperatives and/or small business development initiatives with f our mission, providing proactive and personal exchanges between artisans zations to help raise money to sustain local, community-beneficial programs. Learn how to weave traditional traje Learn about coffee production - from seed to cup Experience a morning in the life of a Mayan fisherman Make your own Mayan work of art


The Rising Minds Homestay program is the best way to learn Tz’utujil. Living is authentic (in other words rustic). Few is basic, but delicious and abundant. The families will take home-stay with us regards it

experience daily life in an indigenous village, as well as practice Spanish or houses have hot water. Cooking takes place over a wood stove. The food you in as if you were one of their own children. Everyone that has done a t as one of their most powerful and meaningful experiences while abroad.

Each week long home-stay includes Private room – Each participant, unless you elect to be paired up, will receive their own private room. Each homestay room has gone through safety, cleanliness and comfort evaluations during Rising Minds homestay training. 3 Meals a day – As a part of our training each homestay mother learned how to “care for a gringo stomach” as well as learned the importance of nutritionally rounded meals. Careful Pairing – We review your homestay questionnaires, and based on your answers pair them strategically with participating homestay mothers in San Juan. 24/7 RM-homestay contact person – RM regional director is available 24/7 throughout the duration of your stay. Each family and homestay participant receives an emergency contact card with the numbers to local emergency centers, and our contact information. Three cultural workshops – Included in the homestay fee are three cultural workshops. These could include, but are not limited to, a traditional weaving workshop, traditional dugout fishing experience, or a Mayan-guided hike up Indian Nose.

Family preparation and follow-up – Prior to you stay, our regional director meets with your homestay mother. Following your stay, our regional director has a debrief meeting with your mother, during which time she has the opportunity to fill out a feedback assessment form so as to improve our homestays. Family profiles – We provide you with a family profile story prior to your stay. Emergency Cards for each homestay family – These Emergency Cards include the name of the participant, any food allergies or special dietary restrictions, our contact information, and local emergency contact information. In-house traditional Guatemalan cooking class – If you all elect to do this activity, we will arrange for your homestay mother to provide a hands-on, traditional Guatemalan cooking class.

Contact us directly about costs. Barter-Scholarships are available. Contact Courtney at for more information.






Rising Minds Volunteer Handbook  

Rising Minds Volunteer Handbook

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