Highland Support Project was created in 1993 as a response to political violence that was creating an indigenous leadership vacuum in the Highlands of Guatemala. The subsequent dramatic loss of leaders and organizational experience was perpetuating a dependent status for Maya communities. This weakening of individual and community agency was compounded by cultural stresses as great as any since conquest.
Understanding that development can only happen from within, HSP’s founding vision is that the role of an “outsider” should be to support local efforts rather than competing, displacing or co-opting local leadership. We educate, inspire and organize non-native communities to act in solidarity with first nations communities struggling to adapt to changing environmental, political and economic challenges.
The mission of the Highland Support Project is to innovate transformational models of development that break cycles of dependency. We engage in long-term accompaniment that supports Highland indigenous communities of the Americas to live on their land, in their community, and with their culture.
Highland Support Project’s participatory model of long-term transformational development works within indigenous pueblos (villages) to foster agency by organizing communities, providing educational opportunities, and supporting social entrepreneurs to create change from within. We understand poverty as a process rather than a state of being. A process can be associated with a place, but if you change a certain process, you will see different results. Read more
Since 1993, our mission and vision have evolved through a growing understanding of the interconnectedness of people, problems and solutions. Listening to our indigenous partners we have come to understand the wisdom that life is sustained through relationships, human and natural. Grassroots experience pushed us from defining the problem as a resource shortage issue to one of local inertia caused by historical, institutional and policy constraints. Therefore, to achieve our stated goal of transforming the world from a place of ill-being to one of well-being we work to create socially just and sustainable economies with accountable and inclusive systems of governance.
Why the Highlands?
The word "Highlands" is more than a topographical description. In the Americas, it has great cultural significance as the location for both ongoing Indigenous resistance; and it also signifies the largest concentrations of First Nations Peoples in the western hemisphere.
Socio-economically, Highland communities generally rank lowest in quality of life indexes, life expectancy and access to basic services. They also tend to have the highest rates of political violence.
Colonial histories have led to entrenched patterns of poverty and dependency in Highland communities of the Americas. We support communities to break these vicious cycles, to achieve agency, independence and prosperity– however this may be defined by these communities.
In 2010 we started work in Highland Arizona. Read about why and how here