What is Transformational Development?
Highland Partners (HiP), the service learning initiative of the Highland Support Project and the Asociacíon de Mujeres del Altipano (AMA), operates from a standpoint of “Transformational Development” in which we involve our visiting, non-native partners. Transformational development is a practice based on the idea that poverty is a process or a cycle that can only be addressed through changing social, economic, political, and cultural systems.
A Different Approach
Our founding principle is that the ‘outsider’s’ role is to support local efforts and leadership, without competing, displacing or co-opting local capacity. HiP’s strong, longstanding relationships with local actors in the western highlands of Guatemala, where one of its founders grew up, are in part why its programs are so effective. Indigenously-directed, self-perpetuating programs that flourish through North-South partnerships have been the key to transforming the individuals, communities, and organizations HiP partners with both in Guatemala and in Arizona.
Visiting partners participate in our grassroots development projects: Those projects are designed to strengthen capacity in vulnerable highland individuals and communities, so they can make self-determined, lasting change for themselves. Read about all our projects under the HSP site’s ‘Our Work’ tab.
Our trips offer rich cultural, historical and human exchanges between non-native partners and native community members. Visiting partners not only affect positive change, but also experience transformation as they work, learn, and share with their Mayan or Apache partners who offer them a better understanding of their role as responsible citizens in a globalized world.
Experience and Priorities
We are proud to provide safe, rich and impactful service trips for our visiting partners. Thanks to our dedication to safety precautions, good leadership, and long-term relationships in the areas we serve, we have never had a single security issue.
The Highland Partners have led hundreds of people on life-changing trips to the First Nations’ communities since the 1990s. In that time, we have tailored trips to the priorities and budgets of all kinds of interest groups, including youth, university, senior citizen, church and corporate groups. Many teams and individuals return with us year after year, with 80% of HiP participants returning with us within two years of their last rip. We offer our spotless record and high return rate as a testament to the quality and safety of the service trips we provide.
HiP’s trips are unique and meaningful experiences which stay with our partners long after they have returned home.
We are happy to work with students to arrange course credit for their participation. This can be arranged when a professor offers independent credit or work options service learning component in their college program. We can provide any required information about the Highland Partners program and the interested students’ participation in it. It is important to speak to your university about their policies regarding course credits for internships and volunteering.
Small Groups, Big Connections
Years of experience have taught us that the optimum group size is between 10 and 20 people. Getting group size right not only ensures that each individual’s needs are well met, it also means our partners enjoy the optimum opportunities for socializing, working on projects, meeting new people from different regions, and a variety of support from our staff and infrastructure.
Travel Dreams Fulfilled
Traveling to the Highlands of Guatemala or Arizona is a fantastic opportunity to see extensive geographic and cultural beauty at the same time. The experience of being in such picturesque regions of the Americas with their rich and layered cultures is quite impressive and unforgettable. Our trips provide you with the opportunity to do additional sight-seeing during rest times and before/after your service work, and include adventures to native ruins as well as some of the other most popular tourist locations in Guatemala and the Apache lands of Arizona. This gives you the chance to enjoy these fantastic locations outside of the sphere of service-learning, by participating in and enjoying the local economy such as through visits to markets, street fairs, nature reserves, and more.
Contribute and Grow
Finally, but most importantly, you will form special, often long-lasting relationships and know that you have chosen to contribute your time and energy to improving the lives of others, who are disadvantaged solely due to socio-economic circumstances and the lottery of birth. Forming a relationship and friendship with our rural indigenous partners is a very unique opportunity that creates many personal insights and joy that come from working and learning side by side. Thus, our visiting partners frequently report that their understanding of the world and themselves has expanded as a result of their cross-cultural Highland Partner exchanges.
Highland Partners (HiP) is the service learning initiative of the not-for-profit organizations, Highland Support Project (HSP) and Asociación de Mujeres del Altiplano (AMA). Highland Partners brings local actors and non-native, visiting participants together, creating networks of support to promote resilience and empowerment, rather than dependency.