Travel With Us This Week On Very Special Journey to Guatemala.

By Posted in - Central America & Personal & Travel Blog & Volunteering on July 23rd, 2012

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We’re really excited right now.

When we started Beers & Beans two of the things we really wanted to do was volunteer and highlight all the great people in the world that are working hard to make a difference.

Starting tomorrow we get to do just that.

We’re headed to Guatemala on a very special trip with Cooperative for Education. During the Snapshot Tour we’ll visit several schools, get the chance to hang out with some of the friendliest & cutest kids in the world, pass out school supplies and take in the beauty of the Guatemalan people and the countryside. We’re going on this trip to specifically promote education in Guatemala, to show you what a tour with CoEd is all about and why their work and that of their volunteers, is so important.

Who is Cooperative for Education?

Please watch this video – it gives great insight into this program and how it works.

With offices in both Cincinnati, Ohio and Guatemala City, Cooperative for Education is a nonprofit organization that was founded by two brothers – Joe & Jeff Berninger. It was established in 1996 to “address the root causes of poverty in Guatemala rather than treating it’s symptoms.” 

Before we agreed to go on this trip we wanted to make sure that CoEd was an organization that we could really stand behind. We asked them tons of questions about their project to make sure that we would be promoting something that truly helps the local children instead of just a large so-called volunteer company that charges about 4k a person just to go work somewhere for a week and keeps most of the profits in house instead of using them to help the local population.

Cooperative for Education passed all the questions we had with flying colors. Not only are they 100% passionate about what they do but they are different then most other volunteer organizations. They charge a small fee ($975 or $1075 for 5 nights) and take you on a trip through Guatemala to see the country and the literacy programs in action. After returning home, most volunteers are so moved by the trip, they raise funds locally to send back to Guatemala.

Here’s a sampling of what they do with the monies raised:

  • Purchase textbooks (math, science, social studies & Spanish) for middle school children
  • Purchase children’s books
  • Provide training for primary school teachers
  • Create computer centers
  • Fund scholarships and create “Give Back” programs that helps young people improve their community through organized service projects

Due to this great impact of this trip, a lot of volunteers return time and time again to visit with the children and see their fundraising efforts in real life. We’ve been told that this trip changes not only the lives of the Guatemalan children but also the lives of the volunteers and we’re excited to see it first hand and share it with you.

Why Guatemala?

Rural Guatemala has the highest rate of illiteracy in Central America, it also has one of the highest rates of poverty, illiteracy and inequality in the entire Western Hemisphere. In Guatemala, 25% of the men and 37% of the women are illiterate – in rural areas this number jumps to a staggering 75%. On average about 1 out of 2 adults cannot read or write. Think about that for a minute. How much different would your life be if you or every other person you knew could not read or write?

Fortunately 97% of male children and 93% of female children attend primary school in Guatemala but a vast majority of them, especially the indigenous children, drop out of school before even reaching 6th grade. In fact, only 40% of males and 37% of females make it on to secondary school. Comparatively speaking 87% of males and 89% of females attend secondary school in the United States. More than half of their Guatemalan student counterparts are losing that opportunity every day.

Without the possibility of education, this vicious cycle is repeated. Cooperative For Education aims to stop that cycle because they believe every child in the world deserves the chance for an education. With education, the children can create a better life for themselves and in time, for their own children.

How is Cooperative for Education changing the cycle of poverty? 

The founders, Joe & Jeff, reading with some kids from the program.

Thanks to their dedication, Cooperative for Education has served more than 32,000 Mayan youth with textbook programs, 15,000 with computer centers and 9,000 with mini-libraries, 1,500 with literacy advancement programs and 160 with scholarships. Their programs has also gained international support and recognition. Some of their large, long term partnerships include Rotary International, Microsoft Inc., the Kellogg Foundation and USAID. For every dollar raise.86 cents goes directly back to the students.

They also love to think outside the box. They currently have a very cool, hip promotion called Celebrity Bookends

Basically they have a set of Bookends traveling the world and they are trying to get them in the hands of as many celebrities as possible. Their goal is to get as many likes as Kim Kardashian and make the bookends so famous that they’ll auction for $1,000,000 to help CoEd fight poverty in Guatemala. The Bookends have already been in the hands of some pretty famous people including Kevin Bacon, Danny Devito, Jeff Bridges & Ryan Reynolds among many others.

Currently the Bookends are on their way to Chicago for the Lalapalooza tour – if you have suggestions for which musician you’d like to see with the Bookends please visit the Celebrity Bookends on Facebook or Twitter to let them know! While you’re there be sure to stop by like their pages so they can get one step closer to their goal!

What is the Snapshot Tour All About?

The Snapshot tour and it is exactly what it says: it’s a snapshot of their program. It was created to be “…a five-day glimpse into the beautiful scenery of Guatemala and the indigenous culture of the Mayan people. You will meet the children who benefit from CoEd projects and witness the gratitude of their families and communities.”

One thing I love about this program is that anyone can do it. Unlike a lot of manually laborious volunteer trips, you can be any age and at any fitness level. You don’t have to be 22 years old and marathon ready. On our trip we will be with 18 other volunteers and the age levels range from 14 – 72 years old and I think that’s fantastic! With the range of ages I’m really looking forward to riding through the Guatemalan countryside with our new travel comrades, learning about their lives and what led them to Guatemala.

Another thing I love about this trip is that it incorporates all the elements of a typical holiday with the do-good elements of a volunteer vacation. Not only do you get to visit the schools, play & participate with the children and make home visits to meet their siblings & parents you also get to see the sites of beautiful Guatemala. On this trip we’ll be visiting 5 schools and we’ll be taking a walking tour of both Santiago & Antigua, riding a boat over Lake Atitlan and visiting the famous Chichicastenango market. On the last day there is even a chance for optional activities – a coffee plantation tour, mule tour or a zip-lining. There’s daily breakfast, lunch, dinner and nightly social cocktail hours as well. Additionally all ground transportation and lodging is also included with the Snapshot tour.

If you want more information please check out this video overview of a Snapshot tour.

Follow Our Special Guatemalan Journey and Spread The Word!

So how can you help?  There are several ways you can also get involved and help the kids of Guatemala get a better education.

1. You can follow Cooperative for Eduction on their blog, their Facebook page & their Twitter page.

Share their cause, their stories and their updates with your circle of family and friends. Find them here:

Cooperative For Education Website, CoEd on Facebook, CoEd on Twitter, CoEd on Pinterest, CoEd on YouTube

2. You can follow our journey online and share any of our posts, photos, tweets or Facebook updates with your peeps.

We are using the hashtag #CoEdGuatemala to promote this trip.

The more people that know about their organization, the better! So share, share away! Be sure to find us and follow the hashtag on all the social networks so you can stay up to date and watch this fun & powerful journey unfold in real time:

Beers & Beans on Facebook, Beers & Beans on Instagram, Beers & Beans on Pinterest, Beers & Beans on Twitter

3. You can donate money.

We’ve never asked for money from our readers but because we really believe in this cause we are including an easy donate button in this post so that if you want, you can donate directly to Cooperative for Education (not to us). Of course this is entirely optional but if you have an extra $5, $10 or $100 lying around and you want to do something good with it why not donate it to help make a lifelong change for these kids? Every little bit counts all you have to do is click the button on the left.

Don’t want to donate online? You can text the word BOOK to 20222 on your phone to make an easy, simple $5 donation.

4. You Can Promote the Celebrity Bookends.

Are you a celebrity? Do you know a celebrity? Why not get involved with the Celebrity Bookends and help these special bookends make their way around the hollywood circuit? Just say the word, contact us or Cooperative for Education and get these bookends in the hands of someone who can make them worth a Million bucks before their big auction! A Million dollars would make such an impact in the lives of so many students!

5. You can take YOUR OWN trip with Cooperative For Education!

Why let us have all the fun? If taking a trip like this sounds interesting to you why not take one?!  They organize two trips a year (July & Feb) and the next available trip is in February 2013 which will give you plenty of time to save up the $1,000 you’ll need to travel with them and meet the cutie-patootie* Guatemalan children yourself!

(* Cute Kid Disclaimer: Really, I’m not kidding Guatemalan kids are some of the friendliest and cutest children on the planet. We visited Guatemala several years ago and I was shocked at how open and warm the children were. They are just beautiful and even with all of the odds they face, their parents must be doing something right to make them so sweet! In fact, the BW photo on our homepage of the little boy laughing is from our last trip there.)

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*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Beers and Beans Travel Website, Nariko’ s Nest Weddings & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you do want to use one of them please contact me first because I do love to share and I would be flattered. Thanks!

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(5) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Christy -

    July 23, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    This sounds like a great cause and a fun trip! One of the highlights of my time in Nepal was being around the local children and I hope to be able to go back there to volunteer soon. I’m looking forward to following this unique experience!

  • RyukyuMike -

    July 23, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Following, jealous, and wishing you the best. Awesome !

  • Brooke vs. the World -

    July 24, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Looks like you get the highlights of Guatemala and more on this adventure! Good luck and have a great time — looks really awesome!

  • Sandy Allain -

    July 24, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Children in Guatemala were very happy. Keep up the great job and wishing you all the best!


  • Laurel -

    July 27, 2012 at 1:17 am

    What a great cause. Guatemala is one of my favorite countries. The people are so kind – great that you’re helping.