We are the only non-profit, all volunteer-run trekking and outdoors association in Guatemala. In fact- apart from our sister organizations Quetzaltrekkers Nicaragua, Condortrekkers in Bolivia, and Emutrekkers in Austrailia- we might just be the only organization of our kind anywhere in the world.
Quetzaltrekkers was founded in 1995 as a means of self-sustainable, grassroots fundraising for the functioning of Associación Escuela de la Calle (EDELAC), with the overall aim of combating the unfortunate reality of children both living and working on the streets of Quetzaltenango. Our job is to see that tourism dollars directly benefit those Guatemalans that need them most: street children and children at risk of becoming such. We do this by running tourist-oriented, guided-treks through the beautiful Guatemalan highlands: hence the slogan, “Hike and Help.”
Quetzaltrekkers/Escuela de la Calle was the brainchild of a very small group of Guatemalan and foreign social workers looking to improve the livelihood of Xela’s vulnerable youth. As one of the first operations to offer organized treks out of Quetzaltenango, Quetzaltrekkers embarked on the tough process of building and improving trails, establishing relationships with rural highland communities, as well as acquiring the necessary equipment and volunteers. Meanwhile, our aid work from profits began in the streets; teaching classes; providing support to the children living and working in the city’s main bus terminal.
From these humble beginnings, Quetzaltrekkers has grown to become the largest trekking operator in Quetzaltenango and possibly all of Guatemala. As interest in our treks has expanded over our twenty-one year history, so has our ability to help Quetzaltenango’s street children. In 1997, we started a school in a rented space in which we could offer the kids a semi-formal education. In 1999, we opened Hogar Abierto: a dormitory that continues to act as an immediate crisis centre which often becomes a permanent home for local, troubled youth whom lack families that can provide basic necessities. In 2004, the school was relocated to a purpose-built complex in the impoverished barrio of Las Rosas where we are able to offer a full educational curriculum to disadvantaged children from across the city in addition to Xela’s outlying regions as well as now pay the teachers that work there. In their turn, these milestones have been underpinned by a number of EDELAC-run programs that focus on drug-rehabilition, family-building, and community solidarity.
With the constant financial support of Quetzaltrekkers, EDELAC is currently helping over 200 children in the fields of education, housing, nutrition, counseling, rehabilitation and medical-care. The expanding alumni of EDELAC´s programs have gone onto become successful accountants, carpenters, guides, parents, and teachers (some of whom now teach at EDELAC).
Despite our successes, there remains much to be done; we are constantly looking to expand our reach and impact in the Quetzaltenango region. Although we continue to grow and mature as an organization, much of our work continues to occur on the street-level as a beacon of hope for the region’s most destitute children and youth.