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Students interested in doing more than relaxing at home over winter break will be pleased to know that another option is available.

In a collaborative effort between the University and Limitless Horizons Ixil, a nonprofit organization which focuses on improving the lives of a group of indigenous Guatemalans, up to 18 Brown students will travel to Chajul, Guatemala, for 12 days in January.

Chajul is hardly a typical tourist destination, a county high in the mountains of Guatemala where most adults earn between $1 and $3 a day, previous participants said at an information session Thursday. LHI works closely with the people of the area, many of whom speak the indigenous language of Ixil rather than Spanish. The organization is still relatively young — it formed in 2004 — but it is growing quickly.

The organization awarded 76 scholarships to students from the area to attend school, up from 10 in 2004. And due to the group's efforts, this year saw a 500 percent increase in the number of students attending high school in the region, students said at the info session.

The upcoming trip is not the first time Brown has worked with the nonprofit organization. At information sessions last week, students who traveled to Chajul last year spoke and shared their experiences. Leonard Chen '13 called the trip "engaging" and "rewarding" and said he was pleased to have learned so much on the trip.

Alysha Naik '11 has remained active with LHI since she traveled to Chajul and is helping to organize this year's trip.

"It's an experience you can't get through a travel agent," she said, calling her work in Chajul "one of the best things I've ever done."

Groups work directly with the native people of the area, helping out wherever they are needed. Last year's group installed cement floors in the school, painted the village library, helped to build a community garden and more.

Past participants said that, in addition to the work, they spent their time learning. Naik "realized all the things I take for granted," she told The Herald.

She said her perspective on life changed when she met the people of Chajul, who see virtually no tourists or travelers due to the area's isolation. Despite their poverty, she said she had "never seen people so happy. They don't care that nine of them are crammed into one bed."

Those in attendance at the information session considering working with LHI were excited about the opportunity, but expressed some concern over the price of the trip, which totals about $1,700 in addition to airfare.

Grey Joyner '13 said the 12 days would be a "great trip," but "money would be an issue."

Lauren Urban '12 echoed that sentiment, saying she was interested in the trip but that it was too pricey.

But Naik explained that there are ways to offset the cost of the trip. She encouraged students to "apply for the trip first," and said that if a student wants to work with the organization, something can often be done to ensure they are able to make the trip without breaking the bank.

Past participants have fundraised as a group, contacted friends and family to ask for small donations, been sponsored by employers and were even granted outside scholarships, as was Chen's case. He said the trip was expensive but explained that all money is used to fund the projects in the area. Because of that fact, "it's your project," he said.

Despite the costs, past participants said the trip was worth the money and was "really rewarding."

"The most rewarding part was the time spent with the people of Chajul," Chen said. "Their kindness makes the trip worth it."

The group is accepting applications until Sept. 24.



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