Ak'Tenamit

Culture and Adventures in Izabal, Guatemala

Want to experience Guatemala’s Garífuna culture, explore little-visited beaches and take a boat ride on the Rio Dulce?

Ak'tenamit can make it happen and make sure that your trip directly supports local efforts to develop the area as an eco-tourism destination!

Right for You?

Experience

Swimming, Walking tours, Trekking, Hiking, Birdwatching, Cultural Activities, Canoeing, Food Tour, Farm Visit and Volunteering

Style

Cultural Immersion, Connect with Nature and Active Adventure

Price

Mid-range

Location

River, Rural Communities and Small Towns/Villages

Connect with Ak'Tenamit

Local/Foreign Owned Nonprofit
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Speaks: English and Spanish

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Why Lokal Recommends Ak'Tenamit

Background

Nonprofit started in 1992| Local/Foreign Owned with 100% local staff

A Unique Story

Ak’ Tenamit (AAT) is a non-profit association located in eastern Guatemala that works with local communities in Rio Dulce that are developing unique, sustainable travel experiences but face challenges because they have never been tourists or run a business.

Ak’ Tenamit was founded in 1992 by Steve Dudenhoefer. In 1990, Steve owned a successful interiorscaping business in South Florida and decided to visit Guatemala to discover why many of his employees, Mayans from Guatemala, had immigrated to the US to work and sent every penny they earned back home. He met people who lived on $1 a day, children without schools, mothers without vital medicine for their babies. Deeply affected by this experience, he returned home, sold his businesses and started Asociación Ak’ Tenamit in 1992 with the help of local village leaders. Today Ak’ Tenamit is run entirely by the Q’eqchi people, and Steve remains involved as Chief Technical Adviser, assisting managers and the Board but concentrating on fundraising and networking.

In the same year that Ak’ Tenamit was founded, Steve’s friends and family founded The Guatemalan Tomorrow Fund to create a mechanism for raising funds for the project.

Community Connection

Many families depend on agriculture as their primary source of income, and many farmers still practice slash-and-burn agriculture in the area. Ak’ Tenamit promotes income alternatives to decrease deforestation that results from cutting trees to plant food crops. They support communities’ efforts to develop tourism initiatives because these programs also encourage locals to care for their environment; they realize that doing so is important for attracting tourists and providing them the eco-tourism experience they are looking for. They also work with local handicraft cooperatives and teach them to create products made entirely of sustainable materials. Ak’ Tenamit actively supports communities’ efforts to develop alternative income projects such as handicraft cooperatives and community tourism initiatives.

Environmental Engagement

Ak’ Tenamit’s project site and many of the communities it serves are located in Río Dulce National Park. The park has been defined as a nationally protected area because of its biodiversity, and they have long promoted ways for local people to live in harmony with the environment. Ak’ Tenamit has run campaigns in conjunction with the Guatemala’s parks department, CONAP, to discourage hunting and deforestation in the area. They also work with the JADE Project, whose mission is to protect wildlife and natural resources in Rio Dulce’s Sartsún region while promoting sustainable community growth. Ak’ Tenamit’s education program produced a “Teacher's Guide for Environmental Education” that was approved by Guatemala's Ministry of Education and is being used in schools throughout Rio Dulce. Their community tourism program also educates locals about the importance of preserving natural resources and the danger of deforestation, water contamination, over-fishing and over-hunting. Additionally, they introduce locals to environmentally friendly soaps and detergents to decrease water pollution.

Culture

At Ak' Tenamit, they don’t believe that promoting development and educating young people in indigenous communities should draw them away from their culture. In fact, their work in the Río Dulce region has resulted in a local cultural renaissance, with more young people learning traditional music, dance and spiritual ceremonies.

Q’eqchi Maya culture plays an important role in the curriculum at their secondary boarding school. Students receive a bilingual – Spanish and Q’eqchi – education that is complemented by English classes. A Maya priest provides students with training in their culture, history, and religion, and leads traditional ceremonies. Students learn to play traditional marimba music and dance traditional dances, which they perform at campus celebrations and events around the country. Several students have been trained as Mayan Spiritual Guides, thus insuring the inter-generational transfer of traditional knowledge.

Verifications

Verified and Visit by Lokal Staff

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