Guatemala Accompaniment Project (GAP)2021-09-30T22:19:09+00:00

Guatemala Accompaniment Project – GAP Internacionalista

Providing a dissuasive presence at the request of Guatemalan organizers who are under threat for their work

What is accompaniment?

NISGUA is one of the many organizations worldwide using international accompaniment as a strategy in the global struggle for the protection of human rights. Organizations, communities and activists under threat request an international presence as a security measure to dissuade attacks and create a safer space for them to carry out their human rights and social justice work.

How does accompaniment work?

In Guatemala, state and corporate actors, as well as parallel and clandestine power structures dating from the internal armed conflict and favored by the climate of impunity in the country, continue to exert power through intimidation, criminalization and violence. When human rights violations such as these take place, the monitoring and reporting done by NISGUA accompaniers through the Guatemala Accompaniment Project (GAP) serves to alert the international community. Our networks take action and pressure the Guatemalan government, transnational corporations and other actors to encourage the protection of human rights.

Who do we accompany?

We provide accompaniment to organizations and individuals involved in key legal cases seeking justice and accountability for genocide and crimes against humanity – including massacres, torture and forced disappearances – committed during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict. This includes one of our longest and most extensive accompaniment relationships, with the witnesses and communities of the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR). A courageous group of survivors, the AJR filed charges in 2000 and 2001 against former military dictators Efraín Ríos Montt, Romeo Lucas García and their military high commands.

In the Guatemalan post-conflict context, international investment in large-scale mega-development projects like mining and hydroelectric dams increased. So, too, did the attacks against community leaders and organizations speaking out against these industries and in defense of life and territory. GAP provides ongoing accompaniment to individuals and organizations under threat and increasingly criminalized for their organizing in defense of their resources, communities, culture and human rights.

“The work is ours. It is our country and is for us to do. But you help open the space for us to do that work. Your presence is important.” - Genocide Case witness from the Ixcán
“The State and resource extraction companies attempt to criminalize us in order to weaken our organizing capacity. Accompaniment strengthens us as we organize in defense of our rights.” - Rubén Herrera, Departmental Assembly of Huehuetenango (ADH)

GAP Internacionalista seeks to dissuade violence against our Guatemalan partners and connect them to movements in the U.S. for Indigenous sovereignty and immigration justice. All GAP Internacionalista work is done at the request of our partners and according to their strategic vision. GAP Internacionalista uses a diversity of tactics, including human rights observation and documentation, physical presence, grassroots education, campaigns, and advocacy with decision makers. Volunteer accompaniers serve for periods of six months to a year, and then return to organize their home communities in solidarity with our Guatemalan partners.

“The work of NISGUA is highly important to the Xinka People. Through NISGUA we are able to visibilize our work and struggle. This is important because when the authorities see that we have international accompaniment, we feel strong, we feel good, because we know that the authorities are afraid of international inspection”.- Emy Gómez, Xinka Parliament

“Being an accompanier with NISGUA was an extremely important piece in my political formation and radicalization. Learning from and collaborating with our Guatemalan partners, forming mutual relationships, and incorporating lessons from their luchas has been such a beautiful honor. The work is deeply valued by our partners and must continue until it is no longer necessary.”-  Nico Estrada, former Internacionalista

4 NISGUA accompaniers hold a sign that says Isa, Chris, Nico y Michelle,  former Internacionalistas at NISGUA’s office in Guatemala.

Our Sponsoring Community partnerships provide the resources, energy and political action required to ensure ongoing international accompaniment in Guatemala. Their long-term commitment to human rights and solidarity is an essential component of the longevity and sustainability of GAP. Sponsoring Communities provide financial support to an accompanier and are key members of NISGUA’s activist network. All NISGUA accompaniers are matched with a U.S. Sponsoring Community upon completion of their intensive training and before travel to Guatemala.

During the years GAP accompanied communities of returned refugees and displaced peoples, many Sponsoring Communities (which may be a faith-based group, a committee of former accompaniers or a group of concerned activists) developed deep relationships with sister Guatemalan communities, some of which continue to this day. Today, Sponsoring Communities are paired with volunteers who are selected, trained and go on to work in Guatemala with the international coalition providing accompaniment, called ACOGUATE. Some Sponsoring Communities support as many as two accompaniers in a year, while others pair up with another Sponsoring Community, or provide critical funds for program support.

In addition to being resource partners, Sponsoring Communities are key advocates in NISGUA’s grassroots initiatives to amplify the voices of our Guatemala partners and connect social justice struggles in Guatemala with the same struggles in the U.S. GAP is always looking to expand the base of support for solidarity with Guatemala and international human rights accompaniment through the creation of new Sponsoring Communities; if you are interested in forming a Sponsoring Community, please contact

“The spirit of accompaniment - go where your presence is requested, stand in solidarity with others as they pursue their work, and help to amplify their voices - has transformed the way we approach social justice partnerships.” - Chris Sutton, member of UUCA-PAG

Current Sponsoring Communities

K/GAP has supported accompaniment for decades, first sponsoring accompaniment in the returned refugee community of Chaculá, Huehuetenango and for the last 16 years providing direct sponsorship and program support to NISGUA’s GAP program. K/GAP stays connected to Chaculá through annual delegations and support of community education and healthcare initiatives, publishes a regular newsletter and hold regular events in solidarity with Guatemala such as speaking tours and educational fundraisers.

Contact person Connie Vanderhyden can be reached at

LAGOS is a group of former accompaniers and social change activists who support accompaniment. LAGOS works to stand in solidarity with Guatemalan organizations and communities in their struggle for peace and justice. LAGOS holds at least one major fundraiser per year, organizes public presentations for former accompaniers to talk about the current situation in Guatemala, and regularly publishes a newsletter.

You can be in touch with LAGOS through Kay Yanisch at

MITF is a group of committed activists and volunteers engaged in solidarity work with movements throughout the Americas. They participate in regular delegations, particularly to Honduras, and organize public education events about Latin America. MITF has been providing support to G.A.P. for more than a decade and is currently collaborating with WYGAP.

For more information, contact Dale Sorenson at and learn more at

Since 2001, the NH-VT Guatemala Accompaniment Project had a previous relationship with the returned refugee community of Los Angeles and currently sponsors one accompanier. The small group of people from both states has come together to sponsor accompaniment work, and have also hosted educational speakers from Guatemala in New Hampshire and Vermont. NH-VT GAP provides support in collaboration with the Needham Congregational Church. NH-VT coordinates a local speaking tour for their accompanier.

Chris Hansen is the primary contact person and can be reached at

Since 1987 the Needham Congregational Church has partnered with Santa María Tzejá in the Ixcán region of Guatemala. Every year, the church sends two delegations to the village, and in 2000 and 2007 it hosted delegations from the community to the U.S. The church supports health and educational programs and other development projects. 135 families from the church are partnered with 135 families in the village for a letter exchange. The church currently provides accompanier support in collaboration with NH-VT GAP.

For more information, write to Brenda Metzler at or visit

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington (UUCA) became a NISGUA Sponsoring Community in 2007. Their congregation is engaged in an array of local activities, including solidarity work with a local immigrant community and community organizing through VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement). Their commitment to social justice has deepened their work with NISGUA in recent year, resulting in a PAG-specific delegation to Guatemala and ongoing organizational support to NISGUA. Through Partners for Arlington and Guatemala (P.A.G.), UUCA currently provides support for two accompaniers. P.A.G. publishes a regular newsletter and organizing local speaking tours with their accompaniers.

For more information, contact the project coordinators, Chris and John Sutton, at:

Between 1997 and 2005, SEPA sponsored accompaniers in the returned refugee communities of Santa Elena and Copal AA in the Ixcán region. SEPA remains closely affiliated with both communities. SEPA regularly visits Santa Elena, are engaged in creative fundraising (that includes running a bed & breakfast) to support small-scale development projects in the community as well as scholarships, and work to educate the public in the Oberlin area. They have developed a relationship with students at Oberlin College.

Barbara Fuchsman is the contact person for SEPA. She can be reached at

Ready to apply?

We believe international solidarity requires the participation of communities who are similarly impacted by the same global systems that violate human rights and threaten those working for true self-determination and justice in Guatemala, as well as their allies. Applications from people of color, Indigenous/Indigenous descent, poor/working class, women, LGBTQI people, and candidates with strong anti-racism/ally experience will be prioritized; all are encouraged to apply.

The application process to become an accompanier is the beginning of many steps of training that continue through a volunteer’s entire time with NISGUA. It’s also a process of mutual discernment of compatibility between NISGUA and the applicant. We strongly encourage applicants to ask lots of questions of NISGUA staff and reach out for advice from trusted comrades while they discern if being an accompanier with NISGUA is a good fit for them

 If you would like to apply, please fill out the application form (found to the right), upload a one page resume highlighting relevant experience, and ask two contacts to fill out the reference form (found to the right) prior to the deadline.

Requirements include:

  • Rigorous commitment to creating a culture of feedback, accountability, wellness and mutual support.
  • Demonstrated commitment to human rights and social, economic, ecological, racial and disability justice is required. The ability to document and analyze events and conditions in order to produce quality written reports and educational materials.
  • Cultural sensitivity; excellent judgment skills; ability to work flexibly in dynamic, changing situations; resourcefulness in self-care and relational dynamics.
  • A high level of verbal and written Spanish or the ability to develop it with six weeks of intensive study.
  • A familiarity with the history of Central America/U.S. relations, the current situation in Guatemala, and a basic understanding of human rights/accompaniment.
  • Previous experience in Latin America (especially rural areas) strongly preferred.
  • Awareness of security issues, willingness to work in a situation which might involve risk, interest in individual and team analysis.
  • Familiarity with or willingness to learn strategies for grassroots fundraising and education in the US.
  • A minimum six month commitment.
  • A U.S. passport and a strong connection to a U.S. community.

Benefits include:

  • Lodging provided at our main office in Guatemala City.
  • A small monthly stipend to cover health insurance and most in-country travel expense (individual fundraising also required).
  • Immersion in the Guatemalan social, cultural, political, and linguistic context.
  • 2 week training on accompaniment and organizing.
  • Ongoing check-ins, trainings, and support from Guatemala City staff on well-being, political analysis, organizing, and professional development.
  • Access to a grassroots networks of nearly four decades of NISGUA organizers and activists.

If you have additional program questions, please email gap[at]

The Power of Presence

Reflections from more than 20 years providing international accompaniment to threatened human rights and environmental defenders in Guatemala.

Read more
19August, 2020

Accompanier Perspectives: On Holding Complexity

Para leer en español Nicole Estrada (she/her/hers), current NISGUA Internacionalista, wrote this letter during the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter uprisings in the U.S.  Picture of a dreamy trail in Birmingham, [...]

29August, 2019

Accompanier Perspectives: climate change and Indigenous organizing

Accompanier Olivia Pandolfi (they/she or elle/ella) writes about climate change and indigenous resistance in Quiché, Guatemala. In the text you'll read about extractivism, linguistics, and a multiple-hour Google Earth tour of Guatemala's river systems. ————— [...]

18June, 2019

Accompanier Perspectives: Political prisoners return home

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21November, 2017

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Accompanier Perspectives: 2017 Political Crisis in Guatemala

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3February, 2017

Accompanier Perspectives: Ixil

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27November, 2015

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Earlier this year, the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH) inaugurated the permanent installation of the Casa de la Memoria, an art exhibit that empowers youth to reconstruct their historical memory through the [...]

15June, 2015

Accompanier Perspectives: Huehuetenango

Dear Family and Friends, Thanks to those of you who’ve responded to my recent call for action in solidarity with political prisoners in Huehuetenango and for financial support in NISGUA’s successful May Match campaign! [...]

11June, 2015

Accompanier Perspectives: Ixcán

Since the mid-1990s, members of the NISGUA network have provided a physical international presence to threatened human rights defenders and communities in the Ixcán. We invite you to read the following reflection piece from one [...]

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