Guatemala Accompaniment Project (GAP) 2017-11-25T19:35:04+00:00

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)

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 Bridget@nisgua.org.

“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 connie.vanderhyden@gmail.com.

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 kyanisch@yahoo.com.

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 www.mitfamericas.org.

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 marcuschristian@hotmail.com.

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 bmetzler7@verizon.net or visit www.needhamcongregational.org.

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: jds42cps44@verizon.net.

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 bafuchsman@oberlin.net.

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.

NOTE: We are no longer accepting applications for the 2018 accompanier training. Stay tuned for more information on upcoming trainings.

If you have additional program questions, please contact us.

The Power of Presence

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

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GAP Brochure

“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. Read more about the history of GAP and who we accompany.

Read more
23November, 2017

Accompanier Perspectives: Guatemalan History – The coup, the conflict, and the consequences

By | November 23rd, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , , |

In her first letter from Guatemala, Claire Bransky provides a brief history of Guatemala and how its people have been affected by forces of racism, exploitation, and the US's imperialism. As a volunteer with [...]

22November, 2017

Sponsoring Communities: Needham’s Guatemala Partnership celebrates 30 years of solidarity

By | November 22nd, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

NISGUA's 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 [...]

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By | November 21st, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

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19September, 2017

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By | September 19th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

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