Guatemala Accompaniment Project (GAP)2019-01-31T17:04:25+00:00

Guatemala Accompaniment Project (GAP)

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

What is accompaniment?

NISGUA is one of many organizations worldwide using international accompaniment as a strategy to stand with activists in their struggle for social, racial, and environmental justice. 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 struggle for defense of life and territory and justice for crimes of the past.

How does accompaniment work?

In Guatemala, state, corporate, and parallel clandestine actors exert power through threats, criminalization, and violence. Accompaniers’ monitoring and reporting serve to dissuade violence and to alert the international community when violence does occur. Our nationwide network takes action, putting pressure on the Guatemalan and U.S. governments, transnational corporations, and other actors. This helps ensure that activists have the political space necessary to safely organize in defense of their rights.

Who do we accompany?

We provide accompaniment to organizations and individuals involved in legal cases for justice and accountability for crimes committed during the Guatemalan Internal Armed Conflict. This includes the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR), our longest-standing partner. A courageous group of survivors, the AJR has pursued legal prosecution of genocide and crimes against humanity while focusing deeply on community healing and promoting historical memory outside of the courtroom. They, and many other organizations, strive to remember the crimes committed against them, under the conviction that historical memory and collective reckoning is an important first step in ensuring that those crimes never happen again.

Following the signing of the Peace Accords, international investment in large-scale mega-development projects, like mines and hydroelectric dams, increased. So, too, did attacks against Indigenous and campesino community leaders and organizations defending life and territory. Accompaniers also work with individuals and organizations under threat for defending their resources, communities, culture, and self-determination.

“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)

Sponsoring Communities

Our Sponsoring Community partnerships provide the resources, energy, and political action necessary 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 individual accompaniers and are key members of NISGUA’s organizer network.

When GAP accompanied the return of displaced peoples, many Sponsoring Communities developed deep relationships with sister Guatemalan communities, many of which continue to this day. Today, Sponsoring Communities provide critical funds to support individual accompaniers and program work.

Sponsoring Communities are also key organizers in NISGUA’s grassroots initiatives to amplify the voices of our Guatemala partners and connect struggles for justice between Guatemala and the U.S. Responding to accompanier alerts, they organize their members to take action in the face of violence against activists.

GAP is always looking to create new Sponsoring Communities; if you are interested in forming a Sponsoring Community, please contact sarasuadi@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 yearly ALIANZAS-specific delegation to Guatemala and ongoing organizational support to NISGUA. Through ALIANZAS, UUCA currently provides support for two accompaniers. ALIANZAS publishes information regularly in a newsletter and organizes local speaking tours with the accompaniers they sponsor.

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.

We are not currently accepting applications for our 2020 accompanier cohort. Please check back soon!

If you would like to apply, please fill out the application form (found to the right), send a 1-2 page resume highlighting relevant experience to gap@nisgua.org, and ask two contacts to fill out the reference form (found to the right) prior to the deadline.

Requirements include:

  • 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.
  • One week training on accompaniment and organizing in Berkeley, CA.
  • 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.
  • Opportunity to work and live in a multi-lingual and multi-cultural office and living space with fellow volunteers from all over the world.

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

The Power of Presence

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

Read more

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
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

Dear Friends and Family, As I reflect on the past year since joining Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA) and officially finishing my first period in Guatemala Accompaniment Program, I hold [...]

21November, 2017

Accompanier Perspectives: From Huehuetenango to Omaha, NE

The Maya Q’anjob’al Nation takes their defense of land and life in Huehuetenango transnational through community organizing in both Guatemala and the U.S. Caya Simonsen worked for 6 months as a NISGUA accompanier in Huehuetenango [...]

19September, 2017

Accompanier Perspectives: 2017 Political Crisis in Guatemala

Guatemala plunged into a political crisis this month as President Jimmy Morales attempted to circumvent a criminal investigation into his campaign finances by declaring the head of the UN-sponsored Commision (CICIG) persona non grata, [...]

3February, 2017

Accompanier Perspectives: Ixil

While international accompaniment is at its core a response to the requests of Guatemalan communities and a tool for the protection of human rights, it is also a radical practice of showing up in solidarity and [...]

27November, 2015

Step into the House of Memory

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 [...]