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We recognize the vital importance quality accommodations play in a successful program. This is why Walking Tree partners with locally-operated and centrally-located hotels and guest houses which, through their friendly staff and convenient locations, help to deepen travelers connection to their destination.

Participants will be grouped in doubles, triples or possibly larger rooms, depending on availability. Rooming decisions will be made by the traveling teacher/s. All hotel bathrooms will be private and traveling adults will be roomed in single rooms on the same floor as students.  With the exception of a handful of very rural locations, all accommodations have wifi.

Why Homestays?


We send groups of students to live with host families in partner communities around the world. This important facet of our programming is directly connected to our philosophy of facilitating meaningful cross-cultural interactions and supporting local communities. Living with a host family allows our travelers to truly immerse themselves in the culture of their destinations and to build lasting friendships with local people.

Reasons to stay with a host family

Our Host Communities On Average

400

Average community size

5

Years on average hosting students

2.5

Number of host siblings in a typical household

77%

Of host families have hosted before.

Country Spotlights


 

Spotlight on a Typical Host Family

Since our first program in 2006, host families have been central to Walking Tree's programming in Costa Rica.  Known the world over for the volcanoes, jungles and beaches, the country is also famous for being hospitable to visitors and our partner families are emblematic of this trait.  Families are very close knit, and there is great importance placed on spending time with both immediate and extended family. Although every family is different, a typical host family usually consists of a mother and father and 1-3 kids ranging anywhere from 1-18 years old.  About 90% of our host families in Costa Rica have children.  Other hosts are non-traditional families, meaning  a single mother or grandparents raising their grandchildren. Not to worry though; regardless of how your host family is structured, you will be welcomed into your new home with wide open arms!

Costa Rica Family Photo

Spotlight on a Typical Host Community


Walking Tree partners with over a dozen communities in Costa Rica. While some towns are high in the mountains and others are closer to the coast,  every community is off the beaten path. Partner communities have anywhere from 300-600 people, meaning participants will quickly get the lay of the land. Generally, the town is centered around a church, school, community center, and soccer field with houses fanning out from the center. Usually, there is a small pulperia, or convenience store where you can find basic food, snacks, toiletries, etc.  Most families work in agriculture such while others may work in construction or tourism.

Spotlight on a Typical Home


Modern homes are made of concrete and cinder blocks with tin roofing.  They are made this way in order to withstand earthquakes. Traditionally, houses were made of wood with clay tile roofing. Generally, homes are sized modestly with a living area, kitchen, cuarto de pilas (utility room) and 2-3 bedrooms and bathrooms. It is considered normal to live with your parents until you get married, meaning that it is not strange for someone in their twenties or early thirties to still live with their parents. It also may be common for elderly family members to live with their children if they cannot take care of themselves. All houses are equipped with electricity, running water and indoor plumbing. There is unlikely to be internet in the home, though that is slowly changing. Cell phone service can be spotty at times, which is why most families will have a home phone line in addition to a cell phone.

Spotlight on a Typical Service Project


Every Walking Tree service project is decided upon in conjunction with the community a group is visiting. There is no one size fits all approach; instead, we engage community leaders to ensure the process of developing and executing the work is a collaborative one.  The benefit to the town is paramount in our decision making and central to a plan being approved.

Service projects are intended to be both challenging and rewarding for participants. Generally, the work entails renovating or replacing an existing structure (health clinic, community center, school, etc) that is in a state of disrepair. Usually, there are little or no funds available to complete these projects, so Walking Tree plays an important helping to facilitate neglected work. Some past projects include renovating health clinics, constructing playgrounds, building sidewalks, reforestation, or repairing decaying retaining walls.

Spotlight on a Typical Host Family

Host families in Ecuador are extremely warm, friendly and welcoming! Like much of Latin America, family is central in Ecuador and most host families consist of a mother and father with children. It is considered normal to live with your parents until you get married, meaning that it is not strange for someone in their twenties to still live at home. It also may be common for elderly family members to live with their children if they cannot take care of themselves. You will find that in small towns, family members will construct their houses very close to one another, meaning not only will have host brothers and sisters but also cousins, uncles and aunts!

Evan and a Costa Rican family photo

Spotlight on a Typical Host Community


Host communities in Ecuador are located in the Andes mountain range a few hours outside of the capitol of Quito. These towns reflect what rural agricultural life is like in Ecuador. The people in these communities have traditionally dedicated themselves to agriculture, though many now work in small local businesses or commute to Quito on a weekly basis. Communities are small and consist of only a few thousand habitants. Every town is centered around a plaza, community center and soccer field as well as a few convenience stores and assorted smaller businesses. The settings of these towns are uniformly spectacular!

Spotlight on a Typical Home


Most homes in our Ecuadoran partner communities are made of concrete and cinder blocks with tin roofing. Generally, homes are sized modestly with a living area, kitchen area, utility room and 2-3 bedrooms and bathrooms.  Kitchens are generally very basic in small towns. Gas or electric countertop stoves are most common nowadays, but you may find that some families still stick to the traditional wood burning stoves. The kitchen will almost always be found within the home unless a wood-burning stove is used, in which case the kitchen may be partially outside the home.  All houses are equipped with electricity, running water and indoor plumbing.

There is unlikely to be internet in the home, though that is slowly changing. Cell phone service can be spotty at times, which is why most families will have a home phone line in addition to a cell phone.

Spotlight of a Typical Service Project


Every Walking Tree service project is decided upon in conjunction with the community a group is visiting. There is no one size fits all approach; instead, we engage community leaders to ensure the process of developing and executing the work is a collaborative one.  The benefit to the town is paramount in our decision making and central to a plan being approved.

Service projects are intended to be both challenging and rewarding for participants. Generally, the work entails renovating or replacing an existing structure (health clinic, community center, school, etc) that is in a state of disrepair. Usually, there are little or no funds available to complete these projects, so Walking Tree plays an important helping to facilitate neglected work. Some past projects include renovating health clinics, constructing playgrounds, building sidewalks, reforestation, or repairing decaying retaining walls.

Spotlight on a Typical Host Family

The villages which dot Lake Atitlan offer the most spectacular setting you can imagine. Deep blue water, soaring green mountains and the unmistakable mystic that pervades this breathtaking region of Guatemala all combine to create an unforgettable experience . Students will find themselves settled not only in a fantastic setting but also alongside the caring and curious host families who we are fortunate to partner with in Guatemala. The Pre-Columbian traditions are strong in these communities and it's not uncommon for families to communicate in Kaqchikel or Tz'utujil as often as Spanish. Many people still dress in a traditional fashion and everything from religion to food to the local market is infused with elements of the past. Family homes are often multi-generational and many have a cousin, aunt or brother who has lived or is living in the United States. Host families are eager to receive travelers and many students report the time with their family to be the most profound part of their entire experience.

Image of a student wearing a local attire, Guatemala.

Spotlight on a Typical Host Community


A typical host community in Guatemala is a traditional, indigenous town made up of between 5,000 -10,000 inhabitants and located along the shores of Lake Atitlán. While Spanish is the primary language, local dialects and traditions still thrive. The town is likely to be centered around a large plaza and a church. These communal plazas are where markets are held on Tuesday and Saturday mornings, times that offer students a great chance to interact with locals. Tourism is a source of jobs but remittances from the family in the United States are crucial to the health of the local economy. Clothing is very modest, with the older generation preferring traditional dress.

Spotlight on a Typical Home


In this part of the country most homes are constructed of concrete, cinder blocks and brick with tin and red clay tiles for roofing. Styles can also vary and occasionally you’ll find homes made of adobe. Most of the rural houses in Guatemala have 3-4 bedrooms, a kitchen and a small living area. A shared bathroom is the norm. Students will share a room with another member of the group but will always have their own bed.

While the homes are clean and comfortable, they lack the amenities we've grown accustomed to in the United States. Your home will have electricity, indoor plumbing and running water but is unlikely to have internet and only some families have items such as a microwave, TV or dishwasher. All laundry is done by hand using a sink that is located outside the house.

Spotlight on a Typical Service Project


Walking Tree has partnered with our long-time friends at Guatemala Housing Alliance, a non-profit organization which works in our host community. Service projects in Guatemala are organized through the GHA and students will work under the watchful eye of a foreman and alongside a handful of community members to build a new home from scratch for a family that desperately needs it. According to GHA, it is estimated that there are well over a million houses in Guatemala cobbled together with cornstalks, cane, and scavenged materials. During the wet months – from June to November – wind driven rain blows through the wall, drips from the roofs, and often turns dirt floors into parasitic muck. Students work with local community members to build homes from the ground up!

Spotlight on a Typical Family

Families in Peru are very warm and welcoming, particularly in rural communities. Almost all families are bilingual (Quechua and Spanish) and still preserve many customs and traditions of their Incan ancestors. The family unit is very important in Peru and it is not uncommon for a household to be multi-generational.  The majority of Walking Tree partner host families  have small children who are always eager to talk, teach and play with students.

Spotlight of a Typical Community


The host communities we work with in Peru are all located in the Sacred Valley outside of Cusco.  All perched above 8,000 ft, these villages range in size from 1,000 to 10,000 people, and in some cases are within walking distance of Incan ruins.  Pre-Columbian culture and traditions are alive and well and many community members continue to speak with one another in Quechua, though nearly everything speaks Spanish as well.

Spotlight of a Typical Home


Living conditions in Peru are quite different than those in the USA and varies slightly depending on each family. Some homes are made of adobe brick while others may be constructed cinder blocks.  Most homes are multi-level and all host families have running water, indoor bathrooms and electricity. A typical home consists of a kitchen, dining/common room, bathroom and bedrooms. Students can expect to be paired and share a room with a fellow group member but everyone will have their own bed.

Spotlight of a Typical Service Project


Every Walking Tree service project is decided upon in conjunction with the community a group is visiting. There is no one size fits all approach; instead, we engage community leaders to ensure the process of developing and executing the work is a collaborative one.  The benefit to the town is paramount in our decision making and central to a plan being approved.

Service projects are intended to be both challenging and rewarding for participants. Generally, the work entails renovating or replacing an existing structure (health clinic, community center, school, etc) that is in a state of disrepair. Usually, there are little or no funds available to complete these projects, so Walking Tree plays an important helping to facilitate neglected work. Some past projects include renovating health clinics, constructing playgrounds, building sidewalks, reforestation, or repairing decaying retaining walls.

Spotlight on a Typical Host Family

The Wolof language, the main dialect spoken in Senegal, has a word for hospitality:  teranga. But the word means so much more.  Teranga is a notion that is meant to evoke warmth, friendliness and selflessness and is often described as the most important value in Senegalese culture. It boils down to how you treat a guest, and Walking Tree is lucky to partner with networks of host families who embody this admirable approach to receiving travelers.  For example, participants often find that their families give them far more food than they are able to eat: this is one of the many ways in which Senegalese families try to make visitors feel at home.

Senegalese families tend to be large: two parents and often four or more children, plus a host of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who come and go. Family is a term used more loosely here, and participants sometimes have trouble figuring who, exactly, is in the family. Though Americans tend to overuse the proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child” is absolutely the attitude of our host families.

Image of a host family

Spotlight on a Typical Host Community


A typical community can vary in size and structure. There are villages that are small as 200 residents and some 2500 or more. Every village has a chief and an Imam (religious leader). In the center of town there are usually a couple of shops where people can get basic needs (rice, salt, spices, soft drinks, fruits, vegetables….)

Spotlight on a Typical Home


Living conditions in our host communities are clean and simple. Houses in our northern host communities are made of poured concrete and have either corrugated metal or thatched roofs. In the southern communities we work with, most homes are huts made of mud walls, cement floors, bamboo roofs covered with hay. Many families have small front yards of sand and will sit outside on a mat enjoying a soda and the breeze in the evening. Walking Tree participants will usually be given a bedroom of their own. Most families prefer to keep doors and windows closed overnight, so they provide fans to ease sleeping in the heat.

Spotlight on a Typical Service Project


An average service project depends completely on the needs of each community and can vary greatly from year to year. Service projects are planned together with the Walking Tree Country Director and community organizers. The project will always benefit the entire community and is chosen and approved by community leaders. Walking Tree staff never decides what service project is done, rather projects are always proposed by local community leaders as they are most in tune with the needs of the community.

Service projects have been, painting a school, building a school library, village cleanup, working with peace corps volunteers on developmental projects ie gardening, environmental projects, live fencing…  Students will work on projects alongside locals, chosen by the locals.

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