Building Schools in Chiapas

1. Travel Information

(a) Things to pack

(b) Upon Arrival

2. Application Process

Why Volunteer?

Chiapas is a state of south-eastern Mexico which has a predominantly indigenous population. These indigenous peoples have been suffering from economic exploitation and cultural oppression for more than 500 years. The Mexican government has failed to provide the social programs necessary for the development of the impoverished communities that subsist in this resource-rich region.

The public education system (SEP) consists of a series of TV-schools where classes are transmitted by satellite from over 600 km away. These are mainly taught in Spanish and fail to take into consideration the realities of living in an indigenous community. Furthermore, the government’s health system is highly inefficient. The few hospitals that can be found in the region have been the source of much controversy. In the general hospital of Comitán, more than 40 newly born babies have died during the months of December and January 2002-03 due to causes yet to be determined. These government hospitals have also been used to justify increased military presence in the region.

These are some of the reasons that the Zapatistas have declared their autonomy from the government and are pursuing their own autonomous health and education systems. STAC seeks to support the development of these institutions by training and sending international volunteers to act as observers or participate in the International Education Delegation for Peace organized by Schools for Chiapas.

Schools for Chiapas is an organization based in San Diego which seeks to support the development of the Zapatista Autonomous Education System. Schools for Chiapas has been sending international delegations to communities in Chiapas since 1996.

These caravans consist of volunteers from throughout the world that participate together with the local population in the grassroots development of the community.

What do volunteers do?

Volunteers of the caravan will be spending two weeks in autonomous indigenous communities of Chiapas. There, they will learn about the Zapatista model for autonomous sustainable development. Thus, volunteers will be talking with a wide variety of autonomous Mayan authorities, as well as the different collectives (such as the women’s cooperative or the Mut Vitz coffee collective) that have emerged since the Zapatista uprising of 1994. Volunteers also learn by working side by side with community members on various projects such as school construction, coffee picking, or organic agriculture.

The caravan also brings down a series of much-needed resources such as school materials (notebooks, writing material, blackboards, etc.), electronic equipment (computers, VCRs, video-cameras, etc.), bicycles for the promotores (volunteer teachers and doctors), and financial donations. If you would like to donate any of the above, please contact us.


• No Spanish required
• No previous volunteering experience required
• Volunteers must attend a STAC training session to be held previous to departure


The volunteer fee is calculated according to the minimum wage of your country of origin. STAC is working on getting subsidization so as to make this volunteer program accessible to everyone. See "Application Process" for more cost details.

Caravan Dates (2004):

July 35th – August 7th

Application deadline is May 20th 2004
Special Arrangements can be made for late applicants.

Being an International Observer

Apart from the caravan, STAC provides the necessary training and accreditation for individuals and groups to volunteer as human rights observers in communities that request international presence. This type of volunteering requires a working knowledge of Spanish, and demands that the volunteer spends a minimum of three weeks volunteering in one community.