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Jorge Armando López Pocol, founder and director of Chico Mendes

Jorge Armando López Pocol

Founder and Director

Director and visionary since day one, Armando has led the Chico Mendes Reforestation Project for 19 years with unmatched dedication and determination. Grounded in his commitment to environmental justice, he has fearlessly guided the project through political obstacles, forest fires, and resource constraints. Working with student volunteers from Pachaj's public school, Armando inspires the next generation of indigenous Guatemalans to stand up for their rights and reverse centuries of racial discrimination.

As a fourteen-year-old, Armando reluctantly dropped out of school to earn money for his family. Nevertheless, he continued his education reading books and sneaking into university lectures in his free time. Over the years, he worked a number of jobs to support his family, from bicycle mechanic and semiprofessional bicycle racer to weaver to cow herder. In addition to leading the Chico Mendes Reforestation Project, Armando is involved with numerous local environmental and community activist organizations in Quetzaltenango. 

In 2015, Armando fulfilled his dream of traveling to the United States when he spent nearly two months spreading the Chico Mendes philosophy during the 2015 Speaking Tour. With the help of international volunteers, Armando inspired over 2000 people at 35 events held in universities and activist organizations across the country. He hopes to organize another tour in 2018. If you're lucky enough to visit Chico Mendes, you will find Armando whacking weeds with a machete at a reforestation site, watering plants in el vivero (the tree nursery), riding his horse, Tornado, through Cantel, and chatting with volunteers about water privatization and indigenous rights over dinner.

Odilser Alexander Perez Yac, viverista Chico Mendes

Odilser Alexander Perez Yac

Viverista (Tree Nursery Manager) and Adventure Treks Guide

Odilser skillfully leads local and international volunteers in caring for trees in el vivero (the tree nursery) and reforesting the mountains of Cantel. Odilser started volunteering with Chico Mendes in January of 2014 through the Instituto de Educación Básica por Cooperativa Choquiac (IMEBCH) of Pachaj. In November of 2015, he began working part time as a viverista and now works full time with the project.

Claudia Nicté Vásquez López, volunteer coordinator Chico Mendes

Claudia Nicté Vásquez López

Volunteer Coordinator, Adventure Treks Guide and Spanish Teacher

Nicté began planting trees and filling soil bags with Chico Mendes as a ten-year-old. When she turned seventeen, Nicté additionally started working as a Spanish teacher at the Chico Mendes Language School. While volunteering with a trekking organization based in Xela, leading hikes and managing logistics from 2009-2014,

she studied tourism at the Instituto Técnico de Capacitación y Productividad (INTECAP). Through INTECAP, she took classes in Guatemalan history, ecology, art, and tourism, and traveled to tourist destinations all over Guatemala. Today, she is probably the only indigenous woman in Quetzaltenango who is an INGUAT-certified trek guide. Nicté reflects on INTECAP as one of the best experiences of her life; she not only graduated with a diploma, but also with a better understanding of her country. After graduating, she worked teaching sex ed classes and supporting youth from difficult family backgrounds. In addition to coordinating volunteers, leading treks, and teaching Spanish, Nicté is currently writing her thesis on Guatemalan tourism. Nicté organizes a team of other local guides for treks with larger groups.

Paulina Claudia López Alvarado

Paulina Claudia López Alvarado

Teacher at IMEBCH, Homestay Organizer

Claudia (Armando's wife) welcomes into her family all who come to learn and volunteer with Chico Mendes. A history teacher at the Instituto de Educación Básica por Cooperativa Choquiac (IMEBCH) of Pachaj, Claudia began bringing her students to Chico Mendes in 2004. In her classes, she first prepares students to volunteer with Chico Mendes through teaching the theory behind environmental reforestation work. Thanks to Claudia and Armando's partnership, Chico Mendes thrives as both a project and a tight-knit family of volunteers from Pachaj and beyond. 

Local Pachaj Student Volunteers Chico Mendes

Pachaj Homestay Families

Since 2004, families have welcomed visitors from across the globe into their homes and lives. Visitors learn the ins and outs of life in a rural Guatemalan village through playing fútbol (soccer) with homestay siblings, preparing handmade tortillas with homestay moms, and joining the families for local cultural events. 

Chico Mendes Language School Teachers

meet the needs and interests of each individual student, and love to set up class in the forested Chico Mendes cabanas on sunny days. Open and flexible, teachers readily organize experiential learning activities, from museum visits in Xela and interviews with veterans from the Guatemalan Civil War, to Guatemalan cooking classes and market explorations in Salcajá.

Language School Teachers

Since 2006, Chico Mendes' team of fifteen language school teachers have taught Spanish and K'iche' to students from across the globe. All teachers have received 180 hours of training in Spanish grammar and an additional 180 hours of training in K'iche', as well as 16 different courses on topics ranging from Guatemalan history to climate change to Mayan cosmovision. Teachers design dynamic lessons that 

Local Pachaj Student Volunteers Chico Mendes

Local Cantel Water Committees

Citizen-led committees reforest around natural mountain springs to protect potable water sources. Chico Mendes works with three to four committees per year, providing them with the supplies and instruction to plant and take care of their own reforestation sites. Each year, local water committees plant 3,000-5,000 trees grown in the Chico Mendes nursery.

International Volunteers Chico Mendes

International Volunteers

Each year, over 150 volunteers visit Chico Mendes to learn about our work and give us a hand. Volunteers help us significantly advance on numerous projects, from planting trees to English translation to website management. Some volunteers also continue to support us from afar, through fundraising and publicity efforts in their home countries.

Local Pachaj Student Volunteers Chico Mendes

Pachaj Student Volunteers

Each day from January through November, ten to thirty students from the Instituto de Educación Básica por Cooperativa Choquiac (IMEBCH) of Pachaj volunteer for four hours planting trees, filling soil bags, weeding, and pruning. Since 2004, over 3600 students have learned about reforestation, climate change, and indigenous rights, as well as significantly advanced the goals of the project with their hard work and enthusiasm.

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