Environmental Restoration and Community Development: Mexico (Reading Week)

When applying please note your preference for the Reading Week program, Environmental Restoration and Community Development: Mexico.

Program dates

Date Activity
January – February, 2017 Orientation and pre-departure learning sessions
February 18 – 26, 2017 International placement in Mexico, exact dates may vary depending on flight availability
March 2017 Post-placement reflection sessions and public engagement event

Please note these dates may be adjusted but will be confirmed before you receive an offer of a placement.


Open to all UBC Vancouver students.

Program overview

Up to 20 students have the opportunity to explore the learning theme of Environmental Restoration and Community Development by participating in an International Service-Learning (ISL) placement in Mexico during Reading Week in February 2017. You will also participate in pre-departure learning sessions; facilitated reflection; and post-placement activities as part of this program.

You will travel as a group to work alongside Tsomanotik on projects in Chiapas, Mexico. Your experience will be led by UBC facilitators and Tsomanotik staff who have expertise in solidarity issues in Mexico. You will engage as a group in a hands-on service project while learning about the issues related to solidarity with marginalized groups in the Chiapas area through daily learning activities and facilitated reflection. The program will also include learning activities and dialogue with local organizations and activists.

Community partner

UBC students will work and learn with our community partner, Tsomanotik, a non-governmental organization in Mexico’s Chiapas state.

Tsomanotik is an eco-agricultural centre for just and sustainable community development, as well as projects for youth and community solidarity. Tsomanotik exists in harmony with nature and promotes social responsibility through alternative natural construction techniques, appropriate technology, and organic agriculture. Tsomanotik also engages in solidarity activities with the local community – for example, supporting a local children’s home. Their vision is for solidarity and a more just society where marginalized groups in Chiapas are heard and play an active role in the community development process.

Community placement

For over three years Tsomanotik has been doing research in waste management and sanitation in Chiapas, Mexico with the goal of increasing the quality of life in rural parts of Mexico while mitigating the environmental impact of human activities through sustainable development and alternative technologies.  Several communities in Chiapas face scarce access to water and wastewater treatment facilities are not readily accessible which impacts health outcomes in communities.

Tsomanotik has developed and implemented technologies to support the implementation of dry toilets, composting and eco-building techniques in Chiapas, and in the process are proposing an alternative way of life that has the potential to help residents move beyond the lack of physical infrastructure in their communities.  You will work hands-on alongside Tsomanotik and local community members to construct dry toilets and composting plots that will be used to increase the infrastructure in the community and to further promote eco-technologies within the community, which is part of laying the groundwork to support organic agriculture, environmental education and human rights in the community.

Leading up to your placement (Pre-departure)

Pre-departure learning sessions take place in the weeks before you leave for your placement; it prepares you for an intensive International Service Learning experience. During pre-departure you will explore learning topics at regular meetings with your placement team.

Living environment

You will stay at the Tsomanotik eco-agricultural centre, in basic hostel-like accommodation with bunk beds in shared rooms. The project location is about 30 minutes from the town of Comitan in the Chiapas state of Mexico.

After you’ve returned (Post-placement)

After you’ve returned, you’ll regroup, reflect and work at unpacking the intensive experience you’ve had. The post-placement activities you will participate in include;

  • A debrief with advisors and peers
  • Presentation at a public engagement event

Program cost

We expect the program fee to be approximately $2,200 – $2,550*. Fees include:

  • Pre-departure learning sessions
  • Room and board
  • Return flight**
  • Local transportation
  • Professional advisors
  • Reflection materials
  • Community partner management fee
  • ISL project management fee

*Fees will be confirmed upon placement offer. The variable cost of the program is due to price fluctuations with flight bookings.
** If you are not travelling on a Canadian or American passport, please be aware that most flights are booked through the United States and may require you to have a transit visa.
Visas and vaccinations are not included in the program fee.

Applying to International Service Learning (ISL)

To apply for a Reading Week 2017 placement, please submit an online application. Contact an advisor beforehand if you have any questions about the program or your eligibility before applying.