Global Visionaries has been blessed to have Sandra Ordonez working in Seattle for the past year.
“Sandra has been a wonderfully positive and irreplacable asset to the team at GV. I have truly appreciated the opportunity to get to know her through our work together and to learn about the program in Guatemala through her experiences” said Sophia Gardner, Assistant Program Manager at GV. “Her presence here in Seattle has been a gift and she will be truly missed.”
Sandra is a Cakchiquel Mayan woman who faced hardships in her home of San Antonio Aguas Calientes for dressing in traditional Mayan clothing and speaking her Mayan language.
Reagan Jackson, Program Manager at GV, described her first encounter with Sandra. “She talked about what it was like to grow up as a Mayan in Guatemala. She talked about facing constant discrimination first for wearing her native clothes to school, and then for wearing western clothes to school. Before I heard her speak, I had no idea how many things she had to overcome to simply to be able to work with GV. Her will and determination to choose her own future shattered years of oppression and cultural conditioning.”
Aspiring to achieve higher education and learning about environmental sustainability, she’s had to overcome obstacles that are placed in front of women in Mayan culture:
Mayan women are not expected to find work outside their house or fields.
“As a Mayan woman, it is not easy to find a job in an office, but I have found one at GV,” Sandra said. “It is almost impossible for Mayan women to attend the university, but this is my dream, and I will work hard to make it a reality, and I know GV will support me.”
Back in Guatemala, Sandra’s parents are artisans and farmers. After school Sandra would go to the Central Park in Antigua to sell their crafts. This is where she met Christopher Fontana, Global Visionaries’ Executive Director.
“Sandra and I met 13 years ago when she was selling her textiles in the Parque Central in Antigua,” Fontana said. “It has been an honor and joy to be a part of her life and to watch her grow into a leader.”
After seeing Christopher and his students in Antigua year after year, she finally inquired about what he did in Guatemala and how she could be part of it.
Sandra began helping with GV’s construction projects and working in GV’s Guatemalan office. When a position in the Seattle office became available she took the opportunity to travel to a new country and break cultural barriers.
“This has been a wonderful and helpful experience in my life. It’s been the first time far away from my family. I know now how far I can go, I have more experience,” Sandra said.
Working in the U.S. has given her the chance to learn about environmental sustainability. Because her parents are farmers, she’s always had a vested interest in the environment and keeping the earth healthy. She wants to share what she’s learned here and use them as tools to improve her hometown.
“I want to use my environmental knowledge to help with a new reforestation project in my village. When people go to cut firewood, they must replant five trees for every tree they cut down,” Sandra said.
When she returns to Guatemala, Sandra will be hired to work full time at the GV office down there.
“I look forward to seeing her continue to make a powerful impact as she returns to Guatemala and I look forward to her return to the States in August,” Fontana said.
Currently, Global Visionaries is analyzing two options for future building projects in Guatemala. The most likely option is to build a classroom, storage facility and kitchen for a small school in San Tiago Zamora, a rural village near Sandra’s hometown.
“This would be wonderful. I’m so excited GV is coming to my town.”
Today, children in San Tiago Zamora have to travel by walking or biking to the next town in order to attend school. Unfortunately, because of safety issues many children do not make the trek and therefore don’t go to school.
“School gets done at 6:30 at night and it’s dangerous for kids to get home. It’s not safe for girls to travel alone and have to go in groups with boys to be safe,” Sandra said.
By building this classroom, GV will be securing future children’s education and safety.
Sandra is thankful for the opportunities GV have afforded her. She attributes where her life is now and what her future holds to working with GV.
“I am so grateful to Global Visionaries for supporting me, because at Global Visionaries it is not important where you are from, what religion you practice, the color of your skin, or your social class, much less how you dress, here we are all equal,” Sandra said. “Global Visionaries has given me the confidence and training to take on other roles and pursue a career. I am proud of my accomplishments, and I am grateful to Global Visionaries.”