Category Archives: Alumni

Gv’s Guatemalan Staff Visits Seattle ….Maybe Your House?

Global Visionaries has a whole team in Guatemala that works locally to ensure the experience for our participants is meaningful, safe, organized, impactful, and respects the communities we work with within Guatemala.  To improve language and professional development skills in the U.S., as well asassist in recruiting, Aurelio some of us on this team comes up to Seattle annually. I am part of that team and will be coming back to Seattle this fall. I thought it would be interesting for those involved in Global Visionaries to understand a bit of what we do while in the States. If this is helpful, maybe in the future, one of us can blog about what we do here in Guatemala as well to prepare for our programs.

First, we have to manage finances from the Guatemala side of our work. In August I will work with RoxAnne  (our COO) and Bernie, our finance manager, to get updated on the newest GV accounting system and processes as well as some operational changes that require collaboration between the Seattle and Guatemalan offices. In September/part of October I will be involved with recruiting and educating the Seattle regional high schools.  This is a great part of the trip – as we play a big role in explaining the programs to prospective students and parents. I think it is helpful and perhaps comforting for those planning to be part of the GV programs (and for parents) when the actual Guatemalan team is standing right there in front of them.

I am also looking forward to talking to some of the GV leadership, getting coaching on administrative techniques and planning. This is an important part of the program. A good administration system (financial and administrative) allows the rest of the program to work.  This help will continue to drive efficiency in how we run things in Guatemala, so we have more time continue to improve the experience for our youth participants (and those educators who accompany them).  Then, as I get this type of training, I can share with the rest of the staff in Guatemala. The kids who are involved with the program will have confidence in the program.  If they can trust in the program, they are more likely to have good feelings and want to be part of the GV program.

We are really excited for this trip to the States. Of course, that means additional logistics, including finding host families who can house us for this time in Washington.  It is actually really fun. We get to see how Americans live a little bit better – which help us improve our English and our programs in Guatemala and our hosts get a taste of Guatemala. And of course, we make good friends with our host family

If you’d like the opportunity to host one of us this year – please let the GV staff know. Contact Mario Flores at If you cannot commit to the full length of stay, please indicate when you can host.

Aurelio needs hosting:  Aug 10- Sept 17
Claudia needs hosting:  Sept 7- Nov 20
Billy needs hosting: Sept 7 – Nov 20
Aurelio needs hosting:  Sept 21 – Oct 30

We hope to meet with many of you when we are up there in the late summer fall.

Aurelio Hernandez


Voices of Visionaries : Maddie

“Before Global Visionaries, I didn’t think that I would go to college or finish high school, but now I know that I am going to go to college. I feel like I’m growing and I’m ready for whatever comes next”



I’m Madison, a senior at Cleveland High School in Seattle. I joined Global Visionaries (GV) because I wanted to experience something new, and have an opportunity to travel out of the state. One challenge I faced resulted from beMaddieing a foster kid. It was hard for me to find my birth certificate and get my passport so that I could even travel to Guatemala. The staff worked really hard to help me get my passport. They made me feel like I was part of their family and supported me through the extra challenges I faced as a youth in foster care. Since joining GV, I’ve been the happiest I’ve been in my whole life, because of the GV staff and my cohort.

I’m on the Youth Board, on the pro-justice team. We research systematic oppression and teach it to the newest participants in the program. For instance, we play a game called Power Shuffle. In Power Shuffle, everyone stands in a line and then moves forward or backward depending on answers to various questions, like “Did you grow up in poverty?” and “Did you have books in your house growing up?” When I played as a first-year participant, I was in the back with a couple other people. I realized that a lot of people in the front had more privileges than I did. But I also realized that I was really proud of being where I was because I don’t need a lot of privileges to grow up and be strong. Now I lead this activity and I get to show first-year participants that no matter where they come from, they still matter. It makes me feel like I’m making a change in other people’s lives.

Before GV, I didn’t think about my future that much. I didn’t think about college or what I’d do after high school. I wasn’t even sure that I would finish high school. If it wasn’t for GV, I’d be stuck where I came from. They pushed me to work hard, and the more they pushed me, the more I believed in myself. Now I know that I’m going to college. I feel like I’m growing and I’m ready for whatever comes next. I’m happy because I know that I have a family here to support me, and I know that I’m going to succeed in whatever I choose to do with my life.

I never really had much of a family, but, being a part of Global Visionaries, I really feel like they are my family. I think that’s what I love the most about it. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me and for helping me get to Guatemala.

– Pro-justice team.

Voices of Visionaries : Brian

“One of the greatest things I’ve taken away from the program is an increased empathy for my fellow human beings. After being in Guatemala I’ve truly gotten a sense of the fundamental value of human life. And I feel that the greatest way that I can pay that back is by becoming a physician to help save other people’s lives.”

In one word, what do you feel now you have been part of GV?


My name’s Brian and I am a junior from Mercer Island, Washington. I serve as one of the Youth Representatives on the Board of Directors, meaning I go to all of the board meetings, and I help sculpt the organization. It’s an opportunity for me to give a voice of the youth to this group of adults and help shape where we’re going. Brian2What lured me to Global Visionaries (GV) was the chance to travel outside the United States and have a hands-on experience in a foreign country. The ability to work in Antigua’s hospital, for instance, seemed like an amazing opportunity to give back, and was well-suited to my interest in becoming a physician. One of the greatest things I’ve learned from the program is an increased empathy for my fellow human beings. After working in the hospital, I gained a sense of the fundamental value of human life, as well as an increased drive to make an impact on the world. And I feel that the best way I can contribute to our global society is by practicing medicine.

I’ve never been completely comfortable in my own skin, but once I got to Guatemala and started interacting with my peers in the cohort, I felt that any semblance of inadequacy melted away. The atmosphere that GV creates is one of true community. I never worried what people thought of me, and I knew that they had my back. I carry this warmth with me wherever I go now, knowing that I have this bond with my peers from GV, even though we may go down different paths in our lives.

One element that is absolutely vital to the essence of GV is its 50-50 model — the idea 50 percent of participants should be from low-income families, and 50 percent not. I didn’t initially understand what that offered to the organization, but once I was actually engaged in discussions with the group, it dawned on me. Our discussions would have been so much more superficial without that diversity. Having a broad spectrum of participants brings a wealth of perspectives and first-hand knowledge that is genuinely powerful, and it had a profound effect on me.

I’m very drawn to the GV philosophy. Because I love both biology and analogies, I think of GV as a treatment for the underlying cause of many of the world’s social ills, rather than just a palliative for symptoms. After a virus enters its host, it begins exponentially multiplying itself and vying for control of the body, resulting in a cluster of symptoms that do further damage to the body. We have racial and religious conflicts, famine, suffering. Our world has all these symptoms, but behind them is a virus, a root cause. It can be tempting to pour all of our resources into fighting the symptoms, but unless we remove the core causes, the symptoms will just resurface. GV attacks the virus, not the symptoms, and I think that is an inspiring mission.

Due to the fact that donors are giving GV funds for low income youth scholarships , there’s such a huge diversity and broad spectrum of people from all walks of life coming together to share their perspectives. I found that I was incredibly impacted by all these people’s viewpoints, and all of their takes on these different issues. It truly broadened my horizons by meeting these people that I wouldn’t normally. Having them come into the organization, and being able to forge a bond with them, definitely broadened my horizons. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate in a life-changing experience.

Voices of Visionaries: Audrey

“Getting real world experience has been transformational in my life and will help me throughout college and my future career.”

In one word, what do you feel now you have been part of GV?


When I first heard about Global Visionaries (GV), I was impressed by its philosophy. GV sees the potential that we have as youth and empowers us to change the world. The scope of its projects also really attracted me. There are opportunities to work in the hospital,Audrey build schools, work on coffee farms, or help with reforestation efforts. I knew being part of GV was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  I feel like I’m making a real impact on people lives—from guiding the first-year participants to working at the hospital

in Antigua. Even the real-world experience I’ve gotten from working in the office has been transformational.I think what excites me the most is being able to work with the first-year participants. I want them to be able to experience a little piece of what I did. Coming to GV’s Culture Nights helped me have a safe place to just be myself and let down my defenses that I had in high school. I had a difficult time finding a core group of friends at school, but with the other GV students, I found we were all going through the same things and we really connected. So now as a gap year student, I can help recreate that environment. And I’ll get to see Guatemala through their eyes, as they have the same opportunities that I did, from their homestays and cultural immersion to working at the hospital and learning Spanish.

There are plenty of stereotypes about teenagers being lazy and apathetic. But GV gives youth the tools and vocabulary to impact the world, big or small, from Guatemala to Seattle. I love working, being on-the-go. Working with GV reminds me to give back to my community, and shows me that volunteering makes a real positive impact on people’s lives.

I thank the donors with all my heart, as I did receive a scholarship, without which I wouldn’t have been able to participate in the program. This little organization has transformed me. I’ll look back at this experience twenty years from now and be so grateful that I took this opportunity. It’s been an amazing experience.

2012-13 First Year Leadership Program
2013-14 Youth Board
2014-15 Gap Year

The Chain of Growth


By Natalie Chaparro, Pro Justice Team

A wave of shock came over me when we landed. The airplane ride was full of “what if’s” and excited nervousness that everyone was able to relate to. I couldn’t believe we were going to Guatemala, so much anticipation and curiosities that are going to be exposed to me. We retrieved our bags, cleared through customs, and braced ourselves at the glass doors that revealed something that made my heart drop. Loud cheering and radiant smiles, countless people to welcome us to their home stood outside the airport to greet all of us. Shaking their hands and kissing their cheeks one by one, the genuineness of it all made me feel at ease, it made me feel like I was in paradise. We loaded our luggage onto our travel bus, and took our seats sitting tightly next to new friends.

We all finally sat on the bus waiting for what’s next. But it didn’t matter, the laughter and simple joy of knowing we were all going to go through this together reflected on every face, and was something that I could feel deep in my stomach. My cheeks flushed as I read my families welcome card, we were all handed one on the bus as we traveled to meet them and spend our first night with them. It felt good knowing that every word on that card was just for me, even if I could barely understand the language at first, it was still meant for me.

That was the very first memory that started a chain of growth for me in Guatemala. It was the very first memory that stood as the foundation for all other bonding experiences that have acted as the building blocks for what I am proud to be part of today. Every day I woke up, I went to work, I spoke to someone new, and I found a little part of myself. I knew that meeting that little part of myself would have been unattainable without my host family, without my GV family, but most importantly, without San Miguel. It is a part of me that grew and surfaced within the hour I was immersed in such a special place, and it’s a feeling that everyone should be given the chance to discover.

Explaining the journey that Guatemala takes a person on, the self-discovery, the exposure to a world outside your own and how much knowledge one gains is truly indescribable. To define Guatemala into a series and compilation of words that leaves so much to interpretation, does not do it justice. When I returned home, that was another thing I discovered. Trying to explain the path on which this amazing place took me and continues to take me is one of the most taxing things to put into words. Words are a powerful thing, but there is still that fear of denigrating all that Guatemala is with them. The encounter with it is the only thing that could emanate all of its beauty in the most articulate way.

When I returned home, the responsibility I felt to the people who were curious to know about this place, made me feel like my work wasn’t done. Working with the Chapines was for a purpose, how much they taught me and how much I was able to teach them is something I was ready to give to more people, something I wanted more people to have. The hesitation, the nervousness the utter unknowing of all the possibilities that await when traveling there is the beautiful chance I wanted to give to future students to take. I decided that after my first year in Global Visionaries’ leadership program, the second year program was where I belonged. I ended up combining forces with Pro Justice (PJ), a team that actively works towards giving first year students the preparation for their journey that we were given by the PJ leaders that taught us as first years.

I not only continue to feel like my PJ team is my family, but it has been what keeps what I found in myself in Guatemala alive and ambitious. The power I hold as a young person and knowing I can be the change in contribution to a sustainable world and environment has been the light for me these past two years.

New friends, new views, and a whole different type of active involvement has uncovered itself to me, and I feel honored to work with the amazing people that I continue to work with today.

Appreciating the dedication of teachers

Paul FGlobal Visionaries is fortunate to have the support of many amazing teachers throughout the Puget Sound area, many of whom have been contributing to GV for several years in ways unseen yet crucial to our shared success. One of these educators is Paul Fischburg, a teacher of Junior IB History of the Americas at Chief Sealth International High School.

Previous to becoming an educator Paul enjoyed a twenty-year career in architecture, construction, and community development and lead a non-profit organization that built affordable housing and community facilities in the Chief Sealth neighborhood. With a rich background of experience to draw from Paul brings valuable perspective and leadership skills to GV, although he says learning to let go has been an important lesson he’s gained through working with youth.

“Now that I am a high school classroom teacher, the GV experience has helped me teach”  Paul said, adding that he is able to trust his students to take the lead, impact the direction, and to share the responsibility for where they go as a class.

Paul decided to get involved with GV after a neighbor participated in the first-year leadership program and he saw first-hand how the program helped youth realize their power and potential. Of this experience Paul says he was impressed by the way young people were given the support and autonomy to lead the organization to a new level. Since this initial experience Paul has stepped in to help in several roles both in Seattle and Guatemala.

Today, Paul and his family are hosting one of the Guatemalan staff here in Seattle for six months. Paul expressed how he adores the Guatemalan staff; “Most of the adults involved in GV – parents and teachers, don’t get to meet or know the GV staff.  They are wonderful, funny, professional, playful, brilliant, strong, compassionate, and giving”.  Paul looks forward to renewing these friendships each year when he returns to Guatemala as an immersion leader, which he says is his favorite part of serving at GV.

“Sharing this experience with a group of young people who become like family, to open up to the learning, growing and feeling that comes from being in a new culture has been so powerful and gratifying to me” Paul says. And we couldn’t agree more, Paul has become like family and we couldn’t be more grateful.

Thanking the GV program community

2014 YBretreat team 2As thanksgiving approaches, and recruitment comes to an end, Global Visionaries reflects on everyone who assisted in our efforts to ensure a successful first year program. In the midst of our efforts we could never forget the generosity of our many supporters. This blog is dedicated to you; students, parents, teachers. You all serve as a constant resource of believers and supporters for the GV mission and vision, we thank you.

GV Students

To all of our students, both current and past participants, you have demonstrated a high level of dedication assisting and sometimes leading school presentations and information nights; your insight and passion for the program keeps program staff energized. We couldn’t do this without you, nor would we want to, at GV we are a youth lead organization. Youth make that happen!

GV Parents

To our dedicated parents, who serve as ambassador for our program, you all have served a crucial part to our recruitment process. Your presence at info nights put the minds of prospective students’ parents at ease. Not only are parents crucial to recruitment but they have given us the privilege of working with the most important thing in their life, their children. We could not thank you enough…

The education community

And last but not least, the schools and teachers who continue to partner with us each year. Over the years, Global Visionaries has expanded to 36 schools! Teachers, you have witnessed the growth that your students experience through our program, first hand. In our next posting, we can’t wait to highlight a special teacher who has dedicated an immense amount of time to seeing his students through our program!

The story of Billy and Emma – from Guatemala to Seattle – participants to staff.

EmmaAndBilly2014Global Visionaries (GV) serves as an equalizer by bringing together two cultures through the face of youth. A rare moment in GV history is captured here, where two previous participants who joined GV in the same year – one on the Seattle program, the other in Guatemala – now reflect on what valuable experiences they have gained individually and how they hope GV has shaped their futures. Today, Billy and Emma have graduated from GV and are now staff members who share valuable insights and advice on what impacts GV relationships and experiences shaped for them in becoming the young adults they are today:

  •  How did you hear about Global Visionaries and why did you join?

Billy: It’s an interesting story, but I didn’t want to. My best friend actually signed me up after a presentation at my school. I was really skeptical about it all, and I did not want to get dirty working on construction and reforestation teams. In Guatemala, volunteering is not part of our culture. We (Guatemalans) need to work, so it didn’t make sense to me at the time. My best friend at the time, signed me up and he convinced me and challenged me to do something different. So I gave it a shot.

Emma: I remember it so clearly, I remember Mario Flores (GV’s Program Director) speaking in my Spanish class about the disparity of his country and how GV was an opportunity to make a difference, and what better way to do that than during summer break? I was very involved in athletics but something about the opportunity to make a difference inspired me to make that leap and take on another commitment. I had gone on a trip to Rome with my middle school and since then have always looked for ways to explore cultures outside of my own. I didn’t realize just how much personal impact GV would have, aside from providing me the opportunity to travel again.

  • What was it like first interacting with young people your age, from another country and culture?

Billy: I remember exactly. I was on the bus with the “gringos,” on the way to construction… and I remember they (the trip leaders) started facilitating questions like, “Where are you from, what’s your name, what do you do for fun…etc….” It was very awkward because I didn’t speak any English, and my partner didn’t speak any Spanish. But it was fun and by the end of the day I felt more comfortable interacting with “los gringos” and more bonded with my Guatemalan friends. I also stopped caring about being dirty.

Emma: I was so nervous! It was awkward, uncomfortable, and very strange to say the least. Meeting students your age from another school at home was already outside of my comfort zone, but at least we had a common background – Seattle. This was completely different. I remember being paired with a Guatemalan participant, and we were asked to interview one another about, “What is your favorite food, what do you like to do in your free time…etc.” My answers were short-ended, there was a lot of hand gestures, and a lot, a lot of silence but there was a lot of nervous smiling, too.

  •  How did GV inspire you to take action in your community?

Billy: Well, in my first experience it was great to get to know “los gringos.” But most importantly, I later realized that when we were together during a GV activity, we broke down all the stereotypes (nerds, cool kids, etc..)  and GV helped create that space. I continued working with GV because it felt like a community and family outside of school and my own family. It inspired me, because it gave me an opportunity and a space, to give back to my peers (future Guatemalan participants). There’s so much segregation in my country with social classes, and no uniformity so it’s important to talk about the structures and divides in Guatemala. GV creates a space where youth can be themselves. GV also helps to breakdown those social boundaries to create more unity.

Emma: Before my experience in Guatemala, a group of alumni (the GV Youth Board) had facilitated a workshop on systematic oppression. I was really impressed that kids my age were conducting these conversations and facilitating activities that would encourage us to speak on real-life issues in our community. Issues that affect us all: racism, sexism, classism, imperialism, etc. As a daughter of two moms, I have experienced discrimination first and second-hand and GV gave me the language to tell my story, and the space to hear other peoples’ experience. I saw the root of activism was not being afraid to have “difficult” conversations about the issues people face every day, including myself.

  •  What tools did GV equip you with to better follow your passions?

Billy: It provided me space, and opportunity to grow professionally and personally. GV supported me in being more confident in myself, and speaking my words, thoughts and opinions. Traveling to the United States I had a newfound understanding of how to work with others, after seeing their culture. This experience gave me insight on how to create a stronger relationship between the two cultures.

Emma: GV reminded me to use my voice, to step outside my comfort zone, and to work hard. Since my first year with GV I am more confident in my ability to communicate myself to others. I appreciate a hard work-ethic, and strive to demonstrate it to others daily. Leading by example, more than anything else, is the greatest tool GV gave to me as a leader.

  • What changes have you seen in one another, after going through the program, and now as staff?

Billy: When I first met Emma, she was very introverted and quiet so I didn’t get to know her very well. The second time she came to Guatemala, she became more lively and started to speak her mind and share her thoughts and opinions. When she left Guatemala after her work as a GAP year student, I noticed she was following her passions in the social movement and was very active in addressing many issues. Today, I see a strong woman who speaks her mind and works for her community.  As staff, we understand each other better, because we understand our cultural backgrounds.

Emma: I remember Billy as a very outgoing character. His excitement for the program, and willingness to get to know us “gringos” was impressive. I aspired to be like that. He kept a good sense of humor and always made people laugh. As staff, I am constantly reminded of his good humor which he has managed to maintain in his development as a young adult and staff member here at GV. I’m happy to be working with him and learning from him.

  • If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself when you first started the program?

Billy: I would have told myself, “Billy, why didn’t you jump in!? Ask questions?” I was very curious about a lot of things with the “gringos”, and it would have been important for me to get to know them more at that time. I wish I gave myself the time to get to know my friends (Guatemalans) better, so I could understand what it means to make connections and relationships with people. I would encourage myself to ask more, and let people get to know me.

Emma: I would have reminded myself that “it takes friction to make a surface smooth”. The first time speaking with and learning from another person is a process! Everything takes practice, and every effort is the best you can give at that time. When things seem awkward or uncomfortable, own it! Have fun, and enjoy the moment!

  • What legacy do you want to leave with Global Visionaries as a member of staff?

Billy: I want to leave a program for Guatemala, that is designed to be led by youth where participants can find a space to be themselves and follow their passions. I want to provide them with tools to take action in their community.

Emma: I hope to foster a sense of adventure, enthusiasm, and willingness to participate to the best of their ability with all activities no matter how silly they may seem.  I also hope to serve as a support system to participants who come back from their immersion, and provide more opportunities for them to reflect and expand their thoughts with others outside of GV. There’s a whole world out there, of other organizations and groups that our students could get involved in. I hope to give our participants opportunities.

Haley’s Blog – Post 6

In the final hours I spend in Guatemala, I reminisce on the lessons I’ve learned, the places I’ve visited, and the people I’ve met. This place will, inevitably, have a lasting impact on my global perspective and understanding.

I’d like to thank Global Visionaries for this unparalleled opportunity to live and work among the Guatemalan people for the last five weeks. It’s been a privilege getting to know this town and its people, coming to embrace its culture, immersing myself wholly and shamelessly. Parting with all I’ve so quickly become familiar with will be bittersweet.

Below are a few of the memories I’ve shared with the Intensive group.


Haley’s Blog – Post 5

By definition, development is “the state of being created or made more advanced.” Inherently, our global society has developed with the passing of time, but what characteristics embody this “development”? What or who has the ability to define what “development” is?

On Sunday, half of the Intensive students visited Segunda Cruz, a rural farming village among the hills of Pastores, a town just shy of an hour away from San Miguel Escobar. Here, the steep rocky ascent gives way to lush green hills speckled with tall, cartoonish trees and tin-roofed shanties. In the distance, a red schoolhouse establishes the center of the village. Seven years ago, Global Visionaries constructed this building, with the physical and moral support of the local community. The families of Segunda Cruz greeted us warmly as we gathered in the lot next to the schoolhouse. After being introduced to the members of the village, we divided into three small groups. Each group followed a separate family onto their rolling plot of land where their corn and beans sprout from the earth. These plants, in essence, are the livelihood of these families. The wealth of the family solely relies on the health and growth of their produce.

My group worked with a woman named Doña Juana and her three youngest children. With her dainty, delicate hands, she demonstrated how to properly uproot weeds from the groomed furrows that comb through the hillside. The rest of us followed her demonstration and proceeded to remove the weeds that scourged the crop of beans that sprawled before us. After completing our task, we had the opportunity to share lunch with Doña Juana and her sons. The students had prepared a few questions to explore but, instead, decided to engage in conversation with her family.

As many had astutely noticed earlier, there had recently been a road paved that carved itself through the village. One student began to ask if this had improved or declined the development of the village’s productivity or well being. Doña Juana paused and pensively glanced downhill toward the white concrete below. The road ends halfway through the village, trailing off into a rigid path. Originally, the road had instilled hope in the people of the village, creating means for access to healthcare, clean water, and jobs. But its incompletion acts as a symbol of their disconnection from Western society. The road is a vehicle for change, but with this change, the people of Segunda Cruz may just lose their cultural identity.

Doña Juana told us that among traditional Guatemalan villages, like Segunda Cruz, this type of development isn’t always necessarily beneficial for the community. While it provides opportunity, it also physically and metaphorically creates a barrier between the village and their livelihood. The road, and the change that naturally follows, is not something they’re yet willing or ready to embrace. But who’s to say the people of Segunda Cruz need to conform to the Westernized idea of “development”?