Category Archives: Letter to the GV Community

Summer 2017 Trip Report

Last year I came to Guatemala as a quiet, first year student.  This year, I have returned as one of the four “Junior Leaders”.

Being a Junior leader has been so much fun. I just love being able to speak so much. I also felt safe enough to cry; I hadn’t cried in front of anybody except my mom. Being in Segunda Cruz and just playing with the kids, has been so much fun. It reminds me when I used to play with my brothers and sisters – turning off all of the lights in my home and hiding on the roof and jumping off when they start looking up there. Even during hard times, the times we didn’t have electricity or even water, we were still having so much fun.

These kids here in Guatemala love to play, but now I believe that it is a way of trying to forget about the stress that they must have…things I imagine are on their minds like having to worry about being able to get food tonight. One of the parents in Segunda Cruz said that their most happiest days are when they are able to provide for their family. Thinking about this, and about growing up with a single mom – it must have been an enormous amount of pain because she couldn’t afford to pay the bills, the constant moving, all the responsibility, and fear, as an immigrant, of being deported must have been so nerve wracking. Keeping all of the pain within herself and not to share it.

Coming back had open eyes again – not just to poverty.  But the realization that the pain that many families face is similar to what I have experienced. This is an unforgettable experience.


Marcos Castro Lemus

Incoming Freshman, Seattle University

2017-07-10 12_56_46-Gvisionaries (@gvisionaries) • Instagram photos and videos


What if our Presidents had participated in Global Visionaries?


Our President calls for America First,

And then bans people of a given spiritual faith of particular countries from entering this country–which was founded by the religiously persecuted.

Now, This Land is Your Land, the lyrics of folk singer Woodie Guthrie echoed in international airports in response.

Our President calls for America First…but how do you define “America?”

U.S. participants in GV soon discover that Guatemalans [chapines] think of themselves as “Americans.”

Guatemalans are offended that we as U.S. Americans have co-opted that word, that identity–“American”–as our own.

“American” encompasses North, Central, and South Americas with a rich diversity of ethnicities.

Thus far, the policies being advanced by the current White House Administration are contrary to GV’s mission…

Empowering young people to become global citizens creating a just and sustainable future.

Consider this: What if our Presidents had participated in Global Visionaries?
My wish, my dream, my hope, my vision: all of our elected leaders do so.
Our response to this current reality is this:

As public education is under attack,

We will raise more money for scholarships for low income youth and youth targeted because of their race and ethnicity.

>We will empower youth to think critically, listen empathically, and act powerfully.

As a wall between Latin America and the U.S. is proposed,

We will build bridges to strengthen the bonds and understanding between citizens of Guatemala and the U.S.  Mending and reconciling the violent legacy of a 1954 CIA coup d’état.  We will support families in our GV community and beyond who have undocumented members. And we recognize our privilege as U.S. citizens to be able to fly over such a proposed wall. And the responsibility that comes with that privilege.

As Muslims from select countries are banned from our borders and the Constitution disregarded,

We will provide opportunities for youth to build friendships by breaking down stereotypes about one another, creating a space for deep listening and sharing of their most precious life stories and experiences, leading to life-long friendships they otherwise would not have had.

>We will empower youth to think critically, listen empathically, and act powerfully.

As LGBTQI communities are under attack,

We will continue to make GV a safe and sacred place/community where everyone is loved and respected for who they are.

When we are presented with “alternative facts,”

We will increase our participants’ confidence to think critically for themselves
To do their own research; to not scapegoat others.  To see how change begins with oneself and to understand that our existence and survival depends on our recognition that we are all interdependent.

>We will empower youth to think critically, listen empathically, and act powerfully.

When brown and black bodies are threatened and incarcerated,

We will provide Anti-Oppression – Pro-Justice trainings, so that every youth participating can gain the skills to become an ALLY when they fall in privileged categories, and learn to overcome internalized oppression when they fall in the targeted categories.

When women’s rights and their right to control their own bodies are at risk,

We empower young people of all genders to raise their voices strongly.

>We will empower youth to think critically, listen empathically, and act powerfully.

When our ability to create a sustainable future is jeopardized,

We will plant trees, provide youth the skills and motivation to reduce their ecological footprint, and powerfully voice their opinions on what kind of planet is desperately needed —using an array of platforms to get their message across.

When we are told to keep our mouths shut if we disagree,

We will host free workshops for the community at large to learn how to make one’s voice count in D.C. and locally. (Feb 16, Thursday, 6-8:00 pm is first one and we will lobby on Feb 24, Friday.)

We, this beloved and inspired GV community, have been at this for 20 years now. And, will be for the next 20….

>We will empower youth to think critically, listen empathically, and act powerfully.

Allow me to say before I close: I have just returned to GV after taking three months off to take care of my health. I am deeply grateful to the staff, the Board and the entire GV community for forwarding our collective work.

As I return to work, I am acutely present to the urgency and importance of our mission.
As an Israeli Rabbi whom I sat next to on a flight once told me: “You [U.S.] Americans have a Statue of Liberty on the East Coast. What you need is a statue of responsibility on the West Coast to balance it out.”

This is my call to action and with this, I express my immeasurable gratitude for your support, your action, your investment and the collective responsibility we feel to:
Create a space for youth to lead the way;
Defend everything we stand for in our mission;
Partner with us as we empower youth to critically think, empathically listen and powerfully act.

In solidarity and in peace,

Co-Founder, Chris Fontana

Soon, GV will feature commentary and perspectives from the GV Guatemalan staff and Guatemalan youth leaders. Guatemala elected a stand-up comedian for their President a year ago. They have had, sadly, a wealth of experience with “strongmen” as their leaders.

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.

Thanking our donors

2014.guatemala.locals.childrenThe Board of Directors and staff would like to thank our generous donors.

Your contributions are making a difference. We wish to take this opportunity to thank you for your belief in our programs and continued support. Donations received from individuals, businesses, foundations, and organizations are critical to the success of our programs. Your support enables GV to annually serve over 665 youth not only in Seattle and Guatemala, but also Chicago, and partner organizations in San Francisco and Fort Collins.

Because of you, the youth you are supporting:

  • Have totaled 587,267 hours of community service since GV’s inception, 145,248 of them in the past two years alone
  • In Guatemala they have built 24 school rooms, kitchens and community centers
  • And planted 30,000 trees in reforestation projects (both since GV’s inception)

In the past 12 months:

  • 116 First Year Program youth participated in workshops on leadership development, community service, fundraising and philanthropy, ecological footprint reduction, and diversity, as well as undertaking a life changing immersion experience in Guatemala
  • 10 returning Youth Boarders designed, and implemented a retreat in which they guided their peers through team building and leadership activities designed to unify and motivate the 2014-15 Youth Board (GVs second year program)
  • 38 youth participated in a food justice workshop where they explored access to food and mapped out sustainable channels of providing food directly to communities

Not to mention the launch of the Global Leadership Summer Institute for Educators which in the summer of 2014 serving 22 teachers from five states.

In the last academic year GV was able to provide $125,000 in scholarship funding enabling 56 students to join GV’s programs on a sliding-scale based upon their family’s income. And after the successful launch of the GV-Treehouse partnership – thanks entirely to funding from foundations and individual donors – GV is now able to offer youth in foster care full scholarship opportunities across all programs, giving them a college ready path to success.

Your participation in our fundraising events, campaigns and through grant funding is making a difference in the lives of youth from all socio-economic backgrounds.

Because of you they are on a journey, together as global leaders.

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!

GV is made possible by you… Thank You!

2014 YBretreat teamSince the organization’s creation, Global Visionaries has seen hundreds, if not thousands of volunteers pass through its doors. In fact, GV is an organization built by the support of volunteers and one that relies on them to keep its programs running smoothly. Volunteers are vital to our organization and we are grateful for each and every one of their generous contributions.

Our volunteer base consists of interns as well as past and present program participants, their families, friends, and community members. Together, these volunteers make up a vast network of generous and passionate people who offer their time, energy, and money to support our organization and further our philanthropic vision.

The wonderful thing about the Global Visionaries community is that no matter what the request, there is always a volunteer ready and willing to step up to the plate. Last year, for example, we were searching for parent volunteers to cook at the Summer cohort’s retreat on Vashon Island. One of the first parents contacted was Charlene, whose son was a first year participant. Although she was unable to attend the retreat herself, she volunteered to prepare dinner for the first night – 55 servings of chili. After hours of shopping for ingredients, chopping vegetables, and mixing everything together, the chili was finally finished. It was then placed in 12 gallon-sized Ziploc bags and delivered to another volunteer’s home. When asked about her volunteer experience, Charlene responded, “It was easy and enjoyable for even a person like me, who prefers to keep my volunteerism “behind the scenes”, to participate in my son’s GV experience. Yes, the chili was able to feed the bodies of my child and others; but making the chili for the GV retreat also fed my soul.”

Charlene was one of many parent volunteers recruited over the last program year to assist with special events and was not actually contacted by a staff member, but an intern. Global Visionaries facilitates upwards of ten internships per year to help current students and recent graduates gain experience working in the non-profit sector. Interns work alongside staff members researching and writing grants, developing curriculum, assisting with fundraising, and more. Each intern’s tangible outcomes contribute directly to the organization’s growth and success. When the internship comes to a close, interns come away with invaluable skills and fond memories. A past GV intern, Danni, reflects on her time here, “the internship with Global Visionaries was a really memorable experience. I learned a lot from Global Visionaries’ staff on the spirit of social entrepreneurship in non-profit organizations…it felt great to be part of a community so dedicated to empowering youth.”

To all of our generous volunteers – thank you! We could not do it without wonderful people like you.

GV to Take Part in Third Annual GiveBIG Event on May 15, 2013

TSFGiveBIG2013_color_block_dateGlobal Visionaries is proud to announce that on May 15, 2013, from midnight to midnight (Pacific Time), we will once again take part in The Seattle Foundation’s third annual GiveBIG event. We are joining more than 1,300 other nonprofit organizations on this one-day, online charitable giving event, which aims to inspire people to give generously to nonprofit organizations like GV, who make King County a stronger, more vibrant community for all.

Amplify Your Gift

Join thousands of new and returning individual donors and make an online gift to GV on May 15 and boost your donation even further through matching funds made possible through the generosity of The Seattle Foundation, individual donors, and sponsors like Seattle International Foundation, Bezos Family Foundation, Boeing, Microsoft, Medina Foundation, Starbucks and others.

Follow us on Facebook! Start now by “Liking” us and stay tuned for details. Share our page and help spread the word about our good work.

Remember: only donations made between 12 a.m.-12 a.m. on Wednesday, May 15 through our page on The Seattle Foundation’s website will be eligible for matching funds!

We recommend that you bookmark it so that it’s easy to find on the BIG day.

Samrawit Zeinu — a Global Leader — Thanks You

Dear friends,

I am so inspired by the words of Samrawit Zeinu, a senior at Chief Sealth International High School, who has grown through Global Visionaries for three years.

I am asking you to read about her GV experience in her own words and then partner with us to empower another young leader like Samrawit today by making a gift – whether it is $10 or $100 – to empower a young person today.

Samrawit ZeinuThrough the hospital volunteer work I did, I learned that material wealth is not important.  It is who I am and what my beliefs are that are important.  Before GV, I didn’t have confidence. When I faced problems, I kept to myself.  After GV, not only did I have more confidence in myself but I am also more assertive. I am more open to feedback and I am able to speak about how I feel.  I learned that the way issues turn out depend on my reactions to them.  That made me want to change how I reacted to things.

GV changed my outlook on the world – how I perceive things should be. It hit me at my core.

It has been three years since I completed the [First Year GV Leadership Program] but the values I learned are still strong inside of me. If I catch myself complaining, I remember my brothers and sisters in Ethiopia and my friends in Guatemala don’t have enough.  I now hold myself accountable. Before when I thought about home, Ethiopia, I thought of my family. Now, when I think of my country, I think of its problems on a global scale. As a matter of fact, I think about countries all around the world. GV has made me want to contribute to the country that has made me the person I am. I intend to become a cardiovascular surgeon with Doctors Without Borders. I want to give those countries the voice they deserve.

Global Visionaries, much more than just another cultural immersion program, provides the educational and leadership platform enabling youth to develop the necessary skills to change their own habits and to transform their local and global communities through social entrepreneurship. Please give online now or mail a check to:

Global Visionaries
2524 16th Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98144

I am so grateful for your continued support. I wish you and your family a joyful 2013.

p.s. you can also see Samrawit’s full speech on video

Thank you,

Christopher Fontana, Executive Director
Global Visionaries

Letter from the Executive Director

Annual Appeal Header


“As someone from the south end of Seattle, getting to know kids from Mercer Island
along with my Cleveland High School peers is a powerful thing.
Stereotypes are destroyed and we’re better for it.”

-16 year-old Global Visionaries leader


Thank you for being a member of the Global Visionaries family. Put another way, if you are reading this, I recognize you as a Global Visionary and I am proud to be part of your family.

GV is a catalyst for uniting youth across economic and racial spectrums. Our programs invite young people to recognize and manifest the global leaders that they are. These “spectrums” rarely interact, let alone solve problems together. However, solving global problems is just one part of our mission at GV.

To accomplish this mission, our youth need your support! I ask you to make a gift now to our year-end annual campaign. By doing so, you are empowering young people to become global leaders in creating a just and sustainable future.Please “put in your grain of sand” as Guatemalans say, to enable the GV family to reach our $10,000 Annual Appeal goal.

And here’s the best part – your support will position GV to reach our 2020 Vision:

GV will serve 20% of Seattle public high school youth by 2020

That’s 2,543 youth impacted each year through peer-to-peer education.

I am excited to share with you Global Visionaries’ 2012 Annual Report. This year, we have gone paperless for both our Annual Report and Annual Appeal. I invite you to enjoy the report and to celebrate our many accomplishments.

We thank Spring 2013 participant Fiona Carlile’s fabulous father, Dave Carlile, and his team at Sublime Media, Jeanne Buchler, Ryan Moeck, Corey Campbell, Kirk Kriskovich, David Linder, and Liisa McConnell for beautifully crafting and designing our 2012 Annual Report.

Give to Global Visionaries TODAY to empower young global leaders.

I wish you and your family the very best this holiday season. We look forward to collaborating with you again in 2013!

Grateful for your endless support,

Christopher Fontana
Executive Director, Global Visionaries