Category Archives: Trip Update

Summer Immersion Update – From Mykal!

This immersion has been a roller coaster for myself as a leader. I have  been up and down and at times I didn’t know if I was up or down or how I felt. At times I felt as if I wasn’t fit for the role of Junior Leader, and during other times, I felt like I knew exactly what to do and how to do it.

I have realized on this immersion that I am too hard on myself, like many others in the United States. I have to learn how to not keep measuring myself against what everyone thinks is perfection. I know that I still have a long way to go as a leader and realize that I am still learning along the way to becoming a great leader. It definitely does not happen overnight. I have learned that I can’t “should” on myself or anyone else because that would mean I am not looking to the future and how to become a better leader. I would still be looking at what I or someone else did or didn’t do. We are only ready to do something when we do it. And I think I am ready to begin a new chapter, or book, if you will, with what I have learned on this immersion and will be taking back with me to Seattle. This day and this immersion has been a gift, a really special one that I didn’t know I needed in my life at this moment. I would especially like to thank Maria Fontana and Dalton for having me realize what a gift this immersion has been as well as my mindset shift in order to grow as a human being. One thing is for sure, it’s not in the genes (jeans, haha).

Con mucho amor,

Christopher Mykal Green

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Summer Immersion Update – From Denisse!

What defines a leader?

To me a “leader” signifies one who works side by side with others, one who understands, reflects, and shows empathy. A leader is an equal, a comforting shoulder, and a genuine smile.

This immersion has challenged me in ways I had no idea it would. I went through three different phases: confusion, frustration, and then lasting understanding and confidence in my continuous self-growth. I’ve not only seen myself break down socially constructed barriers, but I’ve also had the honor to be a witness to little changes as well as complete 180 degree turn arounds in others throughout this immersion.

Listening to the participants discuss topics that can be very intimidating in such an open-minded manner is truly inspiring. Not only do they question the “why?” “who?” and “what?” but they also find actual solutions; short term plans as well as long term plans. With this group, encouraging and establishing that everyone and anyone matters is a popular topic. I think change begins when we realize the power we all hold within and the strength in solidarity. One person can make a difference.

I would like to thank the GV Summer 2016 group for teaching me to be patient, in tune with my emotions, and to always dance like no one is watching.

Intensive Trip: Leadership, Cultural Immersion and Camaraderie

mayan culture picBy Mario Flores, Program Director

July 15, 2013

From the moment we gathered as a group in the airport we were faced with challenges that demanded leadership, selflessness and group unity. We were delayed three hours from our initial flight. Due to this delay we had a short connection in Miami that demanded moving fast from one gate to the other. Each and every young person in the group rose to the occasion and showed leadership and group unity; as one of the students reflected:

“I really like that camaraderie that the group has shared because for the past week of being together, a lot of things have been done and said. I’m just so happy with such an amazing group of people.”

And it’s true that this group of young people really is a cohesive and inclusive group supporting each other, to make sure everybody gets it.

They supported one another, they did not complain, they moved through the airports maturely, contributed valuable suggestions, initiated games and activities to make the best out of the uncertainty of waiting for six hours in Seattle and make a 40 minute connection in Miami. They truly rose to the occasion and proved to everyone, including themselves that they too have the ability to lead each other and themselves.

the dump

Despite the fatigue of several hours of traveling, we got into Guatemala city and loaded the bus, then we headed to our first lesson on global injustice during this Cultural Immersion at the Guatemala City dump. For many of the students, seeing the dump was a period of introspection. If the piercing silence wasn’t enough of an indication (except for the screeching of hundreds of vultures flying overhead), the facial expressions certainly were. They were becoming aware, perhaps more so now than other times, of their personal contribution to environmental injustice and their responsibilities as global citizens. As another student reflected later,

“What really stuck with me this far, was the city dump… I realize how my waste ends up in the dumps like this one. I felt guilty… the next adjective that comes to mind is privileged. Privileged for the opportunities and living conditions I have.”

On Sunday, we traveled together by bus to the village of “Segunda Cruz,” to work, eat and play with the villagers. This was a powerful experience of how the majority of Guatemalans live. Despite their poverty, the way they shared with us was a real inspiration. The students especially like playing some raucous futbol (soccer) with the village children and painting – also with the village children – the classroom that GV has built. 

Segunda Cruz 3We have also completed our first day of work at the construction site in a Mayan village named “Santa Maria de Jesus”. A beautiful place in the foot hill of the magnificent “Volcan de Agua” (Agua Volcano). The view from this place to the Valley is just amazing; it’s really hard to describe in words the beauty of the landscape and the people we are working with. The work was challenging, as we needed to move 1.5 cubic yards of gravel from the top of the road to the school site. As well as mixing it with sand and cement to make the concrete that will make the beams of the three classrooms that we are building.

By the time I’m typing this words, the students are taking one-on-one Spanish lessons, there a lot of laughs and smiles among all of us. Rain started to come down and you can smell it on the air. I can definitely tell you without hesitation, that the sense of community of this group is just amazing. So, until the next time adios amigos!

Words from Youth: Stepping Out of my Comfort Zone

By Ellie, 16 from Nathan Hale High School

June 30, 2013

Saying adios to my family, friends, house, phone, make-up, clothes, etc. was not exactly comfortable. Going to a foreign country where people speak a language I hardly understand was uncomfortable. Interacting with the people from GV and all the people who live in Guatemala was extremely uncomfortable. Luckily, being uncomfortable has pushed me to experience, learn and grow in more ways than I realized possible.

For starters, living in a house full of strangers with a roommate I barely knew was terribly awkward. I’m sure all the participants could back me up. However, after many silent pauses and “lo siento, no entiendo”‘s (sorry, I don’t understand)’s I feel extremely close to my family here. I forced myself to initiate conversation or any sort of interaction. It was almost always uncomfortable. I’m so glad I did.

At this point in the trip, I, like many other participants, have a special connection with the families here in San Miguel. I have learned so much about love, hard work, and kindness through my family’s sweet example and constant smiles. I’ll be forever grateful to have consistently chosen to get to know them, even when it was difficult.

On a different note, it has been beyond rewarding to see our work on construction actually paying off. The three classrooms we have focused on have grown from about waist-level to almost ceiling height. The tedious cinderblock laying, prominent farmers tan, strenuous cement mixing and concrete-covered clothes have most certainly been worth it.

What’s made our work extra meaningful is the opportunity it has given us to work with the Guatemalan teens, the Chapines. They are now intertwined into our GV family like they have been there all along. On Friday, numerous water fights and inside jokes passed between us. The insanity has increased as our comfort levels with one another rose.

I love that even with a gigantic language barrier and so many differences, I feel the Chapines are now my amigos. Our differences have allowed us to learn from each other’s cultures. It was strange at first, but it totally paid off. This was evident in our excursion to Iximche (Mayan Ruins) on Saturday. Sitting “gringo/chapin” felt totally normal after a week of being together. Many photos, games and laughs were shared together while visiting the Ruins. I was happy to share that experience with my new friends!

Thinking back to culture night numero uno (#1), I remember being very, very uncomfortable. Our group has come a long way since then. Making friends and getting to know my group has been exciting and difficult at the same time. However, today we were all together, sitting on the floor giggling and enjoying watching our fellow participants act out a traditional Mayan wedding ritual. We shopped together and afterwards ate the traditional Guatemalan dish, Pepian.

I couldn’t help but feel grateful for each and every one of them. They have been the ones all year inspiring me and helping me step out of my comfort zone. We have learned and experienced some more unsettling things here in Guatemala as well. I’m glad to have learned what global leadership looks like together. I learn more and more every day and it inspires me to do better. Personally, I’m bummed about returning to Seattle in a few short days. But when we do I can’t wait to start actually doing something. I’m ready to start affecting positive change in the world, whatever that looks like.

I’m extremely thankful my “uncomfortables” have become my new “comfortable.” Feeling comfortable here in many ways has helped me realize what changes need to be made in the work. I’m ready to see where this new-found perspective will take me.

Words from Youth: My Host Brother

Reforestation 2013

By Kito, 16 from Ballard High School

June 27, 2013

Last week I could solemnly swear that I didn’t like children. I didn’t like the way they smelled, the way they were always dirty, and especially the way they complained. That is until I met David.

For the first day that my housemate and I returned from a hard day’s work, David was waiting for us with an enormous grin on his face. We hadn’t seen him the night before because we had just arrived in Guatemala and it was very late, so David was fast asleep. This day however, David was wide awake and ready to hang out with us. When we walked through the door, David excitedly shouted “hola!” and brought us to the living room. He sat us down on the couch next to each other and proceeded to jump onto our laps and sit right between us both, with one leg on top of my leg, and the other on top of my housemates.

Seven year old David had not known me for more than 45 seconds, but already we both knew we were going to get along just fine. At first I assumed that all of the kids here were going to be brats, but I learned that I was dead wrong. At one time during the work hours, there was a very large hill that we had to walk over to get to our site. I quickly exclaimed, “ay carumba” because I was taking a heavy box of trees up to our worksite, and a bunch of kids heard me. Without hesitation a posse of children offered to take all of my stuff up the mountain purely out of the goodness of their hearts. These actions that I witnessed absolutely changed my opinion of people younger than me, and I have David to thank for opening my eyes.

Words from Youth: At Home in Guatemala

June 27, 2013

By Eleora, 16 from West Seattle High School and Emily, 16 from Roosevelt High School

Eleora Emily

Here in our home stay family, we have 3 host siblings. It’s crazy how much they remind us of ourselves when we were younger even though they live such different lives.

Our youngest sister Maria Luisa is only 6. She loves princesses and dolls and wants to be a cake critic when she grows up. When she wants something she uses the classic puppy dog eyes. She doesn’t like peppers and only asks for the sugar right after someone else. Our brother Angel is 11 and wants to be the next Lionel Messi. He even can take injuries perfectly. Our 10 year old sister Duke is crazy mature, however, she still knows how to play games and have fun. Altogether, they’re a pretty lively bunch.

On the first night our host parents told us that they want us to feel at home, and that we should ask them for anything we need. Now, it doesn’t feel like Seattle here but it still feels like home.

Summer Trip: Growth Beyond Measure

June 29th, 2013

By Marita Phelps, Global Visionaries Program Manager

On a typical morning, like today in San Miguel Escobar, one would hear various types of birds singing among rooster crowings, firework explosions here and there celebrating birthdays, and the cathedral bells that fill the town each hour of the day. Mostly cloudy, the sun will shine for several hours and heavy rain has been normal in the late afternoons and evenings. Today the group visited the Maya ruins at Iximche in Tecpan which was a change of pace and scenery from the work week. Usually, students will go to their prospecive work sites in the mornings, have a siesta or break at home with their families in the afternoon, go to school and then come together as a whole with the group for salsa or reflection.

There were many breakthroughs throughout the work week. One of the most popular was “the language barrier.” Most students soon found language was not a barrier at all, especially with the help of their teachers at school. One student said:

“It was very validating to have a two hour conversation with a native speaker and I immediately felt so comfortable, as my many language barrier worries floated away.”

Students have shown positive leadership by becoming quickly immersed into the culture, stepping out of their comfort zones and making an effort to connect with Guatemalans regardless of how much spanish they previously knew.

Many students are working harder than they ever have in their lives, especially since more than half of the students are doing physical labor. Working at these sites gives the students a chance to see how most of the world makes a living as well as the strength and resilience it takes to get through day after day. In order for youth to properly lead the world towards a just and sustainable future it helps for them to experience global injustices first! Working with the Chapines, or the Guatemalan student counterparts, is one of the most important parts of the cultural immersion experience. This is one of the many ways the US students, or gringos, learn how to work side by side with other youth to seek alternative and innovative approaches to the problems facing their generation. A student from the reforestation team said:

“It was pretty satisfying to hear that we had planted over 300 trees, and not one complaint while doing so, I was really proud of everybody on the reforestation team for several reasons. One of these reasons was that nobody complained about the very long and steep hike to the worksite, and everyone volunteered to carry something. I was also really proud of our workteam because when I looked around there were gringos working with chapines. There weren’t two separate groups. Everyone was working and talking together.”

We have had several reflections thus far and there are several more to come. In the first reflection, which happened in workteams, it was obvious that there was a lot on everyone’s mind but perhaps not enough words to articulate those thoughts and feelings. Although reluctant, some shared and others just listened deeply nodding in agreeance at their peers experience. By the first large group reflection, more than half of the particpants offered their insight about their time in Guatemala. A mixed bag of emotions like sadness, appreciation, anger, and empathy, caused many of them to cry. Some admitted that they had never before been so introspective or emotionally intelligent as they have been here and now. A hospital student said:

“After everyday here I grow more homesick because being here makes me so appreciative of what I have at home. And I wish I could see my mom and daddy to tell them exactly how thankful I am for everything they’ve done and sacrificed simply so can have the best life and the endless opportunities I have now.”

As we reach the end of our time here in Guatemala, the vast inner growth of each student leader shines outwardly and yet there is still much to gain and growth to witness even in the last days.

Words from Youth: Rethinking Happiness

By Joelle

Age 16, from Mercer Island, WA

Today we went to a small town called Segunda Cruz up in the mountains. I had no idea what to expect when I got there. On one hand it was very similar to what I had expected – a  little village made up of small houses and farms. But on the other hand it totally took me by surprise. The people were smiling and happy and it was so easy to interact with them even though I didn’t always know what to say.

There was one child in particular that I really connected with. His name was Christobal and from the first time I took his hand, he wouldn’t let go. Occasionally he would run off to visit with someone else but he would always come back to me with an even bigger smile than before.

Being in Segunda Cruz was an eye opening experience for me. Coming from Mercer Island, there is no where even remotely similar to the living conditions of Segunda Cruz near me. It made me not only appreciate what I had, but to also rethink what happiness really is. There are people where I come from who have literally everything but can always find something to complain about. Then there are the people I met today, like Christobal who has almost nothing but still radiates happiness.

Today was the first time I really had an experience that changed the way I see the world and I sincerely hope it’s not the last.

Summer Trip: Hurry Up and Lead; Wait in the Meantime

20130620_193029By Marita Phelps, Global Visionaries Program Manager

June 25th, 2013

From the moment we gathered as a group in the airport we were faced with challenges that demanded leadership, selflessness and group unity. We were delayed two hours from our initial flight, made headlines because of a three hour emergency landing in Denver and after missing our connection in Miami, waited another seven hours in the airport for a new flight. Each and every young person in the group rose to the occasion and showed leadership.

They supported one another, they did not complain, they moved through the airports maturely, contributed valuable suggestions to solve the many problems we encountered and at the last leg of the trip, went down in GV history as the fastest group to load the bus. As one student recalls, “What really stuck with me was ‘group first, me second’ because everyone is just as tired as the next and we have to suck it up.” Certainly without forewarning and perhaps without forethought, the young people in this group were spontaneously faced with a challenge that called to use all the leadership skills they have learned in the program throughout the year. They truly rose to the occasion and proved to everyone, including themselves that they too have the ability to lead.

Despite the fatigue of traveling for 28 long hours, the group again “sucked it up” and the very next morning experienced their first lesson on global injustice during this Cultural Immersion at the Guatemala City dump. For many of the students, seeing the dump was a period of introspection. If the piercing silence wasn’t enough of an indication, the facial expressions certainly were. They were becoming aware, perhaps more so now than other times, of their personal contribution to environmental injustice and their responsibilities as global citizens. As another student recalled, “Seeing the dump made me realize how wealthy and privileged I really am compared to many people in the world. It also made me think about the role I play in supporting the system that creates situations like this -all the waste that I generate in a day, America’s support of successive military governments who mismanaged the country resulting in extreme poverty like this. I resolved to reuse and/or recycle everything I could, and to buy fewer processed foods and other products which come with a lot of packaging that then becomes trash.” To see the world shine in the light of justice both environmentally and socially we all must do what this young person has already done, which is to self-reflect and commit to lifestyle changes, if need be, for the greater good.

Thus far the students have also completed their first day of work, had their first day of school with their teachers, had small group reflections and every day are spending quality time with their home stay families. The learning and growth process this Cultural Immersion affords is multi-faceted and deep. The participants are gaining multiple perspectives about the world, in order to properly lead it, from Guatemalans and even each other. A student puts it best saying that, “My roommate and I both do not know any Spanish but we try and we interact but even after we have a conversation with our homestay family, we both have different views on what/who we were talking about. Thus making today one of my favorites because of all the opinions and different views by many other GV participants, especially heard on the long bus ride back to Antigua. Everyone takes away something different, but to share and explore ones you may never have crossed is the real reflection/learning experience.”

The future of the world is what comes to mind most often while we share this space and time with one another but we will first have to tackle the future of this trip and take our eagerness to see a just and sustainable world one step at a time. So, until the next time adios amigos!

Spring Trip: Happening Now!

Small Spring Trip GroupFor participants of the 2013 Spring Trip, Guatemala is now a reality. On April 6th, they departed on the culminating experience of all the learning, volunteering and fundraising that they have been a part of for the past months.

I know how excited and anxious I would be if I were going to Guatemala, but to get some insight into how the participants feel, I checked back in with Fiona Carlile (see Spring Trip is Right Around the Corner) to see how she felt just before embarking on her trip.

Q: As the trip gets closer, what are you excited about?  Anything new?

Fiona: I’m still excited about the same things, but everything just feels more real now.  I’m excited to build relationships with everyone involved in the trip.

Q: Again, as the trips draws near, what are you nervous about?

Fiona: I don’t want to look so American.  I want to work alongside the people there and not just fix things.

Q: How have you grown and developed personally over the span of the program so far?

Fiona: My views have definitely changed.  Originally I thought we were going to just help the people in Guatemala but now I know that we are there to work with them.  I also have a lot more confidence in myself.

Q: Have you made any lasting personal changes because of the program?

Fiona: I feel like the way that I view other people has changed.  I used to judge other people, but now I make sure that I don’t because no one deserves to be judged.

It’s incredible to see just how much can change in a person can be seen in such a short amount of time.  I know I’m excited to see how the work and learning that will happen in Guatemala will continue to shape these incredible youth, and I’m sure you are as well. We will be checking in with our participants during the trip and for a follow up after, so don’t forget to come back for the next Spring Trip installment on the GV Blog! Find us on Facebook and look for photos soon!