Co-authored by Chris Fontana, Executive Director.
Last Saturday night, supporters of Global Visionaries gathered in the home of Heide and Matthew Felton to give their support to create opportunities for underserved youth. Youth leaders, Samrawit Zeinu and Devin McDonald spoke passionately about their transformational experiences in the GV program.
“I started the year-long transformation to becoming a leader through the culture nights and my internship with GV. To me, a leader is someone who is aware of themselves and their actions. Someone who can positively influence others without speaking,” said Samrawit Zeinu. “In Guatemala, I learned that material wealth is not important. What is important is who I am and the beliefs that I value. 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 my trip but the values I learned are still strong inside of me,” concluded Samrawit. “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.”
Mauricio Vivero, Executive Director of the Seattle International Foundation gave his testimony as both a funder and a father. Mr. Vivero said: ”We have vetted 200 organizations and only fund 30 of them. And that should tell you the kind of caliber and impact, management, as well as leadership that GV has. It’s truly an institution that is worthy of support.”
Mr. Vivero elaborated not only on the importance of the work that Global Visionaries does, but the importance of aiding the Guatemalan people.”For those of you who haven’t been to Guatemala, it is a country still scared by the civil wars. It’s a very unequal country. It’s a country where the majority of children, that’s over fifty percent, are malnourished. That is much higher than many countries in Southern Africa.In Guatemala, we feel as GV does: that the true road to development and to a more prosperous society is to help these very talented Guatemalan youth have a shot at opportunity. And that’s what GV does.”
GV Executive Director, Chris Fontana said following the event: ”We are so thankful that our community believes that you are the leaders of today, not tomorrow and that the most important investment we can make is in low-income youth! We planned to make $30,000 but we raised $48,000 and that is a testament to the youth’s compelling stories. I was deeply touched by the show of support at the Founders Club event and through our on-line campaign leading up to the event that brought in nearly $3,000 of the total.”
Save the date for next year’s event on Saturday, September 28th, 2012.
Check out some video footage of the event below!
GV Executive Director Chris Fontana presents speech and introduces the student speakers:
GV Youth Leader Samrawit Zeinu shares her story:
Seattle International Foundation Executive Director Mauricio Vivero addresses attendees:
This video slideshow features photos from Global Visionaries’ Fiesta de Guatemala 2012 fundraiser. Highlights include the Dessert Dash, live and silent auctions and the friendships created amongst the GV community. With over 400 items in the silent auction, 22 items sold in the live auction, as well as a large turnout of guests, staff and students, Fiesta de Guatemala was a definite success this year!
We at GV would like to thank:
- The parents that helped on the night of the event:
- Lisa Dennison
- The Naders
- Tom Robinson
- Christi Gelder
- Everyone that donated desserts for the dessert dash
- GV 2011-12 Students and parents for all of the procuring they did for the auction and all of the hard work on the day and night of the auction
- GV Interns for photography, baking desserts, helping out, and generally being COOL!!!
- GV Staff for being AWESOME!
WE HOPE TO SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!!!
Greetings Intensive Families and GV Supporters,
I am writing you from the cafeteria at the language school while the kids get their dose of one-on-one Spanish lessons. It’s another magical trip, or at least it seems that way as I experience Guatemala with fresh-eyed participants absorbing every detail like how in the cool of the mornings the clouds seem to linger at the tops of the volcanoes so that they look like they are spitting out smoke. Each time we walk to the office, we smile and greet the passersby while taking in the beauty of the town and trying to guess where all the street dogs are running off to.
By the time we arrive to Santiago Zamora, the town where we are building a school, the mist gives way to blue skies that make the green hills dotted with small plots of tilled earth seem even more lush and vibrant.
But I digress, lots has happened since I last wrote. Sunday was our trip to the Mayan Cultural Arts center where we learned a lot more about Mayan culture. The women showed us their hand-woven fabrics, tapestries, and traditional style of dress. Though there are faster ways to weave now, these families have chosen to preserve their way of life.
Jasper and Spencer were married in a traditional wedding ceremony. Declan and Laura gave away the groom while Bjorn and Sarah provided the translation. This was followed by dancing (Maddie led the way here), shopping, and a lesson in how to make tortillas. For lunch we had a local delicacy called pepian which is a brown, well seasoned soup with chicken and rice. Afterwards we had our first reflection and, per Alex’s suggestion, we spent a very long time playing “keep away.” Though Aurelio is the shortest member of our staff, he can also jump the highest. I am excited to have him as our secret weapon when we play the kids in basketball.
Monday was our first day with the Chapines, a group of about 20 Guatemalan teenage volunteers, who joined us for three days of construction. We first broke ground for the school in April during the Spring trip and have continued to build trip by trip. What was a fenced-in lot is now three rooms with walls made of rebar, concrete, and cinderblock, which will soon be two classrooms and a kitchen. After spending an afternoon getting to know some families in the area, participants seemed highly motivated to work hard. During the break everyone gathered in small groups of gringos and chapines to get to know one another better. We ate a snack while Brady entertained us by juggling extra oranges. We were all sweaty and covered in dust by the time the bus arrived to take us back to the office, but everyone was smiling and laughing.
After lunch with our host families, we met once more at the GV office then headed to Antigua for language school at La Union. I love La Union. Like many of the buildings in Guatemala, it is centered around a large courtyard. There are rows and rows of tables and chairs, but instead of feeling like a classroom, it’s more like a sidewalk café where people from all different countries come to learn languages one-on-one.
After class, we returned to our homestays for dinner. When I went into my room, I pulled back the covers on my bed and found a special surprise waiting for me: a giant tarantula. It turned out to be fake, but I screamed like it was real then promptly ran next door to strangle Jan. After a brief interrogation, I learned that Rebecca was to blame for the prank so I began plotting my revenge.
Tuesday we met with the Chapines once more and played a few games before getting down to the hard work of moving piles of rock, mixing cement and mortar, and adding cinderblocks to finish up the walls of each room. Then after lunch we came to school for class, followed by salsa lessons with Carmen (I took video because the whole thing was indescribably hilarious). Thomas surprised us all with his special dance moves, especially after vehemently avoiding all forms of dancing up to this point in the trip. And Claire realized that all that hip checking she does in roller derby makes her a natural at dancing merengue.
Today was our last morning of construction so we all worked extra hard. It was hot and we needed to use a hose to wet the mortar we were mixing. Somehow Rebecca and Jan found themselves on the other end of the hose. And then all too soon it was time for snack and for our goodbye speech to Don Omar, Don Ambroso, and Don Alex, the three workers who have will be continuing to build the school in our absence. We presented them with some cards, a small gift, and a speech, which Spencer gave beautifully.
Here is what the leaders of the day have had to say: “As leader of the day, I was forced to step outside my comfort zone more than usual. Things like volunteering to be toastmaster or volunteering to be dressed up in the Mayan Cultural Center were things that I would not usually do, so I feel that as leader of the day it really opened me up to trying even more experiences than before. The trip has been really eye-opening and great, and it has really been a lot of fun getting to know all the new people who I am now glad to call my friends.”
“Today we met the chapines for the first time. I was amazed at how similar teenage chapines and teenage gringos are. It seemed like even though we aren’t from the same place and our traditional culture is very different we are all just teenagers and we can all laugh together. The chapines that I
talked to today all liked sports and went to school and had to deal with studying for tests just like I do. I noticed that when everyone was working together on the construction site everything went better and it didn’t feel like we were working really hard even though we got a lot done.”
“At school, we all met our teachers and had our first lesson. The lesson was very different than what I imagined it to be. I think I learned more in one lesson than I learned in a month of school. The school building was an inside-outside building like many buildings in Guatemala. As a group I think we are all starting to come together and open up to each other.”
Written by Valerie Lopez
In a recent editorial in The Seattle Times, Marla Smith-Nilson, executive director of Seattle-based Water 1st International, praised Melinda Gates and her approach in solving sanitation-based mortality in developing countries:
“Congratulations to Melinda for being smarter than Bill. I agree with her that diarrhea in children is best prevented by increased access to safe water and toilets and not vaccines… many people including myself, have been critical of the foundation’s emphasis on technology and innovation as primary criteria for funding water and sanitation projects.”
Bill and Melinda Gates, two incredibly influential philanthropists, demonstrate the different approaches in solving the one of the developing world’s crises: mortalities arising from sanitation related diseases, such as diarrhea. On one hand, Bill Gates, a technological emissary, embarks on a scientifically advanced approach of inventing a vaccine. Conversely, Melinda’s approach is more rudimentary; focusing on water, sanitation and hygiene which she believes would be more productive than inventing and disseminating expensive vaccines.
Then, on July 19, 2011, The Seattle Times headlines read: “Gates money, best minds put to work by ‘reinventing’ toilet: Bill Gates is turning his penchant for cutting-edge invention on the most unglamorous of devices: the toilet.”
Admittedly, vaccines do have more of a cool factor than the toilet, especially for the scientifically-inclined. But when it comes to foreign aid, are glitzy gadgets sufficient to solve the many-pronged crises plaguing developing nations? Or are they at worst, obfuscating the real issues at hand and overlook constructive solutions?
Let this question be a springboard for a different, yet related set of conundrums. It is unquestionable that Seattlites ooze coolness—it is hip and trendy to be seen traipsing around the city, sunshine or not, clad in shoes du jour: TOMS.
Purporting to combine consumption habits with social responsibility, TOMS will provide a pair of shoes to a needy individual halfway across the world with your simple purchase of its own stylish pair. And with a video this compelling, how could anyone pass up the opportunity to be a socially conscious consumer?
Blake Mycoskie’s intentions no doubt come from a good place. But what he says in the beginning of the video is particularly striking: “As long as I continue selling shoes, these kids will have shoes for the rest of their lives.” Cynical or ingenious? He has aligned his business model with the welfare of the shoe-needy.
Is TOMS another example of a “cool aid?” Is it another form of aid that obfuscates real issues and overlooks more productive and sustainable solutions?
Mycoskie’s company’s primary motivations for creating a shoe company based on this charitable business model isn’t actually that far from the sanitation issues Melinda and Bill are interested in solving. According to the TOMS website, “a leading cause of disease in developing countries is soil-transmitted diseases, which can penetrate the skin through bare feet. Wearing shoes can help prevent these diseases, and the long-term physical and cognitive harm they cause.”
The shoes supplied by TOMS protect children from soil-borne diseases in addition to functioning as part of their mandatory uniforms for attending school.
However, pressing the issues further can reveal more substantive, underlying problems at hand. Why are there soil-borne diseases? Why are the families unable to provide school uniforms for their children?
Can “cool aid” address these issues? Yes, shoes protect feet. Yes, shoes let children go to school. But the fact of the matter is sanitation problems will still exist. Socio-economic problems that dissuade poor families from buying school materials will still persist.
Members of the development community argue that the TOMS model of donating materials rather than creating opportunities is not sustainable, undermines local economies, and obscures the real issues plaguing the communities it claims to help.
Foreign aid has been controversial from time immemorial. Some critics, such as Peter Bauer, author of “Development Aid: End It Or Mend It,” even rail against the word “aid,” because it “promotes unquestioning attitude. It disarms criticism, obscures realities, and prejudges results. Who could be against aid to the less fortunate? The term has enabled aid supporters to claim a monopoly of compassion and to dismiss critics as lacking in understanding and sympathy.” Historically, failed aid has plenty of examples but what they all have in common is that they come in forms of materials or cash. Communities receiving this aid might not have the available social infrastructure to properly and equitably disseminate these goods. Or, they simply run out.
Marla Smith-Nilson advances a different and now popular approach in development aid. It moves away from donating material goods which are not sustainable, can promote dependency, and at worst skates around real solutions.
She acknowledges that constructive solutions are ones that empower local community members to build self-sustaining opportunities for themselves, letting them take charge of their own existential destinies.
Speaking to the successes of Water 1st, Smith-Nilson explains that “because of our comprehensive project monitoring, we know that all systems we have funded are still in operation. They are successful because they are independently owned and operated by community members themselves, place women in key leadership roles, and involve solutions adapted to local priorities and conditions.”
TOMS does seem to be involved in creating partnerships that emphasize community development projects but its business/charity model is the issue at hand. While there are no silver bullets, panacea, or utopian blue prints that can address the socio-economic and health related issues plaguing developing countries, easy or “cool aid” should be subject to a constructive dialogue, especially involving the beneficiaries of such aid.
It can be very powerful to combine consumptive habits and charitable giving. After all, our choices as consumers have ripple effects across the globe, especially since we live in such a globalized age. However, it is still necessary to make educated approaches towards development aid. Cool aid such as vaccines, fancy filtrating straws, and shoes can sometimes obfuscate more productive solutions, however unglamorous they may be.
Feel free to share your comments about this topic below. We’d love to hear your opinion.
Watch GV students particpate in this year’s reforestation project.
The students on the 2011 Spring Trip are hard at work, creating social and environmental justice through their service projects in Guatemala. The video below displays GV students who are participating in this year’s reforestation project, working side-by-side with Guatemalan youth to recreate the biodiversity destroyed by recent illegal deforestation operations.
Watch GV students sorting, washing, and depulping coffee in Guatemala.
The students on the 2011 Spring Trip are hard at work, creating social and environmental justice through their service projects in Guatemala. The video below displays GV students who are participating in this year’s coffee work team, working side-by-side with Guatemalan youth.
June 2, 2010
Check out GV’s new short promotional video, Voices of Change. It was filmed on location during GV’s Spring 2010 Guatemala trip!