The immersion experience in Guatemala is coming to a close and as I look at the participants around me I feel like my job has been completed. The participants are no longer individuals, but one whole community. They support one another through happiness, through saddness; they have a connection with each other that is special and unique. No one but those around them right now will truly be able to understand what they have gone through these past two weeks. Even participants from the past and the future cannot understand because each group of first-years contains different individuals that make each program one of a kind.
Parents, don’t worry, your children will eventually find words that accurately reflect their emotions, but until then, let them think, let them contemplate all that they have been through. You have watched them grow from crawling unaware toddlers to the proud and confident teenagers they are now; and waiting a few days is nothing compared to that.
I am grateful to have led such an empathetic group of high school students. Everyone has displayed an incredible amount of respect for one another and shared stories that their closest confidants have yet to hear. Looking at the leaders of the future here in Guatemala with me, I have no doubts that the future will be filled with equality, with compassion, with global visionaries.
2nd Year Junior Leader
The warm sun beats down upon us. Roosters begin to crow at 4am in the morning. Bright red, yellow, green, blue houses down every street. The lively beats of bachata, reggae-ton, and salsa twirl through the crisp refreshing San Miguel Escobar night.
The GV office in Guatemala, the baroque styled church in San Miguel Park, the participant drop-off routes. Everything is so familiar to me. The 2-hour long weekly meetings since September helped prepare me for these two weeks. The feeling of being back in Guatemala is so surreal to me, and I am still so grateful to have this opportunity.
Spending two weeks in Guatemala around the same time frame as my first immersion trip least year, I can sense definite similarities. However, distinct differences completely make this experience unique on its own. Obviously, the people I am traveling with are different. And working in the hospital of Hermano Pedro rather than in the coffee fields is new, as is my role, that of a Junior Leader.
As a Junior Leader, I understand the amount of responsibility I have with technical aspects regarding the energy, the well being, and cultural understanding of the group. I’ve noticed every time my peer Ray and I get home, walk up the stairs and finally close the doors, I feel so tired yet very content at the end of the day. I love watching the epiphanies participants have after compiling the knowledge that they have accrued on this trip with what they previously know. I have seen so much development with leadership skills among the group.
Work Teams are a crucial component of this two week immersion experience. Working in the hospital allows me to understand another aspect of this society- its healthcare. Every day we visit two wards, attempting to provide love and attention to these patients. I have made so many connections with patients and have become so close with my hospital work team. Personally, when patients smile, laugh or have their fears assuaged, I feel immense joy – not because I feel I have reached a “goal” but rather the presence of a tacit understanding of a mutual feeling of compassion and love. This is why every time I leave a ward, my heart aches, and why I am giving these last two work days my all.
In conclusion, these facets of my immersion have helped me gain a deeper understanding of the world and become a better leader. Whether it’s my new found confidence I acquired from the Spanish language classes, or my greater cultural understanding, I am so grateful for all the conversations I have had with my homestay family, the GV Staff, all my Guatemalan friends and everyone I have encountered on the trip. I am so thankful for this experience.
Megan Lee –
2nd Year Junior Leader
Hey! I am Ray and I am the Junior Leader on the Cafe work team – we are the Coffee work team. I think that being a Junior Leader has been of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. Rewarding because I have seen shy kids change into confident Spanish speakers and loud kids change into careful listeners. I have been able to witness the emotional learning experience that Guatemala brings you on a first hand level and I think that has been amazing. Witnessing the vulnerability and authenticity that is evoked from this experience has helped me grow as a leader, person, and friend. Learning how to feel the complicated range of emotions from a group of teenagers has been a challenge and so with each passing day I strive to give the group the kind of leader they need.
Another challenge that I have faced is being a leader but also being a person, too. Knowing how to balance the intensity of being a 24-hour leader and keeping yourself happy and healthy. I get inspiration from the amazing stories I hear every day, and I am constantly trying to absorb as much passion and learning from the people around me as I can. I hope that as the next few days pass, I can learn and grow as a person – because that is what I think being a Junior Leader is all about.
To the spring parents, you are so lucky to have such courageous and curious kids and I am thankful; you let them spend these two weeks with me helping both of us grow!
During the nine years that I have been a supporter of Global Visionaries, it has been wonderful to witness its evolution and growth. Its programs have deepened, with increased opportunities presented for youth to find and bring out their “inner leader”. You can see their self-confidence build, like an expanding balloon. Recently, GV has extended its reach with the powerful Global Leadership Summer Institute. I wanted to call out this less well-known aspect of Global Visionaries since it is an incredible addition to the overall program.
The Global Leadership Summit is a week for educators – with some strong speakers. Terry Bergeson, the former 12 year Superintendent of Public Instruction of Washington State and GV’s CEO Chris Fontana will be spending 5 days with regional educators, administrators and leaders interested in youth education to grow acumen in the area of bringing democracy to the classroom. If it is engaged global leaders we want as an outcome, then we need to change the way we are teaching our youth. GV is providing teachers a pathway for they themselves to become global leaders. And this enables teachers to create learning environments in which students take charge of their learning. I am increasing convinced that, with this full-circle approach to education (providing student and educator learning opportunities), GV is on track to make real changes in the leadership of the future.
This is just one of the reasons I’m looking forward to seeing what the next nine years will bring for GV!
– Bill Ellis
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, 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 MarioFlores@global-visionaries.org 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.
“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”
IN ONE WORD, WHAT DO YOU FEEL NOW YOU HAVE BEEN PART OF GV?
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 being 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.
“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. What 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.
“After having gone on the program and the trip, whenever I go walk around in Seattle, I notice things that I wouldn’t have usually noticed. I could be walking down the street, and I could see homeless people in a whole other view. I feel like there’s this system of inequality in everything. Before, I would have not seen that. I would’ve just seen a homeless person asking for money. I feel like I have the power to impact the world and that I should strive to do that”
IN ONE WORD, WHAT DO YOU FEEL NOW YOU HAVE BEEN PART OF GV?
I’m a high school junior and I serve on the Global Visionaries (GV) Youth Board. Specifically, I’m an immersion leader. I go down to Guatemala as a resource and role model for the first-year participants. When I went to Guatemala as a first-year participant,I watched myself and everyone around me grow, and I knew I wanted to be a part of that again.My leadership role now is very meaningful to me. I try my best to be a source of knowledge and a good role model for the new participants It’s a lot of pressure to always demonstrate the right things to do, but that’s what leadership means to me.
I was so shy when I joined GV. I remember attending my first GV Culture Night and just standing alone in a corner because I was afraid to let other people see who I really was. Slowly I started to take to heart GV’s mantra, which is to get out of your comfort zone, and I began to be myself, which allowed me to get close to the other participants. Now I bring so much more confidence to every activity I do, whether it’s wrestling, math class, or just interacting with new people.
After experiencing the program, I started noticing things I wouldn’t have noticed before. I might see a homeless person while walking down the street. Before, I would have just seen someone asking me for money. Now I recognize a whole system of inequality and it prompts me to think about how I can make a positive impact. The old me might have put a few coins in the cup and then forgotten about it. But now I feel that I absolutely have to take it further and do my part to change the world.
I was a recipient of a scholarship, and that was a huge decision factor for me. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to join GV and go to Guatemala. The support of the donors let me have this incredible experience. It’s been so eye-opening for me, and I’m forever indebted to the people who helped me in this personal transformation. Thank you.
GV Youth Board – Immersion Leader.
“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, 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