Tag Archives: Antigua

Q&A: Coffee with a Cause

Global Visionaries is partnering with Kuma Coffee to bring you a new coffee experience! Don’t miss out on our coffee tasting at our Open House event on Tuesday, August 27. In case you are curious about our new gourmet coffee, this post may answer some of your questions.

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Q: Where is the coffee from?

It is sourced via direct trade from small farmers in Antigua, Guatemala. The coffee is harvested in the Hunapu farms, nestled among three massive volcanoes in the central highlands of the Antigua region of Guatemala. Grown at elevations from 1500 to 1800 meters above sea level and dried on patios under the Antigua sun, this coffee is then medium roasted in small batches at Kuma Coffee in Seattle.

Q: What is special about it?

This craftsman-style coffee comes not only with an intense, complex flavor, but also with a cause. It benefits the people who grow, roast, and sell it.

Farmers from the Hunapu farms get more share in the profit through direct trade by cutting out the middle man. The coffee is then imported and sold by youth in Seattle. All additional proceeds go directly to Seattle youth programs.

Q: What is shade-grown?

Shade-grown coffee is produced from coffee plants grown under a canopy of assorted types of shade trees. It is a sustainable and self-maintained agricultural system, as it incorporates principles of natural ecology.

Q: Who is Kuma Coffee?

Kuma Coffee is a Northwest local coffee roaster, specializing in small batch, precision roasting. Kuma’s process is done entirely by hand, from picking coffee cherries, to individually bagging roasted coffee. They carry coffee from Ethiopia, Guatemala, El Salvador and more.

Q: How does small batch roasting work?

The small batch method, or precision roasting, consistently reproduces the optimized flavor profile of each whole bean by detecting specific and unique roast pinpoints for each bean. This ensures consistency of flavor (balance, body, aroma and finish) from batch to batch.

Q: What is the impact of this partnership?

Through taking part in coffee harvesting and working alongside coffee farmers in Guatemala, Global Visionaries youth experience what it takes to create each bag of coffee. They gain insights on the coffee process from farms to stores and see the impact of consumer choices. Additionally, proceeds go directly to support GV youth who are fundraising for a cultural immersion experience in Guatemala.

(Photo by MeltedMoments)


Sights, sounds, tastes and heart: Christmas in Guatemala, Christmas in the US

by Kenna Stout


What do you get when you mix long, furry, green feet, anti-Christmas cheer and the ability to slither down chimneys?  A Grinch of a Christmas course! But not to worry, this is no ba-humbug article.  With many ho-ho-ho’s and some jingles along the way, only images of tinsel-trimmed trees, reindeer and sugar plum fairies will be left dancing in your head. And maybe a strange craving for a tamale, too.

When asked to write a little bit about Christmas traditions in Guatemala and the United States, I turned to blogosphere and the lovely Global Visionaries staff to unearth traditions found in Guatemala and in their own families.   Many thanks to Mario Flores, program outreach manager, who opened my eye to Christmas celebrations in Guatemala City.  And special thanks to Billy Lopez, assistant program manager, for sharing his family’s chuchitos (Guatemalan tamale) recipe, give it a shot!

While US Christmas shoppers are bombarded with images of Santa Claus and snowflakes, and carolers can be heard fala-lalala-lala-ing throughout the season; Christmas in Guatemala comes to life with the sight of colorful nacimientos, the sounds of fireworks, merengue and salsa, and the smells of pine, ponche and chuchitos.


Though, of course, at the heart of it all, are the children, whose excitement and joy are palpable in the weeks, days and hours leading up to Christmas. Despite the visible differences between how Christmas is celebrated – or ritualized in the traditions we keep – the essence of this holiday lies in our families, friends, communities and how said traditions strengthen the bonds of love between us.


Vintage SantaSanta Claus’s button nose and his sleigh full of toys is not a focal point for Guatemalan children.  Though this global icon can be found in many a window at department and toy stores, Mario points out that you won’t find very many fireplaces in Guatemala. Still, Santa’s true magic is not lost in the hearts of children.  On one night every year, anticipation runs rampant on a global scale, no matter how poor, rich, small or tall, children feel Christmas magic uniting them as a human community.  In Guatemala, children get to stay up all night on Christmas eve because at the stroke of midnight, they receive and unwrap the presents bestowed on them by parents, relatives and friends.  Guatemalan children give thanks to their parents and relatives for all the gifts and memories received and Santa’s antics in the chimney are left forgotten.  Still, Guatemala has its own unique images that add to the spirit of Christmas.


You may hear, “did you see, so-and-so’s nacimientos?”  Many churches, neighborhoods, and families create or sponsor elaborate nativity scenes called nacimientos to commemorate Mary, Joseph and the birth of Jesus.  These scale models depicting the manger scene can fill rooms and draw crowds of family, friends and nacimientos lovers alike.  Check out some examples of nacimientos and consider: do gingerbread house competitions seem dull in comparison? As opposed to the traditional US custom of “keeping up with the Joneses'” by lighting and decorating the outside of one’s house, nacimientos fill the inside of buildings with light and color.  Brightly colored sawdust in green, red and yellow line the ground of displays, neatly laid in rows and patterns representing the land and fields.  Though no prize is involved, great pride, planning and personalization go into their creation; they are like the frosting on any cake!

For days leading up to Christmas, las posadas, or parades re-enacting Mary and Joseph’s search for a safe haven, happen nightly.  As the processions wind through the streets, the drumming of a turtle shell is faintly heard as it brings up the rear.  Each night, Mary and Joseph get turned away from houses until they find refuge at a previously designated house.  Once they are safe, the participants and observers erupt in celebrations filled with hugs, candy, ponche, cookies or tamales and more.


Nothing tops the smell and sounds of firecrackers and fireworks that ring in (your ears) the holiday season.  On Christmas eve, to commemorate the birth of Jesus, fireworks are lit at six-hour intervals starting at noon, 6pm, midnight and noon again on Christmas day.  Other festivities include a church mass from 9pm to midnight and neighborhood or family parties that last all night long.


tamales1Food bonds us through taste, texture, smell, heart and history. Guatemalan tamales and American apple pies can be strong and delicious representations of a family’s past.  As they fill our bellies, they remind us to look to a future filled with love, joy and togetherness with our loved ones. No matter the country, common themes, like ingredients, flow through all of our traditions.  Like the sweet tamale and apple pie, cinnamon and love are ingredients that can be found around every corner during Christmas.

The history of the “tamal”, pre-dates Spanish conquistadors, going back to Mayan culture and beyond. Though the exact origin of the tamale is unknown, the significance it has for many families is connected to stories of migration, labor and family bonds.  Thousands of years ago, they fed armies and cities. Nowadays, they are a great lunch time snack that can be bought outside many offices in Guatemala City. Tamales are portable; they can be re- steamed, grilled or eaten cold.  Tamales carry sustenance bursting with flavor and can be altered to appease everyone’s taste buds. To be sure, tamales have a special place in the hearts of those who have ever eaten one.

tamales4Guatemalan tamales are essentially two parts: masa (corn flour) and filling, and wrapped in banana, plantain or another leaf of choice, then steamed to perfection. The dough, or masa, can be the trickiest part of the tamale to get right. The masa needs to be mixed with water or stock and fat (like butter or margarine) before it can be filled with any number of things. Typically though, the filling is made with meats such as chicken and pork, fruits such as raisins and pineapple or vegetables with chilies, cheese, or beans & finished with a sauce (red, green or mole). Yum!

And Christmas tamales are possibly the most important tamale of them all. Some will say Christmas just isn’t complete without one!  Making them before Christmas is part of the ongoing party that is the holiday season.  Moms, aunts, sisters and grandmothers spend days cooking, shaping, steaming and laughing, all in the name of the Christmas tamale. There is a saying that you can never cook tamales angry or they will just never cook! True or not, assembling tamales is best done with loved ones, while laughing, singing and having fun. Tamales are usually made for festive occasions, so the making of tamales must be kept festive too.

Now the last thing to remember about tamales is how to eat them.  Don’t be greedy!  Try them one at a time, even if they are the same kind.  Tamales are for sharing, they are for loving and they are always going to be around as long as families have loved ones to share the secrets and laughter with.


Christian missionaries may have brought the religious teachings behind why we celebrate Christmas and Germans may have lent us their tannenbaums; but however the traditions were brought to each of us, it is the gathering of family and friends that keeps our holiday traditions alive and in turn, each tradition we share helps to keep our families close.

In both, or should I say, all countries, children are at the heart of Christmas.  Children embody the spirit of Christmas to the fullest.  The worries of moms and dads, who are busy making sure the food is prepared and decorations are perfect, are washed away by the wonder and awe that so often captivate the hearts and imaginations of their children.

From Guatemala to the US to Zambia, every family’s recipe for how to celebrate a perfect Christmas is different. Whether you make apple or pumpkin pies, pork tamales or chuchitos; traditions are how our family secrets get passed down from generation to generation.  It is in the unique ingredients of our own recipes for a perfect Christmas that inform our traditions and keep them alive for years to come.

I think Mario Flores, GV’s program outreach manager, puts it best when he said Christmas is a “playful time you enjoy yourself, family, and community”, it is the sense of “feeling really welcome” not because people don’t welcome you on other days, but that “that day is [just] more special” and in Guatemala Christmas is especially magical.

Reflections from Trip Leader Katie Wallace

It’s the second to last day of the trip, our last day of work and just hours before our fiesta de despedida (farewell party). I’m sitting here overwhelmed by what we’ve seen, heard and done here in Guatemala in the previous two weeks.

As I prepare to head back to Seattle I begin to imagine what I’ll take home from Guatemala (aside from handmade earrings and hundreds of digital photos). I have memories of the steep, exhausting hill we climbed each day en route to the construction site. I have mental images of the lush hillsides, the cobblestone streets in Antigua and the beautiful smiling faces of the guatemaltecos that we greeted in every passing. I’ll carry with me new relationships, stronger relationships and a greater sense of peace than I had when we left.Above all these images and memories I am leaving with the desire to research. I want to know even more about Guatemalan history and politics. How can the current President of Guatemala be responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of people? How was this former General elected by Guatemalans in 2011? This leaves me with feelings of disbelief, frustration, anger and wonder.

Learning is not measured by the number of pages read in a night or by the number of books read in a semester.
Education is not an act of consuming ideas, but of creating and recreating them.
– Paulo Freire

The most valuable and eye-opening experience has been spending time talking with my host brothers, 21 and 18, after dinner. Their wealth of knowledge about Guatemalan history and their passion to raise awareness about politics (of the past and present) are impressive and motivating. My older host brother has led large scale protests in Guatemala City, and my younger host brother won a speech contest while we were there. He spoke in the central park in Antigua about acknowledging Antigua’s true history. I am in awe that there is such little acknowledgement of the genocide and corruption that have taken place in their country. I have never personally known young adults so angry and yet genuinely convinced that change on a large scale is possible and attainable. I look forward to learning more, and I hope that they will continue to inspire youth in Guatemala and from the U.S. to learn and take action in their communities and on a global scale.

First Summer Trip 2012 Update

Saludos desde San Miguel,

As day four concludes, rain beats down on the roof of the GV office. Our boots are dirty. Many of us are sporting blisters from a productive morning of reforestation in Cerro Del Niño. It has been a gorgeous four days. We arrived in Guatemala City with the majority of our boxes (the remaining ones have been located!) and drove back through a darkened country side to our homestays. Arriving at night meant that participants had their first real glimpse of Guatemala first thing in the morning.

Though exhausted, I was up with the roosters (literally), breathing in the fresh air and marveling once more at the simple beauty of the mountains at sunrise. After a hearty breakfast of eggs, black beans, and fried plantains I headed down to the GV office where the Gringo participants and the Chapin participants met for the first time. In a departure from our usual itinerary we grouped up and went to the Garbage dump all together. For many of our Guatemalan participants, this was their first time visiting the dump which made the experience that much richer. After lunch with our homestay families,we visited Antigua to exchange money and then it was time to rest a bit.

The next day we jumped right into work. The Hospital work team headed to Antigua to meet their patients while Construction and Reforestation drove even further up into the mountains near Cerro Del Nino. Cero Del Nino is the site of a school GV built several years ago, so already we felt a sense of accomplishment and an excitement for things to come. This trip the Construction work team will be building a community center so that everyone in Cerro Del Nino will finally have a place to meet.

I am on the Reforestation team. We started our work day by walking up a huge paved hill. If I ever had any illusion about being in good shape, they are gone now, but we did all make it. There we took a moment to refill our water and play some games to help us get to know our Chapin counterparts. Many of the Chapin students have been volunteering with GV all year on different work teams so it was nice to see some old faces mixed in with the new. There was that first few awkward moments, but soon everyone was chatting in Spanish, laughing, and playing hand clapping games. Then we gathered our tools and more water and hiked up into the woods where we are clearing some brush before we plant 700 trees. One of our goals in planting these trees is to prevent erosion. Last Summer while we were here there was a huge down pour that caused a landslide in Pastores that knocked down 60 homes. Hopefully we can help prevent that from happening again.

All in all everyone is doing well, eating good food, making friends, and really make the best of this adventure. After work we had lunch and then it was on to our first day of school at La Union in Antigua. To celebrate our arrival all 40 teachers that will be working with us formed a human tunnel and clapped for us as we entered. Then we formed a circle and did short introductions before everyone paired up with their teachers for their first lessons. So many firsts…and yet for many it seems like they’ve been here before. In my next update I will share some exerpts from the LOD journals, but for now I will leave you with 3 poems written during our poetry session this afternoon.

Reagan Jackson
Program Manager


Untitled Poem
by Torin Frost

In this world of ours there’s few things that we need.
To drink and to sleep, and also to feed.
And the water we need simply flls from the sky,
but this only makes me wonder – why?

Does the sky cry for people who need clean water?
To the mothers and fathers, for their son and their daughter?
Or is it something else – involving moisture and science,
or a gift from God
it’s a necessity
our reliance.

But there’s a defiance to this system, it’s giant corporations.
Exporting to nations and having celebrations,
for profit these days seems to come before people.
And these people have the nerve to say everyone is equal.

Well, we’re not.

Because if rain is free, then why does water cost o much money?
And land and food, I thought it belonged to the Earth,
but money is needed the second after birth.
And if it rained everyday, water still wouldn’t be free,
not even to people like you and me,
because there’s something that comes before us,
and I hate to see,
if only it was us that came before money.


by Cora Wolken

I don’t know what happiness is.
I see it everywhere I go.
The ones with nothing have the most.
Why is that? Does money really not buy happiness?
I walk around here today
everyone has a smile, a spark to their eyes
they have a skip to their walk
a laughter to their voice. I know they are happy.
What does it take to be happy though?
I can’t just put on a smile and
add a skip to my walk, I am not happy.
I want an inner happiness
the one I see in the who appreciate,
the ones who don’t want more
but are content with just being there today
they know things happen for a reason
even though the reason is unknown.
Someone who is happy is someone I envy..

Untitled Poem
by Angela Tang

We chop down trees
We plant more
We run out of toothpaste
We buy more
We run out of ideas
We think more
We run out of space
We move more.
But what happens when we run out,
out of space, out of ideas, out of toothpaste, out of trees.
Will the sun suddenly explode to create new life again?
Or would we finally stop?



2012 EarthCorps Homestays Needed!

EarthCorps is in the process of recruiting homestays for their international participants, who will join the program in early June and finish in mid-December 2012.

  • Be a mentor in a young person’s life
  • Become a part of the EarthCorps global community
  • Build a global, travel network
  • Receive a monthly stipend
  • Expand your horizons through cultural diversity, immersion, exposure, and perspective

Oscar Hernandez, a member of the Global Visionaries staff in Guatemala, will be one of the international participants joining EarthCorps for six months.  After EarthCorps, Oscar will undertake an additional internship at the GV office in Seattle.  Please see the interactive flier for information about what the hosting experience is like, a slideshow that gives you a sense of the international participant’s experience and most important perhaps, a link to the EarthCorps website page where you can read specific short bios on the individuals who are coming.  Please note that homestays need to be within a 45 minute bus commute of EarthCorps office in Magnuson Park.

Please contact Su Thieda, EarthCorps’ Program Director for more information at (206) 391-3640 or su@earthcorps.org.

Participant Spotlight: OSCAR GARCIA

Espresso de Esperanza and Global Visionaries

Hola!  My name is Oscar Garcia.  Seven years ago, a group of friends and I (one of whom is now my wife) set off in pursuit of our dream of creating a company.  Of the many options we looked at, we decided to sell coffee as it is a product that is locally produced in Antigua, Guatemala.  Also, the coffee produced in this region is very high-quality and well-known in many countries across the globe.  In collaboration with local farmers and amazing support from an American from Minnesota (who helped us get our clients and believed in us), we were able to make our first shipment abroad of a little over 500 pounds of coffee.  In the beginning, we sold coffee to GV participants when they came down to Guatemala.  In time, we founded Espresso de Esperanza, Inc. and today, we’re able to export coffee almost anywhere in the world.

Shortly after Espresso de Esperanza was created, I joined the staff of GV and increasingly worked with groups of students coming to Guatemala.  Over the years, I have had the opportunity to make many friends both abroad and at home, work with farmers in our villages to produce and harvest coffee, construct classrooms to improve educational access and improve our environment through the reforestation of many areas that faced depletion.  Through EarthCorps, I now have the opportunity to learn more about caring for the environment and gain other experiences that I will take with me upon my return to Guatemala.

Alumni Spotlight: Emma Shull

Emma Shull, on el Panecillo overlooking the city of Quito, Ecuador.

If Global Visionaries had a poster child, Emma Shull just might be the “IT” girl.  Over the course of three years, Emma participated in our First Year Leadership Program, went on to serve as a member of the Youth Board and capped it all off as a Gap Year volunteer once she graduated from high school.  She’s currently wrapping up her undergraduate studies, but more on that later…

As a First Year participant, Emma traveled to Guatemala on the Summer Trip, where she worked on the construction work team and first met Billy Lopez (last month’s featured alumnus).   Asked why she decided to serve on the GV Youth Board, she responded that the inspiration came from a retreat workshop put on by the previous year’s YB pro-justice (PJ) team on the Theatre of the Oppressed.  Not surprisingly, she spent her year on the Youth Board passing on her pro-justice knowledge onto the succeeding group of First Years.  And then there was Ruthie Ditzler, whom Emma had met in her first year with GV; Ruthie made enough of an impression for Emma to decide to expand her role with GV as a Gap Year volunteer when the time came.  Emma spent her first six months undertaking work that was near and dear to her heart: developing the pro-justice curriculum and topics for GV workshops.  With GV’s help, she also applied for and obtained a Youth Venture grant (worth $1,000) to support her ongoing work.  The second half of Emma’s gap year was spent in Antigua, Guatemala, where she continued to develop her pro-justice work and expertise; this time adapting the model and theory for training of GV’s Guatemalan staff and volunteers.  Emma was careful in ensuring that what she taught reflected a Latino context.

One of the exercises that GV used to have its First Year participants do upon their return to the US was to write a letter addressed to him or herself, that would be received a year later.  In Emma’s letter to herself, there were three resolutions:

  1. Go back to Guatemala
  2. Attend a university that would provide opportunities to travel the world
  3. Use the knowledge gained during her time with GV to help other youth
  • Go back to Guatemala – did so as a Gap Year volunteer!

…and fast-forwarding to today for resolutions 2 and 3:

  • Attend a university that would provide opportunities to travel the world – Emma is getting ready to graduate (May 10th) from Long Island University Global College with a BA in Global Studies.  In the course of her undergraduate career, she has lived in Costa Rica, China and Ecuador.  Even more remarkably, her Gap Year in Guatemala was accepted for 18 credits as part of a “Life Experience Portfolio” towards graduation requirements, so she’s finishing a year early!
  • Use knowledge gained during time with GV to help other youth – Emma is currently undertaking a Spring internship with the Sadie Nash Leadership Project to promote leadership and activism among young women (particularly those of color).

Finally, some words directly from Ms. Emma herself…

Please describe how your experiences with GV have helped you to interact with people, cultures and environments outside of your own during your studies abroad.

– Above all, my skill as an observer is one I often attribute to my time with GV.  I appreciate how GV encourages participants to always ask questions and to reflect on observations.  My experience with GV directly influenced my decision to enroll at LIU Global as it is a school that emphasizes experiential learning.

Have you experienced any moments of profound insight, where you realized that had you not been a part of GV, your perception of an event or issue would be quite different?

– In general my time abroad always leads me to this conclusion.  The biggest concept I have taken with me abroad is the recognition of my systemic role in societal oppressions such as racism and imperialism. Without this point of reference my experiences abroad would be completely misconstrued.  GV has taught me to think critically (not negatively) about my surroundings and about the people I meet along the way.

One of the issues that GV participants sometimes face upon completing their time with us is tackling the question of how to continue living the mission in their own lives.  Beyond your internship with SNLP, what are your plans for continuing to be mindful of all that you’ve learned through GV and beyond in living a conscientious life?

–  I am passionate about youth and creative learning.  Wherever I am, and whatever I am doing, my role in the empowerment of youth will be essential.  As far as long term goals are concerned, one day I’d like to eventually start a youth-run Theatre of the Oppressed troupe.    

Do you have any advice for current GV participants (first year, YB or those considering a Gap Year with GV)?

– My advice to current participants is to really search within your community, in Seattle, and outside of Seattle who have similar sets of interests.  I feel that it is important to create a sense of community where you live, and GV (although a great community) can also become its own bubble.  Get out, and volunteer with other like-minded organizations and expand your network!  

From the Ground in Guatemala

Saludos desde Guatemala (Greetings from Guatemala),

After months of the Seattle rain and cold, the blast of heat and sun was a welcome relief as we arrived in Guatemala City and began loading up the chicken bus with our luggage and supply drive boxes. Though we were all exhausted from the trip, it was hard not to be excited that at long last after culture nights and coffee selling and everything we’ve shared until this point we’d reached the day we’d been waiting for, the start of the Spring Trip.

We arrived on Sabado Santo…the Holy Saturday before Easter, so in Guatemala City all the stores were closed and traffic was light, but everywhere there were remnants of the festivities of the week before. Purple banners hung from walls, colored sawdust still littered the street. The bus took us directly to the cemetery which also seemed eerily quiet as we silently made our pilgrimage between the stone mausoleums to the cliff overlooking the largest garbage dump in Guatemala.

Though it was my fourth time visiting the dump, it was no less impactful. The smell hit us immediately and the sky was filled with circling vultures. Due to Semana Santa there were no long lines of yellow trucks, nor were there the hordes of people scavenging for recyclables from each truck, but yes, as we looked over the edge, there were still people and animals foraging through the refuse. A myriad of emotions played on each participant’s face, some were stoic, some near tears.

Checha, one of our GV Guatemala Staff, spoke to us about what we were seeing, not simply the culmination of years of daily dumping, but something even more sinister. He spoke about the systems of oppression present in Guatemala, that have made it so difficult for some indigenous people to find jobs, that they have been forced to move to the city to work in the dump simply to survive.

“Wait, you mean people live here?” One participant asked.

And everyone grew quiet, perhaps realizing this would be a far cry from a typical tourist trip to Antigua. This would be a journey where we would actually have to do some thinking. And there was time to think as we rode through the hilly countryside and finally through the cobblestone streets of Antigua to arrive in San Miguel Escobar, home to the GV Guatemala Office. At the office, after unloading everything, students met their homestay families and went home for dinner and much needed rest.

Easter began with a bang, literally. In addition to singing and bell ringing at 5:00am, we awoke to the sounds of fireworks like cannon shots and of course the local roosters singing along.  And then it was time for breakfast as a group, black beans, bread, and ham omelets. On Sundays we give the Homestay families a rest and eat as a group at the office, so everyone pitched in, setting up tables, and pulling out the plastic bins of plates and cutlery donated by previous groups.

After cleaning up, we hopped on the bus to San Antonio Aguas Calientes to the home of Sandra Ordonez, the Program Manager here in Guatemala. You might have met her during our recruiting season when she came to Seattle. Sandra, like many Guatemalans, comes from a Mayan family. So there we were introduced to some traditional Mayan handicrafts and weaving. Jessica and Mitchell were married in a traditional Mayan Ceremony (not sure if that was binding) while Mitchell’s pretend parents Nava and Steve danced in celebration. Afterwards we feasted on Pepian, a spicy brown gravy served with chicken, rice, and homemade tortillas, which many participants got to help make. Throughout the day Lupe, Helen, Ismael, Lindsey, and Janet took turns translating.

After lunch we did a little shopping and then headed to Segunda Cruz where GV built a school in 2007. There we met with the families whose children attend the school and everyone had the opportunity to share a snack of banana bread and horchata and to converse with the families. At the end of our time, one family enjoyed Janet so much that they gifted her with a live baby chicken. Though she would really like to keep it, I am skeptical that we can smuggle it through customs so “el pollito” is going to live with Aurelio, our Country Coordinator, until he finds a better home.

Today was our first day of work. I am working with the Coffee work team this trip. Ilana was our leader of the day and lead an awesome reflection. Everyone worked so hard and we didn’t have to spend a lot of time trying to get the gringos and the chapines to talk, because both parties were ready. It was Don Antonio’s first time working with gringos. He was the farmer in charge of teaching us about café, and by the days end he seemed impressed with what we were able to accomplish; which consisted of marking the coffee fields and beginning to dig holes for new plants. This is a task that requires a lot of patience and measurement, so during the down time, gringos and chapines taught each other games and songs.

The following are some excerpts from the leader of the day journals, so you can hear from the participants themselves. We will try to load some pictures and video on the blog, but not until tomorrow. Take care, Reagan.

“After I got on the bus I was so excited! The heat was killer. The music on the bus was great. Guadalupe was singing along and that was funny. I was feeling sick all day but all the people around me made me feel so much better! Meeting my family was awkward. They are the kindest people ever, but I don’t understand any Spanish, so my roommate did all the talking. I’m excited for the next few days though!”

“In Guatemala, I’ve found the people to be more friendly and though I don’t speak Spanish very well, not complaining, just grateful and happy for what they have and don’t have. I wish I was more like that…The most challenging thing I faced today was stepping outside of my comfort zone, I wish I was more brave and that this wasn’t an issue for me, but tis something I’m working on.”

“Whew, what a day! The trip finally feels real, after all our anticipation and preparation. Today we arrived in Guatemala, visited the dump of Guate City, and met our host families. Seeing the dump was a really powerful, moving experience. When I saw a person actually sorting through the trash, I really hated myself for just standing and watching him work from above. I felt a deep, human connection to this stranger.”

“When we drove down the streets of Guatemala City with supplies overhead, we drove fast through the colorful streets with bright white lettering against the reds, blues, and yellows of the small buildings’ walls. People on motorcycles, buses, foot were everywhere and I felt keenly aware of being watched just as any traveler is, and I understood the dress code and hearing cultural explanations: we are the front for a country, a culture, a program, and whatever we do, wrong or right is observed. The further we drove, the more the buildings morphed into small unit shacks with crosses on the doorways, crumbling stone and garbage outlining the graves. We had reached the dump. I was struck by the heavy contrast between the quiet and beauty of the grave sights and the putrid smell and the garbage strewn around. We walked through the graves, some took pictures, some just walked and all of us were silent. We reached the overhang of land jutting over the ravine toward the wasteland. Birds with giant wing spans flocked overhead, diving to feed, hundreds of them. People below us walked, bending down every now and then to pck up a piece of garbage and death seemed endless. “If you are born poor, you die poor,” is the Guatemalan saying.

Alumni Spotlight: Billy Lopez – Antigua, Guatemala

Meet Billy Lopez of Antigua, Guatemala.  He’s 22 years-old and on his first trip outside of Guatemala to Seattle.  But unlike many young people his age, his first excursion out of his home country is not part of a family vacation or to study abroad.  Billy has taken a year off from his university studies to come work with Global Visionaries here in Seattle.  If you walk into our office, you could easily overlook him among the many interns and volunteers bustling about.  From his friendly smile and unassuming demeanor, you may not guess that Billy is actually a past participant in our Guatemala Youth Leadership program and will be with us for the next four months assisting with our U.S. youth programs and development efforts.  I had the chance to meet Billy and find out more about him and his experience with Global Visionaries.

How did you find out about and become involved with GV?

I found out about GV as a senior in high school.  GV’s Guatemala Country Directors, Aurelio Hernandez and Mario Flores came to one of my classes and did a presentation about GV.  At the time, I was just a regular young guy who wanted to have fun and be with his friends.  I had no interest in being a “global citizen.”  My friends were all very interested because there was a pretty American girl (a gap year volunteer) involved, but I wasn’t so sure.  I didn’t put my name down when the sign-up sheet came around.   Two days later, Aurelio and Mario came back to our class and confirmed with those who had signed-up.  I was shocked to hear my name being called out, but understood what happened when my friends started laughing.  In the end, I decided to go along with it.

What was it like?

On my first day, I was shy because there were a lot of gringos (I was the only Guatemalan) and my English wasn’t very good because it was boring to learn when I was in school.  I eventually opened up and was motivated to improve my English.  Although I originally became involved with GV in the Spring of 2008 to fulfill a service project requirement in order to graduate, I decided to continue on into the Summer as well.  Eventually, I took a part-time job with GV, where I was leading groups.  This was very different from when I was a participant.  Also, the group of friends that had originally joined up with me had gone on to do different things.  I decided to take it to the next step by applying for a position with Earthcorps that would have brought me to the U.S.  Although I was accepted into the Earthcorps program, I was unable to obtain a visa from the U.S. embassy following my interview on account of my youth and inexperience.  This was a strong disappointment and a setback that caused me to have second thoughts about coming to the U.S.   Then, five months ago, I was offered the opportunity to come work for GV at our Seattle office and this time, I got the visa!  I had to take a year leave from university to accept the position and am disappointed that I won’t be graduating with my friends, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I wasn’t going to pass up.

What are your first impressions of the U.S.?

Um…they’re not so great.  The first thing I noticed was the system of oppression that is at work in the U.S.  For example, the large numbers of Blacks and Latinos driving buses, working in restaurants as servers or cooks, but I didn’t see any Black pilots, for example.  Also, people are always on their cell phones or plugged into their iPods.  They walk around in their own personal four walls and are unapproachable.  When they see you, it’s like they don’t actually see you.  When I came across other Latinos at the airport in Houston, they spoke to me in English!  When I arrived in the U.S., I needed to be all dressed-up in a suit and tie because I knew the immigration officers would look at me from head to toe and judge me.  Also, people don’t really walk on the streets here (except maybe downtown) like they do in Guatemala.  And they don’t say hi.

Did you notice anything positive?

Absolutely.  The diversity and especially the number of Latinos.  Also, I was concerned about seeing only buildings and lots of concrete, but Seattle actually has a lot of trees and green space.  Finally, I was worried that the GV office might be quiet and impersonal, but instead, I found it to be pretty lively and have many examples of people working together.

How has your involvement with GV affected your perspective and understanding of the world?

If I hadn’t been a part of GV, I probably wouldn’t have made all of the observations that I did at the Houston airport.  Also, you know, in Guatemala, there is a physical divide between the rich and poor in the form of zones inside cities.  In the rich zones, you have access to supermarkets, banks and public services, but not in the poor zones.  The rich zones have regular and dependable garbage disposal services whereas the poor zones will house the city dump.  The wealthy do not see or understand how their lifestyles affect the rest of society.  They believe that education is truly free in Guatemala, but they don’t understand that some children still cannot afford to go to school because they are unable to pay for their uniforms or school supplies, so they drop out.  Through GV, I’ve gained the ability to perceive and understand the implications of this divide, but also recognize that I’m still learning.

How does your experience affect how you make decisions in life?

One example is consumerism and its role in how I live my life.  For example, I understand that I am privileged to have choice.  So before I buy something, I always ask myself these questions: (1) do I really need it? (2) is there a better way for me to spend this money? (3) what are the social and environmental impacts of my consumption decisions? (4) what effect will my spending decisions have on the lives of others?  Basically, I’ve learned to take a conscious step back to really think about what I’m doing before I buy something.

What else are you looking forward to seeing or doing while you’re here?

I’m looking forward to observing the “meeting of cultures” of the diverse populations here and their experiences of being in America.  Meaning, I’d like to learn what it’s like to be from an outside culture, but living in the U.S. and maybe meet another Guatemalan who has been here for a while.  I also want to improve my English and grasp of U.S. culture.  I want to go skiing maybe; I had never seen snow before I came to Seattle!  Finally, I’d like to see many of the people I had met back in Guatemala while I’m here.

Did you have a chance to meet Billy while you were down in Guatemala?  If not, would you like to?  Either way, you’re welcome to stop by the office and say hello.  He’s here most days and can also be found at various events over the next four months!

Families Experience Guatemala with Rick Steves Tour Guide

Experience Guatemala is not your average tourist excursion.

On November 19 through November 27, 2011, 17 people travelled to Guatemala guided by Jennifer Gouge from Rick Steves tours. Experience Guatemala is an opportunity for people of all ages to learn about the work of Global Visionaries in the communities of Guatemala as well as contribute to GV’s mission of empowering young people to become global leaders in creating a just and sustainable future.

This year all of the families that participated in Experience Guatemala were families that have adopted a kid from Guatemala.

Upon arriving in Guatemala City, the group went directly to Antigua.

While in Guatemala, the participants had the opportunity to learn about other organizations like GV that are partnering with local communities.

The group later returned to Guatemala City to visit the dump which like many developing countries is a place where hundreds of people live. According to Gouge, scavenging and living at the dump is dangerous and affects the lives of thousands of people. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, this dump is one of the largest in Central America.

Safe Passage is an organization that GV partners with whose mission is to solve the problem of the dump through educating the children who live there.

According to Gouge, guiding is more than just directing. The philosophy of Rick Steves tours is to help the participants engage with the culture and prepare them to interact with the local people.  During free time, Gouge would help the families by giving them ideas of activities they could do as well as giving them background information.

Experience Guatemala participants had several opportunities to interact with villagers. The group visited several of the GV work sites.

Picking coffee beans gave the Experience Guatemala participants the opportunity to interact with villagers while learning about the importance of coffee. Growing coffee is hard, physical work and is not like going to an office, Gouge said. Even when the price of coffee rises, the coffee growers do not make very much money. The coffee industry has a large impact on Guatemalan’s economy.

Before visiting the coffee farm, the participants discussed the purpose of the visit. According to Gouge, these discussions show a greater dimension of Guatemala. Jennifer said that she always explained why they were doing what they were doing and why they were going to the various places that they went. The goal of the trip was to educate the participants about the culture of Guatemala.

Planting trees gave the Experience Guatemala participants the opportunity to learn about how deforestation affects farms and the local people. A large percentage of the land mass is being deforested, Gouge said. Planting trees prevents mudslides and protects the land.

The Experience Guatemala group spent Thanksgiving at Lake Atitlán which is a lake surrounded by volcanoes. Thanksgiving dinner was spent at a restaurant with another organization. That day the group visited a women’s weaving cooperative.

Before returning to Guatemala City, the group visited Tikal, the center of the Mayan people. While it was still dark, the group walked to the edge of the jungle to watch the sunrise and listen to the jungle wakeup. The first animal in the jungle to wake up is the howler monkey. Gouge said that she could hear clans of howler monkeys screeching back and forth.

Participants told Gouge that Experience Guatemala was a “unique experience they will treasure forever.”

Before these families took part in Experience Guatemala, they already knew that they liked Guatemala but now they know that they love Guatemala, Gouge said.

View Pictures here.

Drink Responsibly

Chris Fontana, Executive Director of Global Visionaries, says he believes that businesses and non-profit organizations should have the triple bottom line: the procedure of business turning a profit, while promoting social justice and benefiting the environment.

“There shouldn’t be a difference between the way a business leader and a non-profit leader conducts,” Fontana said. “We should all be looking out for the greater social good.”

In fact, Fontana doesn’t consider Global Visionaries a non-profit but a social and environmental profit.

There are several businesses that fit this description and are not just providing for themselves but also the community. These businesses operate not just to make money for the owners but to give back to the community usually by supporting a specific cause. They are called “conscious businesses” because they are concerned with the greater social need and exist to serve the many not just the few.

Social conscious businesses are gaining popularity. According to the 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study; 83 percent of Americans wish more of the products, services and retailers they use would support causes. In Seattle, conscious business is often times paired with coffee.

Direct trade coffee is the manner in which some coffee roasting companies acquire their coffee. According to ROASTe, direct trade is also known as “relationship coffeee” because the coffee roasters personally know the coffee farmers. Unlike fair trade, direct trade is informal and does not have regulations.  Usually a coffee grower receives less than 1 percent of the profit, according to Talk About Coffee. Fair trade coffee growers make $.20-$.30 per pound and direct trade coffee farmers make up to $1.60 per pound, according to Ethical Coffee.

Seattle Coffee Works, located at 107 Pike Street, is serving a greater cause by selling direct trade coffee from Guatemala. According to Seattle Coffee Works, nothing makes them happier than working directly with a farmer to provide the farmer with the resources “to produce the highest quality coffee possible”.  In the past, Seattle Coffee Works has supported GV by donating coffee to their fundraiser auction.

The selection of their coffee include varieties from Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Costa Rica, Sumatra, Peru, Panama, Brazil and India .

Global Visionaries has created a direct partnership with coffee makers in Guatemala. The youth on the Coffee work team work with the farmers to learn about the process of growing coffee beans and roasting the coffee. The students learn about the cultivation of coffee as well as the business side of coffee production.

“[GV] is the organization that collaborated so that a group of young people can realize their dreams of forming a company and at the same time supporting farmers in our villages,” Oscar Garcia said.

Espresso de Esperanza is a direct trade coffee roasting company that was founded by youth in Guatemala and is still operated by young people. Global Visionaries has been partnering with Espresso de Esperanza for four years. Every year Global Visionaries students sell Espresso de Esperanza’s coffee to fund their trip to Guatemala earning $4 for each bag that is sold.

According to Oscar; Espresso de Esperanza sells coffee in Guatemala but most sales come from exports to the US. Oscar describes the connection between Espresso de Esperanza and GV as more than a business relationship but a friendship.

The coffee sold by Espresso de Esperanza is grown by farmers of the San Miguel Escobar and San Pedro Las Huertas areas. “Farmers have small plots where they grow good quality coffee,” Oscar said.

Oscar said that Espresso de Esperanza is going to continue to be a company that “promotes economic development and service for small coffee farmers and to give young people an opportunity to pay for college.”

“We hope to achieve this by increasing exports in the United States, opening new markets in American and European countries,” Oscar said.

Coffee connects people locally but also connects people globally. The examples of both Seattle Coffee Works and Espresso de Esperanza show us that one cup of coffee can make a difference. The lives of the farmers are impacted with each cup of coffee that we drink.