Tag Archives: Central America

Teach English In Mexico And Get Paid!

Hey GV alumni—are you ready for your next international adventure?

Then you should consider the Global Leadership English School, located in Temascalcingo, Mexico. Here in this picturesque town in the central Mexican highlands, you will have the opportunity to live, work, and study for a year.

The Global Leadership English School, founded and directed by former GV Program Manager Aimee Duran (previously Aimee Hibbets), is now accepting qualified candidates to teach English and leadership skills to local youth.  You can work, earn money, and improve your Spanish, all while having an in-depth, authentic experience in this small community.

For more information about the program, fees and how to apply, see the Global Leadership English School website http://globalleadershipengl.wix.com/globalleadershipengl.

Check us out on Facebook, or email globalleadershipenglish@gmail.com .


¡Por fin! – Teacher Katie Wallace Weighs in on GV & Guatemala

Katie Wallace teaches Spanish at Chief Sealth International High School in Seattle and will be one of two area high school teachers who will be leading the Summer Trip (June 27-July 12).  Stay tuned for photos and updates from Guatemala!


¡Por fin! At last I will have the opportunity to travel to Guatemala with GV! I have dreamed of this trip ever since I worked as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Noah Zeichner’s Spanish classroom at Chief Sealth four years ago. It is hard to believe that three weeks from today I get to travel to Guatemala and serve alongside my own students from Sealth.

Why Guatemala and why GV? I love Spanish – the language and the people who speak it and the cultures in which it is spoken. As a Korean-American adoptee, I often surprise people (including my students and colleagues) with my love and knowledge of the Spanish language. My father is half-Mexican, so Mexican culture has always been a part of my life. My passion for social justice and my love for baseball have been driving forces in my longtime interest in Latin America. I can’t wait to experience Central America!

I love the energy and the grassroots feel of Global Visionaries. Chris is passionate, genuine and serious about his belief in young people’s capacity to learn, lead and love. Watching the students step out of their comfort zones, open their minds and facilitate meaningful dialogue impresses and inspires me.

Being immersed in Guatemalan culture, serving alongside locals and living with a Guatemalan family for two weeks – what an opportunity! This is beyond what we can ever offer within classroom walls during a normal school year. I am most excited about witnessing the participants’ growth as language learners and as human beings.

Encountering cultural differences is beautiful, challenging and rewarding. We are incredibly fortunate to have this experience ahead of us, one that will challenge our views, open our minds and undoubtedly impact the way we live. I look forward to working alongside my students, not just as a teacher, but as an adult participant with just as much to learn. I look forward to the tough questions, the “aha!” moments and the joys that come from building unexpected relationships.

YOGO – or, You Only Go to Guatemala Once

By Reagan Jackson, GV Program Manager

I admit that when the day finally came, I was pretty stressed out to be herding my fourth group of eager teenagers through four airports and two sets of customs.  But as the last supply drive box was loaded on top of the fancy red chicken bus, I breathed a sigh of relief.  We had finally made it to Guatemala.  From there, the road was more or less familiar…

I was armed with a minute by minute itinerary of everything we would do over the next 15 days as well as a map of San Miguel Escobar denoting every homestay family.  Having accompanied previous groups, I felt comfortable and confident that together with the Guatemalan staff, we would be able to provide the robust, transformative experience we promised during all those school presentations and Info Nights last September.

In retrospect, I believe we were able to do just that.  But as usual, things did not go exactly as I had imagined.  I keep trying to find the way to articulate what was so different about this trip.  I hesitate to compare it to my previous trips because though we did many of the same activities, such as visiting the dump and volunteering on our work teams, the trip (well, really the entire program) is more than its mere components, but rather something that is co-created by its participants.  The Spring Program participants reflect a unique and beautiful blend of diverse personalities and experiences of individuals who’ve chosen to create something very special.

There are so many stories, so many small victories and major revelations that I find it difficult to explain. I could tell you about Sam, a kid I once thought of as shy, who ended up infecting the entire group with the YOGO (you only Guatemala once) philosophy and how this pushed everyone to try new things.  I could tell you about gorging on cake and ice cream with Annie and Rita during the Antigua tour, or about how Mary-Anne always sang and led her work team in games, or how Stacey spoke so beautifully about her experience in the Hospital that I almost cried.  Or I could tell you about trading poems with Devin and Nava.  Or about Lupe, who was so eager to translate that she sometimes translated Spanish to Spanish or English to English.  Or Steve, who makes the funniest faces ever and still can never seem to get all the way through Redemption Song on the guitar.  But these are all just pieces that add up to create something greater than their sum.

Throughout the trip, the Spring participants created and re-created community.  They worked hard and played harder.  They drew their Chapin counterparts into the fold. They held one another accountable for participating in discussions.  They passed each other Kleenex and held hands with people who were feeling homesick or overwhelmed by something they had learned or experienced.  Work teams created get well soon cards for people with upset stomachs.  There was an attitude of “what can I do to make this a great trip?”

Chris Fontana always says that it is each person’s responsibility to make sure that everyone else “gets it”.  And that is exactly what this group did.  My experience is that this was a trip filled with compassion, honesty, humility, a great deal of reflection, new found friendships, learning and fun.  It was a trip that really connected me in a new way to our mission, because I returned to the States feeling more empowered and privileged to have gotten to know such a special group of people.

I came back really feeling like not only did they “get it”, but that I did too.

Spring Trip-Reflections from Week 1

Saludos de Guatemala,

It’s been almost a week since our journey began and so much has happened. Our days have taken on a pattern. We wake up, enjoy breakfast in the homes of our homestay families, then at 7:30am we’re off to the office to meet up with the chapines and divide into work teams. During this trip our three work teams are Coffee, Construction, and Hospital. Due to the hard work of our GV staff we have just as many chapin participants as we do gringos, so everyone works with a buddy.

Today in coffee our goal was to cut 400lbs of coffee. We grabbed our snack (sweet bread and oranges), some big containers of water, and all the tools and baskets we would need, then piled into pick-up trucks and rode up the hillside overlooking San Miguel into the coffee fields owned by Don Manuel (Helen and Hannah’s host dad). Don Manual talked to us about the plants and showed us which color beans to pick (the red ones that look like cherries) and then we set about filling our baskets. Lee and Reina were the pair to gather the most, followed by Ra’layzia who picked twice as fast as everyone else. Everyone had fun chatting and in some cases singing. Then when we had our break we talked about the price of coffee and also about the Garbage Dump.

Sandra directing Cafe duties for the day.

The majority of the chapines have never seen the dump either and were surprised to hear about the people living there. They have decided to go see it for themselves. Maya did a great job of translating. By the end of the morning we had cut about 300lbs of coffee…pretty good, but not quite up to the goal we had set, so we plan to work even harder tomorrow. Don Manuel says for that amount of coffee we would have earned about 120 quetzales…which is less than $20.


The construction work team is laying the foundation for a multi-purpose room in Cerro del Nino in Pastores. This means lots of moving cinder blocks and removing wheel barrows full of rocks. Many people are sore, but everyone seems excited to see what they are able to accomplish each day. When it’s finished, the community will have a place to host memorials, meetings, or any sort of large gatherings. Every day there is a family of little kids who live in the neighborhood who come to help with the building process. Today Ismael pushed them around in a wheel barrow and let them film some of the experience. We will try to upload some videos to the blog soon, but our computers are running slow. Each participant has set personal goals for themselves. Today Teisha accomplished her goal of speaking more Spanish and Mitchell managed to greet each chapin on his work team in Spanish.

Teisha and Flori

The hospital work team, is perhaps one of the most emotionally difficult teams. Participants spend their mornings coloring, painting fingernails, blowing bubbles, or beading with the patients. Today there was mass so Mary Anne, Devin and Alli accompanied patients to the church inside of the hospital, while others worked with the few patients left in the wards. Jessica played the guitar for a man who used to play before he lost the use of his hand and she says it was one of the best experiences of her trip. Mostly today was an opportunity for the gringos and chapines to play games and get to know one another better.

After work, everyone returns home for lunch and a short siesta, and then it’s time to get on the bus to Antigua for language lessons at La Union. La Union is a lovely school set in the heart of downtown Antigua. Students sit at small wooden tables spread out across a courtyard. Everyone is at a different level, so each class is completely personalized. Our native Spanish speakers are watching movies and working on grammar or writing. Our beginners are learning how to ask the questions they’ve been wanting to ask their homestay families. Tonight after class, we will have a short reflection here, then it’s off to salsa lessons with Dona Carmen. Here are some reflections from our Leaders of the Day.

“When I woke up I was nervous about being an LOD, but Porter told me that it’s easy, so I got a little calm. But it was our first day of work so I was kind of nervous. When we were going up the steep hill, I was nervous because it was so steep! When we turned the corner I thought we were done, but we were just ¼ of the way there. When we finally got to the top we all rested. When we got into a GV circle, I translated a lot, but that’s a daily thing. I don’t mind. Surprisingly my goal was to talk Spanish more. I has it because sometimes I feel weird speaking it. After translating I felt more sure of myself. When we got to the end of working, I pushed everyone to give a final effort. There are soooo many differences between to US and Guatemala. The houses, the people, the surroundings, everything is so different. I learned that being a leader takes hard work, you got to set the example and it is hard especially if you’re working construction because it’s demanding labor. But I pushed myself to set an example. Overall it was a good first day of work and school.”

“Today was the first day of work on the coffee farm. We met the chapines at the GV office. It was kind of hard to talk with them but we all tried. Walking to the work site everyone tried to pair up with a chapin. I was with Raul and I learned that he really likes to play soccer. It’s really interesting how if you asked a group of Americans what they liked to do in their free time there would probably be many different activities, while everyone I’ve talked to here says first and foremost soccer. At the worksite we played a name game and then started to work. The process is simple, yet complicated. You have to measure exactly so that the plants grow correctly. At one point Nilda and Reina taught us a hand clapping game that was uncannily similar to quack diddly oro. Work was very satisfying but difficult.”

“I made a new friend. His name is Angel. He can’t talk so I don’t know much about him. When we first got there, we went to the special school and I was looking around to see who I would go to. He smiled at me, so I went to go talk to him. We colored and then we started to bead. I asked him if he has a girlfriend and he said yes and point to Kimberly. Then he laughed and shook his head and pointed to me. Since then we’ve become friends.”

“During school we walked to the bank with our teachers to exchange money. The center of Antigua was really beautiful. I was really excited about the level of conversation I could have with my teacher. After school we came back to the office to reflect on the day and how the trip has been so far. Being LOD I has to lead the discussion, which for e was way out of my comfort zone and quite difficult. I’ve learned that I actually can do it through and also that I should participate more in discussions. I’m always afraid to say something dumb, so I psyched myself out. But I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter if I say something “wrong”. What I take away from today is that people are all the same, whether they are from the USA or Guatemala. Also I learned that I’m capable of being a leader and even though I never would have volunteered to be a LOD if it were optional, I’m so glad that I had to do it because I learned a lot of new things about myself.”

The next update will be written by our Junior Leaders, Erica, Lena, and Emma.

Reagan Jackson

GV Program Manager

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.

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.

Courtney’s Journey to GV

Courtney is a Lutheran Volunteer Corps member and will be serving at GV for one year.

Inspired by GV’s mission to incorporate global experiential learning, sound environmental practices and social justice to inspire active leadership in youth, she is excited to be serving as Assistant Program Manager.

Courtney felt an immediate connection to GV because she took part in an immersion trip of her own in Costa Rica at the age of 17. By experiencing a vibrant culture far removed from the cornfields of Iowa, she was able to garner core values such as living simply and sustainably. Since, she has been abroad several times, most recently spending fall of 2010 in Tanzania and Europe.

In her spare time, Courtney enjoys ultimate frisbee, hiking, camping, and hugging trees.

Courtney holds a BA in Environmental Studies and Political Science from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Freshly transplanted to Seattle from Washington, DC, Courtney is thrilled to be joining the GV team.


APPLICATION DEADLINE UPDATE: **Application deadline EXTENDED to Monday, October 24, 2011**

GV Youth Programs 2011-12
Application Deadlines:

APPLICATION DEADLINE UPDATE: **Application deadline EXTENDED to Monday, October 24, 2011**

Applying for Financial Aid?
Please call (206)322-9448 to confirm your spot at one of our Information Nights:

•Wednesday, Oct. 19, 7 – 9:00 pm

Call  (206)322-9448

Greetings from Guatemala: Summer Trip Update I

Greetings from the Summer Trip!

“Bienvenidos a Guatemala. All seats and tray tables need to be in their upright positions as we prepare for landing.” I opened the window shade and turned to the two participants who were seated next to me. “This is it guys. We’re here.” We watched in silence as the plane cut through the layer of white clouds to reveal a glimpse of the lush tropical landscape below. Thick brown rivers snaked through green mountains scattered with small towns and farms cleared and planted in patchwork rows. Despite being exhausted you could see the excitement in the eyes of the kids when the realized that after months of preparation, we had finally made it to Guatemala.

We breezed through customs and were welcomed with open arms by our Guatemalan staff. Our first order of business was to load all of the supply drive boxes onto the bus. We formed a line and everyone pitched in, then we drove straight to the cemetery and the Guatemala City Dump. After a short walk through the cemetery, we arrive at a cliff overlooking the dump. I missed this part of the Spring Trip, so like the participants it was my first time actually experiencing where garbage goes.

If you ever need to convince someone to recycle, just take them to the dump. It was a strange and terrible sight; a mile-wide pit of refuse rife with vultures, wild dogs, and saddest of all, actual people. There were many people who, unable to find other occupations, ran along side the yellow trucks to have first pick of the newly dumped trash. And the garbage seemed endless. I counted no less than 80 trucks lined up to deliver more, and behind those were more trucks stretched beyond the limits of my eyesight. Mario shared with us that the people we were watching spent their days and in some cases their lives picking through trash for sellable items. It was hard to imagine enduring the stench for more than the few minutes we were
 there…and that was from the cliffs above. What must it feel like to be down there in the middle of it, surrounded by waste? Even before we made it to the GV office to meet up with our homestay families, we were already engaged in a serious discussion about poverty and the racial politics of where garbage gets dumped.

By the end of the first day I found myself deep in thought and thoroughly impressed with this group. Despite the lack of sleep, everyone maintained a positive attitude and seemed eager to dive in to the adventure. Now it’s day five. We’ve ventured into Antigua, started our work teams and gotten a chance to get acquainted with our homestay families. We also visited Segunda Cruz, a small town where GV built a school five years ago, where we met with local families and teachers and saw some of the end results of other trips.

I’ve been in awe of how much leadership I’ve seen in this group. When I ask for volunteers there are always more than enough to complete the task. They work together and no one complains, even when the rain soaks through their ponchos. Yesterday when we visited the Mayan Cultural Arts Center four students chose to translate during the presentation. They even worked out a rotation so that they were able to distribute the job evenly. It’s been amazing, but don’t take my word for it.

Here is a bit more about the experience from the eyes of the participants as recorded in their Leader of the Day Journals:

“It didn’t really hit me that we were going to Guatemala until we were on the bus in Guatemala. Other people were getting excited at the Seattle Airport. Guatemala is so beautiful. Everything is so different. The rain reminds me of Seattle. The bus ride to our homestays was very fun. We danced for a while. The town seems so small and packed in.”

“Our homestay is also very beautiful.  You walk through a black garage like door into a courtyard.  All the rooms are off the courtyard. They have so little compared to Americans,but they have all they need. Spanish is the hard part. There are so many words. I don’t know. I want to get better and I know I will.”

“Attempting to lead a rowdy group of 40 teenagers is pretty hectic. Especially after they’ve experienced a 4 hour red eye flight from Seattle to Houston. It takes a lot to be a leader. I definitely found myself struggling multiple times.”

“Our host family is the cutest, nicest family I’ve ever met! Regardless of the language barrier for me, I found little problem falling in love with the three little gris, Daniela, Andrea, and Fatimal.  Their obsession with Dora, Disney Princesses, and iCarly is the most adorable thing in the world! I love my family so far.  Overall, it was a good first day! I’m excited for the rest of the trip!”

“The next most exciting thing was the ride up the mountain in the pick-ups. I was so impressed we only had one pick up get stuck because we were  driving around mini canyons in the ground. The bumpiness however did not detract from the gorgeous view. When we got high enough we could see the tops of the surrounding hills which hosted beautiful farmland (corn I think), a small glassy lake, and trees that looked like palm trees. Now finally, onto the highlight of the day: The families and the school. I have so much respect for everyone involved in building and running the school ‘la escuela’, but despite the gratitude of all of these people for the GV students, I didn’t feel like all my fundraising efforts was connected at all until we were personally welcomed into our family’s home. It broke my heart when our father kept reiterating that he did no have much to give: ‘I don’t even have chairs for you to sit on.” My heart was screaming that’s not the important thing. The family had offered their hospitality and shown us the strength of their character, so what more could we ask for. There were 8 people in our family living in 1 small room. It was awkward, but when a few of us explained that only 2-4 people lived in our houses. I was sad the mother didn’t talk at all and I still wonder why.  She said a few words when I shook her small hand, but I mean I wanted to know her story. It touched my heart and re-opened my eyes when  I saw how hungrily  the family ate and drank. I wonder how often they get to eat.”

“I really enjoyed the Mayan Cultural Arts Center today. This really helped me learn more about Guatemala as a whole. Yesterday I saw some of the economical problems Guatemalans face and today I saw some of the political problems Guatemalans, especially Mayan’s face.  Discrimination is one the world’s worst traits. It has brought down many cultures all around the world. And even though in some places things are being done to stop it, it is still growing. I can’t help but think about why people feel the need to put others or things that are different down. It saddens me to know that so many people feel the need to do this all over the  world. I t sometimes feels like all the effort put into it is pointless. Why not use the energy taken to put someone or something down to do something nice for others.  This has all taught me to not discriminate against others based on appearance and difference. I can only control my words and hopefully others will do the same.”

“On the other hand I really enjoyed the wedding and shopping. It was great to learn more about the Mayan Culture. I think it is great that they are trying hard to protect and keep their culture. Although the rain sucked, I really enjoyed walking to the church and seeing what it was like. The church was really beautiful.”

If you would like to see pictures and videos from the trip, I will be attempting to upload them to the GV blog. Please be patient, as the internet connection here doesn’t always have the bandwidth to support large uploads. Take care.


PS. Thanks to the parents who wrote with birthday reminders…there will be cake and singing and all sorts of lovely silliness!

Return to Homepage