Tag Archives: community service

Gv’s Guatemalan Staff Visits Seattle ….Maybe Your House?

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, Aurelio 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.

Aurelio Hernandez


Voices of Visionaries : Maddie

“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”



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 beMaddieing 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.

Voices of Visionaries : Brian

“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. Brian2What 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.

From Guatemala to Seattle: My Journey in Understanding Social Justice


By Simone Evans

My experience in Guatemala was unforgettable. Volunteering at the hospital, dinner conversations with my host family that lasted for hours, and coming together with my peers was a transformative experience and changed me in ways I couldn’t anticipate. When I got home, I felt very inspired by my experience in Guatemala but I didn’t know what to do with these feelings. I wasn’t sure what the impact of the immersion would be on my life.

That changed when I attended a week-long workshop at The Tyree Scott Freedom School. It is a program the focuses on educating and teaching youth about oppression within our community towards people of color. Through activities and conversations at the Freedom School, I learned about injustice and the oppression facing others. We evaluated how racism is still prevalent today in the prison system, education system, and in our community. It was mind blasting because I thought I was aware of most injustices people of color were facing, but I learned that racism is more pervasive than I’ve ever known. The school was primary African American youth, but there were people of other ethnicities there as well. We did a power shuffle where they asked questions about our home life, and experiences we’ve faced in the world. Some questions like  “Do your parents own a house?” took you a step forward; other questions like “Were you surrounded by drugs?” took you a step back. By the end of the power shuffle, I was shocked. I am mixed race and I found myself in the middle of the spectrum, all of the Caucasian people were in the front, and most darker-skinned individuals were in the back. That was when the reality of our world hit me. I’ve always felt sympathy and empathy for others but now I understand oppression and struggle on a deeper level. I am more aware of the suffering of humankind; I now see innocent people are dying day by day, in situations similar to our fictional gruesome movies. Now, I am able to put myself in other people’s shoes and try to feel what others might be feeling as the result of oppression. Fighting oppression is something that has become very important to me, and I don’t think I would’ve ever felt this passionate without experiencing or seeing these things first hand.

I have continued to pursue this passion for social justice as a member of the Pro Justice team on the Youth Board. We are working to identify oppression issues in our everyday lives and learning how to address them. Our goal is our title, Pro Justice: to create a world where we all live equal amongst one another. A world where we aren’t judged by the way we were born. We are creating awareness, and although people may say, “you can’t change the world,” by every person we inspire, that’s one more person on the side of equality, one more person to spread the word. These experiences helped me realize the life I truly want to live, and the people that I want to live it with me. My experience with Global Visionaries and the Freedom School opened these doors for me and for that, I cannot thank them enough.

Youth Designing for Good: Bringing Design Thinking to Community Development


By Bess Nuland

This December, Maggie Chumbley, a global and community educator, joined the Environmental Justice Team for a Tuesday evening meeting to discuss how to incorporate “design thinking” and “prototyping” principles into community mobilization projects. The Environmental Justice team has been exploring meaningful ways to incorporate local voices and support community action in addressing conservation and sustainability issues in the Seattle area. With Ms. Chumbley’s facilitation, the Environmental Justice team learned to employ tools to collect information and cultivate relationships that will help them identify community needs and design service programs that galvanize the community around environmental justice topics.

Ms. Chumbley explains the process and importance of design thinking as follows:

When creating community projects and support youth to create their own projects, it helps to orient our thinking towards process over product.  Instead of encouraging them to find just one great idea, the youth learn the tools, habits of mind, and a process that allows them to engage with the communities they hope to serve way that truly meets the needs of those communities. This means instead of asking, “What shall we do?” they ask, “What might need to happen?” Two of the most powerful skills these eager youth leave with are also two of the most important core values of design thinking: empathy and prototyping. They learn, through the design thinking process that it takes multiple interviews, meetings, observations, good questions, photos, videos, and visits to begin to grasp what is happening and what might need to happen to be in true service in their communities. Empathy is paramount, as it supports subsequent process of prototyping. Guiding youth to try out several of their ideas in several situations in order to learn more about what might work best and then design for it is the heart of prototyping. And the best part is, it completely eliminates the pressure to get it “right” the first time.”

In the New Year, the Environmental Justice team will be employing these new tools to explore expanding composting programs in schools and promoting community gardens.

Mark Your Calendars: Third Annual GV Founders Club Event, September 29th!

Third Annual Global Visionaries Founders Club Event

Pitch in to support low-income and underserved youth!

At the home of Heide and Matthew Felton
300 Ward Street
Seattle, WA 98109

Saturday, September 29, 2012
6:30  – 8:30 PM

RSVP: chrisfontana@global-visionaries.org

“Meet Today’s Global Leaders”

Come experience an extraordinary interactive evening and presentation.
Find out how you can support the network our youth leaders are building in the Americas
and why these youth are not the leaders of tomorrow, but of today.

Included in our special evening:

  •           Networking
  •           Hors d’oeuvres
  •           Beer & Wine
  •           Valet Parking

Our youth leaders will host all aspects of this evening’s program including:

  •           Inspiring testimonials of how Guatemalan and U.S. youth are impacting our communities
  •           Activities uniting youth hosts & guests to explore how to create a just & sustainable future
  •           A short address by Chris Fontana , Global Visionaries co-founder & executive director
  •           An exciting new 3-minute video
  •           Questions & Answers

To a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail

Co-Authored by Chris Fontana, Executive Director.

Peter Bloomquist, one of our Northwest gems and one man think tank, teaches a course on Global Leadership at Seattle University (among many other exceptional activities that forward the education of global leaders, both young and seasoned. Peter asked me to visit his class as a guest speaker. In preparation for my lecture, he had me read a few of the articles from the curriculum. In one article, I stumbled upon one of the great mistakes that international development organizations make. GV fell right into that bucket. Do you know the expression: “to a hammer, everything looks like a nail?”

Since 2004, GV has built 19 classrooms and planted over 18,000 trees in Guatemala. When GV Guatemalan staff interview community leaders on the needs of the community, they have prefaced their comments with: GV works in reforestation and school construction. What does your community need?

Of course, you know how we were answered (we need reforestation and school rooms). And so it was in 2011 that GV changed its approach to community development and collaboration. Today, GV enters into a longer dialogue and inquiry with community members and committees as well as elected officials to find out what the most pressing needs of the community are.

The community told Aurelio Hernandez, GV’s Country Director, that the classrooms were the most important unfulfilled need at the time. However, the classrooms were built on land that was previously used to accommodate important community gatherings.

In Spring of 2012, GV began working once again with the city of Pastores in the Cerro del Niño  area that many hundreds of GV students know so well first hand. GV has worked with the community to build seven classrooms (kindergarten through 6th grade). Previously, there were no school rooms and most children did not attend school because parents did not want them risking crossing the highway to get to the closest school. Many Guatemalan children wished to attend school, and wished to help GV volunteers in any way they could.

“I was surprised how a lot of the kids wanted to help out. Anytime we went up there, there were the same kids asking to help,” said Michelle Pham, summer participant in the construction team. “One day, I was walking to fill up my water bottle, and there was a little 6-7 year old boy who asked to hold my water bottle for me while I filled it up. I was surprised how strongly he wanted to help.”

All year, GV youth leaders, both Guatemalan and U.S. Americans, have been working hard to build the two story community center which sits atop a hill that dwarfs those in our beloved Seattle.

“Working in Guatemala taught me how easy we have it and how people can work every day of their lives and still be happy taking the small things out of life,” reflected summer participant, Jacob Merkle.

In the end, we have all learned an important lesson on what it means to listen and to truly build a global community.

Summer Trip – Student and Staff Poetry

The ember in the night
By Aiden Behar
When you find darkness it seems to consume you.
What is not known that in every dark place there is light to be found.
In even the darkest spot in hell there is light existing if only a whisper it is there.
The light is awaiting to be found and become alive, but it needs you and you need it.
Many of us fail to look and so we may never find.
But know that if you look you will find and that light will forever shine.

Untitled Works:

By Torin Frost
As I write on this paper, it makes me wonder, where will the piece of paper slumber. Will it be recycled and wrote on again, what about my pen? Where will it end? When it runs out of ink in the ocean will it sink, perhaps a weapon in a bar fight, for someone with too much to drink what do you think? Just look at what we have, just to make it easier cut than in half, then divide it by ten and share half with your friend and with all these possessions, what then? Because the men and the women that are currently alive will be long gone by 3025, 1000 years long? Ha to us. But to earth it’ll seem shorter than a trip on the bus, but really have some trust only pause and think. We have so many resources and they are continuing to shrink. Because for every billion people, they’ll be a billion more and I don’t think we realize what we really have in store.

By Julia Shaw
Torrents of water
A zap of electricity
A groan of thunder
The tin rood hums its song
And now it reaches it chorus
Now the final bridge
Now its close verse
Now its lust measure
And the song is over
The rain has stopped

By Roxanne Trager
We only remember the winners
Who came in first, who has the most money
We don’t remember who tried the hardest
Or who overcame the most or who cheered the loudest
We celebrate and revere people who did horrendous things
Columbus. Andrew Jackson and despite knowing their mistakes,
We repeat them.
That’s the definition of crazy.
Doing something over and over again, expecting different results
We ignore what we know
Looking for a quick solution or just trying to pretend what’s happening isn’t
Ignorance won’t make problems go away
Sick people, hungry people, mean people
And just because your bubble hasn’t been popped Doesn’t mean the same is true for others.

By Surita Spigner
The beautiful cell
Our world is an unbalanced ecosystem
Beauty is a glorious mountain, a baby girl
Or bit a large mansion, a pretty woman
Do we stop to help grow a tree, an organization, a child
Or to expand an account, a paycheck or undeserved honors
Can we justify the reforestation of tropical region
Or instead the construction of a strip mall or highway?
Could a lawyer find the innocent innocent
Or the guilty without fault?
Yes to both
But this is not balance
Balance requires positive and negative sides
A yes and a no
An equivalent charge to the struggle global cell
One must say yes to what is right, a seed is planted.
A no to the “empeorando”
The worsening of this beauty
Which is us, our ecosystem, our cell, our mountain, child, tree our organization.
Our global vision.

By Duncan Koontz 
Global Visionaries on a global vision
Working as one for a global mission.

GV circle, shaped like the earth.
Shaping environments by moving dirt.

This is the moment of truth census
Was it, is it past, present, future tenses.

Where have I come
Where will I be

GV, I think it will change me.

Spring Trip – Student and Staff Poetry

The Day
By Maya Garfinkel 
Time is not static
It passes
In days
It can be slow,
laying in bed all day with lemon tea and a good book
buried in blankets
you can be alone or with someone at your side, perfectly silent
silence is underrated
it makes time go slowly
until you have spent the whole day in bed,
with your thoughts and your empty pot of tea
and your book finished
and an imprint of the person in your bed, long gone.
And the day is done.

It can be fast,
When seconds turn into minutes into hours into a day.
Before you can take a breath.
Walking through streets,
nothing to occupy your time but your own imagination
you can be alone, or someone can be beside you.
You can talk with strangers on park benches,
or see your brother, or sister, or parents.
There’s really no difference between talking with an old man feeding birds,
and my brother, who doesn’t like birds, or talking to strangers.
And the day is done.

I’m afraid of regrets.
Lying in my bed, without tea, or strangers, or family,
I am left to think about the day,
whether it felt fast or slow, long or short,
and no matter the hours, I unwind in my head or on my yellow analog in the kitchen,
nothing can be changed, no hugs can be given, no bitter words unsaid.
The day is done.

By Cameron Daniel- Smith
Scanning battlefield conditions…
Complete! Fear, death, and things unknown
An average day for me.
Scanning personal until…
Complete! Confuses, lonely, a need to help others
Everything seems average
Activating system…
Vocal hole online, sound sensors operating
Dual viewing windows at full capacity
Going through daily operations
I see units broken, weary, in need of fuel
Oil leaking through viewing windows
Try to look away…
The other way I see different units
Same operations but different look
I have a need to trade data
But fear kicks in…
Turn around return to base
As I lay in recharging station
I think of the title of all units
What defines us and makes us who we are
Huge un-operated machines and necessarily sentient
Or H.U.M.A.N.S.

We Be Us
By Dale Rector- Spring Traveling Teacher from Cleveland
Multi-colored, Multi-powered,
Multi-dreaded, Multi-flowered
Dreams that caress
Dreams that menace
Words that spell our minds
And then us
We will be one
Not all just fun
No one run to show that
New sun
It is coming, humming, summing
Will not accept now’s down, down
We can be us, without meanness
Without hate and fear between us
Let’s just do it,
Not sleep through it.

Untitled Works:

By Nathalie Jane
I am this piece of paper handed to me. There is so much to be written on it, but as for now, I am blank. But now is only the beginning. At the end you will see the change the markings and creases the smudges and foldings. What this piece of paper becomes at the end is what matters.

I’ve never thought that it would take a trip to Guatemala with people who once were strangers; to actually come to realize where I stand in not only my life, but also the people I am around on the daily.

By Guadalupe Reynaga
Un lugar bello
Con un pasado triste
Y con un presente corrupto
Vemos muchas sonrisas mientras
Caminamos por la calle
Pero que dolor se esconde
Detrás de esas sonrisas?

By Teisha Rogers
My experience in the world is nothing like I wish it was. In my perfect world, I would live in a perfect household, where no one screams or yells, but with the same loving family. I would also be more outgoing and not so shy all the time. I would have a realistic idea of what I would like to do for a living. In my perfect world I wouldn’t be so judgmental of myself and would learn to be more carefree and not stress or worry all the time of my future and where I will end up.

By Ismael Cortes
What is a good life?!
Having all you want?
Having the newest thing?
For me it’s been a debate.
At first I thought it was
All about having fun and
Having the newest thing.
Just living a worry-free life, but…

I learned that
Life is greed, someone
Who wants all and gives none.
But there are other types of lives.
There is a life where
You have very little
And you have all you need.
I learned that two things make up life.
All you need is family.
With that, it’s enough,
I don’t need anything else.
That love which I need to repair.
That’s all I need in my life.

By Caroline Slick
The laughs, the cries, the happiness, the tears
So much emotion
So much fear.
I see these people
With layers of wrinkles,
Each a different story to tell,
How is it possible for me to compare?
They give with nothing,
Yet they give too much.
I control your future
Whether you want me to or not.
This beautiful place has so much potential
A thriving city,
A town to remember
Yet the roads are lined with trash
Not gold or bronze or silver,
Your house is made of plastic,
A town with a dead river.
Now you may say this place is not alive
But what might surprise you,
Is all the emotion inside.
The music is lovely
The smiles are big,
The hands are dirty,
And no one cares how bad you sing.
Friendships grow quickly.

By Chris Fontana, Global Visionaries Executive Director
Fifty Strangers Come
Open to the mystery
We are home at last

Strengthening Ties: Online meeting with Guatemala staff proves productive

Over a crackling, erratic Skype connection, the Seattle GV staff conducted an open meeting with the Guatemala GV staff to share their aspirations for the future of a more unified, more cohesive Global Visionaries.

Each staff member from Guatemala, in a mix of English and Spanish, professed their dreams for the development of Global Visionaries in the context of their local communities. With conviction, all members wanted to develop and streamline a youth leadership program, not unlike the Seattle Youth Leadership Program, that recruits from their own local high schools. The leadership program they desired, would mirror the social and environmental justice curriculum administered by the Seattle Program.

Another student-centric goal would be to develop a Center for Arts and Education for high school youth to attend after school.

One of the staff members expressed that the learning center would integrate high school leadership by providing tutoring opportunities to students. The creation of this program would address the often young drop-out age among Guatemalan youth. Because they are expected to help with household duties, Guatemalan students often do not have the time or the resources they need to retain the information learned at school. The Center for Arts and Education would try to mitigate that problem by providing an environment that encourages education and stresses its importance.

The staff hopes to grow and develop professionally, as well. Sandra Ordonez, who spent six months here in the Seattle office, mentioned the need for employment opportunities for junior staff members, so that they can transition to becoming more permanent staff.

They hope to involve recent high school graduates in order to help them with certain professional skill sets, such as accounting, teaching, even plumbing! For professional development, staff members expressed need for both computer literacy and English language skills to become a stronger team that can create a bigger impact in their local communities.

Their dreams, however, are sobered with an understanding of their limitations. Staff members admitted that the culture of philanthropy, so strongly present in Seattle, simply does not exist in Guatemala. Therefore, needed resources to support their programs, such as school furniture and supplies, are very difficult to procure. Staff articulated that in order for Global Visionaries to function more strongly and more cohesively, the two offices must have an equitable access to resources and information.

Seattle and Guatemala GV staff members resolved to create stronger communication ties and to bridge the gaps experienced by the two offices, separated by a vast distance and culture. At the heart of it, both offices share a common goal of empowering youth leaders to enrich their local and global communities. As Virgina Burden once said, “Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there.” Through the continuation of these honest and consistent conversations, positive change is certain.