Tag Archives: construction

GV Alumni Voices: Haley Robinson

Haley Robinson, a former Global Visionaries participant, will be returning to Guatemala this week as a Junior Leader for the 2013-14 Summer Program and will be documenting her experience through photos and blog posts.


Ian: So, its been a couple of years since your own student experience in Guatemala. At what point did you decide to go back?

Haley: I decided I wanted to go back was after having a conversation with Chris Fontana earlier this year when I was looking for summer opportunities. My parents suggested that I look into volunteering with GV this summer so, after much deliberation surrounding other jobs, I decided that I wanted to devote my time to GV. Chris offered me the opportunity to travel as a trip leader, and that was the point at which I decided I wanted to go back.


Was it mostly the travel that appealed to you?

The ability to travel was definitely part of it. But, for the most part, I wanted the experience to work and travel as a Junior Leader. I have the privilege of working alongside Chris Fontana, Mario Flores, and others who are incredibly skilled at what they do. Growing as an individual and a leader in an environment like the one GV fosters is an opportunity I didn’t want to take for granted.


How do you think integrating into Guatemalan culture will be different now compared to last time?

I now have more experience travelling. The last time I visited Guatemala, I was a sophomore in high school; now I’m going into my sophomore year of college. I’ve travelled pretty extensively in that period and I think I now have more of an ability to assimilate into different cultures and groups of people. It seems more natural for me now, whereas when I was younger it was more uncomfortable.


So you think the personal connections will be more impactful for you this time?

Exactly! I think last time I was able to make strong connections with my group members, but language barriers distanced me from delving into personal connections with Guatemalans. Now, as I return, my Spanish has improved and I feel more comfortable creating those closer relationships with local people.


What will be different coming in as a Junior Leader rather than a student?

I think it will be a completely different experience, and I’ll be able to see Guatemala through a completely different lens. For almost two months now I have been working closely with the GV staff and so I will be returning with a different perspective of GV, its work, and the logistics of the programs.


What do you think is important to impart onto the students you’ll be leading?

It’s been interesting to see how my life has been affected by this program and I want to see the same transformational change in the students. I don’t necessarily know how I want to approach providing them with that experience yet, but it’s something I’ll be working on day by day—I just want to be a support for them, and listen—that’s the most important part of my job.


What will be most difficult about leading?

Being able to embrace the style of GV leadership is going to be a challenge for me since I’m so comfortable in my own ways of leading. I suppose being able to fully understand the program, being able to impart that on the students, and sharing with them the foundation of Global Visionaries is going to be a rewarding challenge for me. I want to give them a very full and unforgettable experience.


Which people are you most excited to revisit?

Well, I actually planned a dinner with my original host family, so I’m looking forward to seeing them again. I’m also excited to reconnect with Sandra, Billy, Aurelio, and others from the Guatemalan team. Now as a Junior Leader, I’m looking forward to creating deeper personal and professional connections with them.


What do you think, besides the physical work that you’re doing, you’ll leave the Guatemalans with after you go?

I think once I get a sense of the community and how much it’s evolved since I was last there, I’ll be able to better tell. Times have changed since I was last there, technologically and otherwise, and I’m interested to see the advancements that their society has made. As far as what I’m gonna leave them with, I really can’t say at the moment. I think that will come with time.


Follow Haley’s adventures on the GV blog – https://gvisionaries.wordpress.com – enjoy regular updates featuring photos and writing documenting the 2014 Summer experience and more!


Open House!

Screen shot 2013-08-08 at 4.10.55 PM

Join us for an evening of celebration and fun!

GV has acquired additional office space in our current building that is being transformed into a community space for next year’s youth and our alums. This previously tired pre-school classroom will convert into an inviting place for youth and parents to gather for retreats, culture nights, youth board meetings, orientations, and more.

We are also launching a new gourmet coffee line in partnership with Kuma Coffee. Proceeds go to Global Visionaries youth who are fundraising for a cultural immersion experience in Guatemala. Kuma Coffee is sourced via direct trade from small farmers in Antigua, Guatemala.

Stop by anytime and check out our new space on August 27, Tuesday to taste some gourmet coffee, view photo exhibitions, enjoy snacks, and meet our awesome staff!

We hope to see you there!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

5:30 – 8:30 p.m.

2524 16th Ave S, room 206
Seattle, WA 98144

Register here

Words from Youth: Stepping Out of my Comfort Zone

By Ellie, 16 from Nathan Hale High School

June 30, 2013

Saying adios to my family, friends, house, phone, make-up, clothes, etc. was not exactly comfortable. Going to a foreign country where people speak a language I hardly understand was uncomfortable. Interacting with the people from GV and all the people who live in Guatemala was extremely uncomfortable. Luckily, being uncomfortable has pushed me to experience, learn and grow in more ways than I realized possible.

For starters, living in a house full of strangers with a roommate I barely knew was terribly awkward. I’m sure all the participants could back me up. However, after many silent pauses and “lo siento, no entiendo”‘s (sorry, I don’t understand)’s I feel extremely close to my family here. I forced myself to initiate conversation or any sort of interaction. It was almost always uncomfortable. I’m so glad I did.

At this point in the trip, I, like many other participants, have a special connection with the families here in San Miguel. I have learned so much about love, hard work, and kindness through my family’s sweet example and constant smiles. I’ll be forever grateful to have consistently chosen to get to know them, even when it was difficult.

On a different note, it has been beyond rewarding to see our work on construction actually paying off. The three classrooms we have focused on have grown from about waist-level to almost ceiling height. The tedious cinderblock laying, prominent farmers tan, strenuous cement mixing and concrete-covered clothes have most certainly been worth it.

What’s made our work extra meaningful is the opportunity it has given us to work with the Guatemalan teens, the Chapines. They are now intertwined into our GV family like they have been there all along. On Friday, numerous water fights and inside jokes passed between us. The insanity has increased as our comfort levels with one another rose.

I love that even with a gigantic language barrier and so many differences, I feel the Chapines are now my amigos. Our differences have allowed us to learn from each other’s cultures. It was strange at first, but it totally paid off. This was evident in our excursion to Iximche (Mayan Ruins) on Saturday. Sitting “gringo/chapin” felt totally normal after a week of being together. Many photos, games and laughs were shared together while visiting the Ruins. I was happy to share that experience with my new friends!

Thinking back to culture night numero uno (#1), I remember being very, very uncomfortable. Our group has come a long way since then. Making friends and getting to know my group has been exciting and difficult at the same time. However, today we were all together, sitting on the floor giggling and enjoying watching our fellow participants act out a traditional Mayan wedding ritual. We shopped together and afterwards ate the traditional Guatemalan dish, Pepian.

I couldn’t help but feel grateful for each and every one of them. They have been the ones all year inspiring me and helping me step out of my comfort zone. We have learned and experienced some more unsettling things here in Guatemala as well. I’m glad to have learned what global leadership looks like together. I learn more and more every day and it inspires me to do better. Personally, I’m bummed about returning to Seattle in a few short days. But when we do I can’t wait to start actually doing something. I’m ready to start affecting positive change in the world, whatever that looks like.

I’m extremely thankful my “uncomfortables” have become my new “comfortable.” Feeling comfortable here in many ways has helped me realize what changes need to be made in the work. I’m ready to see where this new-found perspective will take me.

Spring Trip is Right Around the Corner

Spring Trip Group
The Spring Trip participants pose for a group shot at their recent retreat at Camp Sealth.

Global Visionaries’ Spring Trip is coming up soon; April 6th to the 19th to be exact!  This trip is another way that GV accomplishes its mission of empowering future leaders through service and cultural learning.  It offers activities such as coffee farm work, construction building classrooms, working at a local hospital, and Spanish language class.  In order to fully immerse themselves in the culture, the participants will be living with local families, working alongside Guatemalan youth that are a part of GV Guatemala, and hopefully see some historical landmarks.

But this is GV, right?  So, enough about the details and let’s hear from one of our participants: one of today’s global leaders.  I asked participant Fiona Carlile who attends West Seattle High School to share with me some of her thoughts as she prepares to leave for Guatemala.

Q: What are you most excited about for the trip?

Fiona: I’m excited to build relationships with the people at the hospital and with the other people on my work team.  I want to bond with the people there even if I can’t speak Spanish.

Q: What are you nervous about?

Fiona: I’m nervous about the fact that I can’t speak Spanish.  I’m nervous I won’t be able to communicate with my host family and build relationships.

Q: How has the experience been so far?

Fiona: It’s been really good! I’m amazed I’ve really gotten to know everyone on the team and in the GV Family.  I feel a lot better about the trip now that I know everyone.

Small Spring Trip Group
Fiona, first on the left, and her fellow Spring Trip participants prepare for their experience in Guatemala.

There’s one look at what’s racing through a participant’s mind as they prepare to go on the culminating trip to Guatemala.  The changes that have already begun to take form in these young leaders and the things they have learned so far are about to be put to the test during the Spring Trip to Guatemala, and most of them cannot wait.  Let’s continue to support them in their endeavor as the trip gets closer and closer! We are planning on keeping you up to date with the participants while they’re in Guatemala so be sure to visit and bookmark the GV blog or like the GV Facebook page.

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.

Final Summer 2012 Trip Update

Saludos desde San Miguel Escobar,

Just as in the beginning everything was all about firsts: first time meeting the chapines, first time meeting homestay families, first days of language school and work, now everything is the last. Here at the GV office, two large tents cover the courtyard as we prepare for our final group reflection and our Goodbye party.

Today was our last day of work, and tonight will be our final goodbye with the Chapines. We started off with a traditional burning of fireworks to celebrate Cora’s birthday. There was laughter, water fights, and some tears, but mostly we are all just grateful to be able to enjoy the brief time we have left in Guatemala.

I look forward to seeing you at the airport. I will leave you with some further updates and reflections written by our junior leaders, Reed and Ari.

ARI: It is truly a wonder to see the changes among the individuals, and the change in the dynamic of the entire group over the course of a few short weeks here in Guatemala. I remember meeting all of them together for the first time and all I could feel was a huge amount of awkwardness between everyone. Now, it’s as though that awkwardness never existed.

I wish all of you were able to see it happen with your own eyes! But you’ll definitely see the change in your children when they get home. I remember my parents telling me that when I came back from my trip a year ago, I’d transformed from a naive teenager to a young adult with convictions. It’s not hard to believe that 2 weeks here in Guatemala could do that to a person. A lot of them will come back with a whole new perspective on everything. Some of them will want to come back to Guatemala. Some of them will tell you that they’ve made some of the best friends they’ll ever meet. A lot of them (I’m hoping) will be joining Youth Board in the next year and will become future Jr. Leaders like myself.

We’ve had so many memorable moments. From water fights on the construction site, Simon and Sean’s creation of the Fun-O-Meter ranging from Malo to Bueno to Perfecto, Angela’s guitar skills, Jenna’s singing, Torin’s handstands, and Isabella’s constant hunger, and so many other things that it would be impossible to list everything, it’s easy to say that this group has made memories to last a lifetime. I’m sure everyone misses all of you, but I can say on behalf of the whole group that they’re all having the time of there lives here.

I’m honored and have been blessed with this opportunity to be a Jr. Leader for this group. I love every single one of them!

REED (written Monday):

This morning, GV participants were given the choice of either taking the morning off to be with their families or returning to the hospital (Obras Sociales Santo Hermano Pedro) in Antigua, which all participants toured on Saturday.

Yesterday, the entire group, Guatemalan teens included, took a two-hour bus ride to the Mayan ruins of Iximche. After a short session of storytelling from several Guatemalans whose families had been marginalized by the armed conflict throughout the 20th century, students got the chance to explore the ruins, with no shortage of pictures taken.

This afternoon, the entire group will get together once again for the “Coffee Tour” – an introduction to the process of coffee farming, various recent inventions for expediting the processing of coffee, and the history and politics surrounding that five-dollar cup of Starbucks coffee we bought this morning.

The preceding week was the participants’ time to fall into the rhythm of things. Nearly every weekday began with two-and-a-half to three hours in the students’ respective work teams – the Reforestation team lugged hoes, machetes, tree saplings, and five-plus-gallon water jugs up the hillside in Cerro del Nino. The Hospital team cultivated a week’s worth of compassion in a place where a single friendly touch is a rare treat for patients, as well as preparing for the tours and reflections they facilitated on Saturday for the rest of the group. The young men and women of Construction flexed and lifted away to help raise the walls of a brand new school in Cerro del Nino, and ended the week with an all-out water fight that included an ambush on the returning Reforestation team. Afternoons at the La Union language school kept students’ language skills sharp, and brief runs to nearby bakeries kept their bellies full.

After a sufficiently relaxing weekend (and Monday,) participants will return to their very last day in work teams tomorrow. For Reforestation and Construction, this will mean perhaps the most physically exhausting day yet – for Hospital, this will likely mean a day of bittersweet goodbyes.

With three days left in the journey, the entire Global Visionaries Summer 2012 group is able to reflect on the experiences that have transformed them, the hard work that has strengthened them, the cultural education that has made them more aware of their roles as U.S. Americans, and the support from one another that has pushed all of them to discover new and unexpected leadership opportunities.

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?



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

Intensive Trip Update II: A photo gallery

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Greetings Intensive Families and GV Supporters,

I am writing you from the cafeteria at the language school while the kids get their dose of one-on-one Spanish lessons. It’s another magical trip, or at least it seems that way as I experience Guatemala with fresh-eyed participants absorbing every detail like how in the cool of the mornings the clouds seem to linger at the tops of the volcanoes so that they look like they are spitting out smoke. Each time we walk to the office, we smile and greet the passersby while taking in the beauty of the town and trying to guess where all the street dogs are running off to.

By the time we arrive to Santiago Zamora, the town where we are building a school, the mist gives way to blue skies that make the green hills dotted with small plots of tilled earth seem even more lush and vibrant.

But I digress, lots has happened since I last wrote. Sunday was our trip to the Mayan Cultural Arts center where we learned a lot more about Mayan culture. The women showed us their hand-woven fabrics, tapestries, and traditional style of dress. Though there are faster ways to weave now, these families have chosen to preserve their way of life.

Jasper and Spencer were married in a traditional wedding ceremony. Declan and Laura gave away the groom while Bjorn and Sarah provided the translation.  This was followed by dancing (Maddie led the way here), shopping, and a lesson in how to make tortillas. For lunch we had a local delicacy called pepian which is a brown, well seasoned soup with chicken and rice. Afterwards we had our first reflection and, per Alex’s suggestion, we spent a very long time playing “keep away.” Though Aurelio is the shortest member of our staff, he can also jump the highest. I am excited to have him as our secret weapon when we play the kids in basketball.

Monday was our first day with the Chapines, a group of about 20 Guatemalan teenage volunteers, who joined us for three days of construction. We first broke ground for the school in April during the Spring trip and have continued to build trip by trip. What was a fenced-in lot is now three rooms with walls made of rebar, concrete, and cinderblock, which will soon be two classrooms and a kitchen. After spending an afternoon getting to know some families in the area, participants seemed highly motivated to work hard. During the break everyone gathered in small groups of gringos and chapines to get to know one another better. We ate a snack while Brady entertained us by juggling extra oranges. We were all sweaty and covered in dust by the time the bus arrived to take us back to the office, but everyone was smiling and laughing.

After lunch with our host families, we met once more at the GV office then headed to Antigua for language school at La Union. I love La Union. Like many of the buildings in Guatemala, it is centered around a large courtyard. There are rows and rows of tables and chairs, but instead of feeling like a classroom, it’s more like a sidewalk café where people from all different countries come to learn languages one-on-one.

After class, we returned to our homestays for dinner. When I went into my room, I pulled back the covers on my bed and found a special surprise waiting for me: a giant tarantula. It turned out to be fake, but I screamed like it was real then promptly ran next door to strangle Jan. After a brief interrogation, I learned that Rebecca was to blame for the prank so I began plotting my revenge.

Tuesday we met with the Chapines once more and played a few games before getting down to the hard work of moving piles of rock, mixing cement and mortar, and adding cinderblocks to finish up the walls of each room. Then after lunch we came to school for class, followed by salsa lessons with Carmen (I took video because the whole thing was indescribably hilarious). Thomas surprised us all with his special dance moves, especially after vehemently avoiding all forms of dancing up to this point in the trip. And Claire realized that all that hip checking she does in roller derby makes her a natural at dancing merengue.

Today was our last morning of construction so we all worked extra hard. It was hot and we needed to use a hose to wet the mortar we were mixing. Somehow Rebecca and Jan found themselves on the other end of the hose. And then all too soon it was time for snack and for our goodbye speech to Don Omar, Don Ambroso, and Don Alex, the three workers who have will be continuing to build the school in our absence. We presented them with some cards, a small gift, and a speech, which Spencer gave beautifully.

Here is what the leaders of the day have had to say: “As leader of the day, I was forced to step outside my comfort zone more than usual. Things like volunteering to be toastmaster or volunteering to be dressed up in the Mayan Cultural Center were things that I would not usually do, so I feel that as leader of the day it really opened me up to trying even more experiences than before. The trip has been really eye-opening and great, and it has really been a lot of fun getting to know all the new people who I am now glad to call my friends.”

“Today we met the chapines for the first time. I was amazed at how similar teenage chapines and teenage gringos are. It seemed like even though we aren’t from the same place and our traditional culture is very different we are all just teenagers and we can all laugh together.  The chapines that I
talked to today all liked sports and went to school and had to deal with studying for tests just like I do. I noticed that when everyone was working together on the construction site everything went better and it didn’t feel like we were working really hard even though we got a lot done.”

“At school, we all met our teachers and had our first lesson. The lesson was  very different than what I imagined it to be. I think I learned more in one lesson than I learned in a month of school. The school building was an inside-outside building like many buildings in Guatemala. As a group I think we are all starting to come together and open up to each other.”

Take care,


Return to Homepage