Coming into this experience I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or what it would entail, but I feel as though I’m starting to catch on more. Working in the hospital again this year has been incredible. To be honest, I feel as though it has almost been a bit harder this year. For the first two days that we spent in the hospital, I found myself leaving with a sense of panic. I kept on feeling as though I had no time to spend with the patients and the friends I had created last year and also make time to create new connections. Last year I left here with the idea of applying to Youth Board, which provided me with the small sense of hope that I might return. This year, though, I realize that it would be very difficult, if even possible, to return in the coming years and visit my friends in the hospital, which is a terrifying and sad thought.
Things have been really great though overall and I’m still a bit overwhelmed and astonished that I’m actually back here. Leading is definitely more exhausting than I could ever have imagined. I feel like the Junior Leaders have many behind the scenes responsibilities, which are difficult to notice from the outside, so I don’t have a perfect image to replicate. Many of the responsibilities and tasks we have are fairly simple and would be quickly accomplished by one person, but in the effort to foster teamwork, we delegate different parts of the job to different people. It is very important and provides the participants with an opportunity to practice their leadership skills. It is just a much more tiring process when you have to delegate, check in, confirm that the job was completed, and reflect for each individual task. It absolutely pays off, though, when you see someone that was once shy and timid share, open up to the group, and blossom in the work they are doing and people they are interacting with. It really is incredible. I can’t wait to see how other develop as well.
-Naomi Rothenberg (Mercer Island High School Class of 2016, incoming first year student at Willamette University)
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!
By Marita Phelps, Global Visionaries Program Manager
On a typical morning, like today in San Miguel Escobar, one would hear various types of birds singing among rooster crowings, firework explosions here and there celebrating birthdays, and the cathedral bells that fill the town each hour of the day. Mostly cloudy, the sun will shine for several hours and heavy rain has been normal in the late afternoons and evenings. Today the group visited the Maya ruins at Iximche in Tecpan which was a change of pace and scenery from the work week. Usually, students will go to their prospecive work sites in the mornings, have a siesta or break at home with their families in the afternoon, go to school and then come together as a whole with the group for salsa or reflection.
There were many breakthroughs throughout the work week. One of the most popular was “the language barrier.” Most students soon found language was not a barrier at all, especially with the help of their teachers at school. One student said:
“It was very validating to have a two hour conversation with a native speaker and I immediately felt so comfortable, as my many language barrier worries floated away.”
Students have shown positive leadership by becoming quickly immersed into the culture, stepping out of their comfort zones and making an effort to connect with Guatemalans regardless of how much spanish they previously knew.
Many students are working harder than they ever have in their lives, especially since more than half of the students are doing physical labor. Working at these sites gives the students a chance to see how most of the world makes a living as well as the strength and resilience it takes to get through day after day. In order for youth to properly lead the world towards a just and sustainable future it helps for them to experience global injustices first! Working with the Chapines, or the Guatemalan student counterparts, is one of the most important parts of the cultural immersion experience. This is one of the many ways the US students, or gringos, learn how to work side by side with other youth to seek alternative and innovative approaches to the problems facing their generation. A student from the reforestation team said:
“It was pretty satisfying to hear that we had planted over 300 trees, and not one complaint while doing so, I was really proud of everybody on the reforestation team for several reasons. One of these reasons was that nobody complained about the very long and steep hike to the worksite, and everyone volunteered to carry something. I was also really proud of our workteam because when I looked around there were gringos working with chapines. There weren’t two separate groups. Everyone was working and talking together.”
We have had several reflections thus far and there are several more to come. In the first reflection, which happened in workteams, it was obvious that there was a lot on everyone’s mind but perhaps not enough words to articulate those thoughts and feelings. Although reluctant, some shared and others just listened deeply nodding in agreeance at their peers experience. By the first large group reflection, more than half of the particpants offered their insight about their time in Guatemala. A mixed bag of emotions like sadness, appreciation, anger, and empathy, caused many of them to cry. Some admitted that they had never before been so introspective or emotionally intelligent as they have been here and now. A hospital student said:
“After everyday here I grow more homesick because being here makes me so appreciative of what I have at home. And I wish I could see my mom and daddy to tell them exactly how thankful I am for everything they’ve done and sacrificed simply so can have the best life and the endless opportunities I have now.”
As we reach the end of our time here in Guatemala, the vast inner growth of each student leader shines outwardly and yet there is still much to gain and growth to witness even in the last days.
I am so inspired by the words of Samrawit Zeinu, a senior at Chief Sealth International High School, who has grown through Global Visionaries for three years.
I am asking you to read about her GV experience in her own words and then partner with us to empower another young leader like Samrawit today by making a gift – whether it is $10 or $100 – to empower a young person today.
Through the hospital volunteer work I did, I learned that material wealth is not important. It is who I am and what my beliefs are that are important. Before GV, I didn’t have confidence. When I faced problems, I kept to myself. After GV, not only did I have more confidence in myself but I am also more assertive. I am more open to feedback and I am able to speak about how I feel. I learned that the way issues turn out depend on my reactions to them. That made me want to change how I reacted to things.
GV changed my outlook on the world – how I perceive things should be. It hit me at my core.
It has been three years since I completed the [First Year GV Leadership Program] but the values I learned are still strong inside of me. If I catch myself complaining, I remember my brothers and sisters in Ethiopia and my friends in Guatemala don’t have enough. I now hold myself accountable. Before when I thought about home, Ethiopia, I thought of my family. Now, when I think of my country, I think of its problems on a global scale. As a matter of fact, I think about countries all around the world. GV has made me want to contribute to the country that has made me the person I am. I intend to become a cardiovascular surgeon with Doctors Without Borders. I want to give those countries the voice they deserve.
Global Visionaries, much more than just another cultural immersion program, provides the educational and leadership platform enabling youth to develop the necessary skills to change their own habits and to transform their local and global communities through social entrepreneurship. Please give online now or mail a check to:
Global Visionaries 2524 16th Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98144
I am so grateful for your continued support. I wish you and your family a joyful 2013.
p.s. you can also see Samrawit’s full speech on video
Christopher Fontana, Executive Director
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.
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.
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.
Day 9 has begun with a welcome respite from the rain. There will be sun this morning, time to dry the laundry that the students have learned to wash by hand, a chance to for the clouds to shift enough to reveal the tops of the tree covered volcanoes that surround San Miguel.
Our last few days have brought a lot of rain and dirty clothes. The kids are tired, but mostly healthy and cheerful. Yesterday was the Dia del Ejercito (Military Day), a national holiday, which meant there were as many bells ringing from the steeples of Catholic churches as there were fireworks exploding like cannons leaving tiny flashes of light in their wake. In the morning we all went to our work teams. I am working with the Hospital team this trip, so my group and I set off towards Antigua where we met up with our Guatemalan counterparts and played a few games before going to visit the patients.
The Hospital is a large, confusing building of white wall, garden courtyards and long hallways filled with people waiting to see doctors, to pick up medicine, or to visit sick relatives. We made our way past the two long rows of wooden benches and white plastic chairs filled with people waiting to check in. Beyond this things got quieter because where we work is the part of the Hospital where most people don’t leave.
There are several different wards where patients are separated into age groups. We visit them all. Only two volunteers are allowed to visit the babies, some of whom are here waiting for corrective surgeries on cleft palates or other various physical deformities. The babies are the ones most likely to go home, but the older patients, the teenage boys and girls with Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome, or other physical conditions that might garner them the label ‘disabled’ will most likely spend their lives inside those walls. The older men and women are also permanent residence, most without families, or with families who rarely visit.
The students pair off, one gringo and one chapin and make their way to the various wards armed with coloring books, crayons, fingernail polish and sometimes bubbles. We greet everyone we see with handshakes or kisses, ask them how their day is going, or if they aren’t able to speak sometimes we simply sit with them and hold their hands. Going to the hospital has been one of my biggest challenges as a leader, but it has also been an amazing opportunity to see the deep kindness and compassion held by these GV students.
We aren’t mixing cement, digging trenches or cutting rebar like the kids on the Construction work team, nor have we been hiking up hills and digging holes like the kids on the Reforestation work team. Our successes are harder to measure when compared to seeing 500 trees planted in one week or watching the walls of a new school rise up from the dust, but the Hospital work team can definitely claim they’ve made a difference. With every smile, with every kind word, the students have given a little piece of themselves and the patients are so very grateful for even those few moments of connection with someone who cares enough to touch their hand.
After work teams, students went home to their host family’s houses for lunch. Then we returned as a whole group to Antigua for language lessons at La Union. After school, since it was raining pretty steadily, we came back to San Miguel to the meeting hall (where my host sister will be married this February and where my host grandparents will celebrate their 50th anniversary) to have our first large group discussion. Once again I found myself in awe of just how much these kids are willing to share with one another and how amazingly transformative this trip can be. Here are some excerpts from their “leader of the day” journals:
“Meeting all the patients in the hospital was very bittersweet. I felt mixed emotions greeting each one-trying to refrain from feeling pity or sorrow and focusing on what made me smile. And boy could these faces make me smile. My initial shock of what I saw-from paralysis, cerebral palsy, muted tongues to simple and devastating abandonment-quickly washed away as I began to learn how capable some of these patients were. I worked with a man who could not use his hands, but like to color. So I would ask him which color to use for the “nariz”, “las manos” and “la cabeza”, and went to work transferring his creativity. For those who were even less physically able, I quickly noticed how incredible they were at conveying emotion. This one older woman couldn’t speak, but if you held her hand, she lit up like the sky on the 4th of July. I was also tremendously impressed by our group’s initiative today. We all just dove into meet and greets, following the lead of the chapines, showing our bravery and creativity.”
“Today we went to the construction site in Santiago Zamora. On the way there each gringo had to sit next to a chapin. During the ride Chris and Billy would ask us some questions to start the conversations. As I looked around the bus I noticed all of the gringos were talking and it seemed like they were enjoying talking to the chapines. When we got there we split into groups and did different jobs, such as twisting wire around rebar and making cement to fill in a ditch. It was really good to see the gringos and the chapines working together and the gringos were practicing their Spanish. Today I was put in the group that was making cement, which is the hardest task. It was labor intensive and since I am a smaller girl who doesn’t exercise a lot it was very tiring. For leader of the day prep we talked about leading by example. I knew that if I worked hard as this tiny girl that others would think ‘I can do this job too’.”
“Wow, today was an amazing day. Where do I start? We woke up and started on breakfast. This was the first actual meal GV had together. My hair looked crazy so I asked Sam to braid it. Sam and I haven’t really ever spoken, but she was so excited to braid my hair. I can honestly say it was our first connection. When she was done, my hair looked great and Sam received a lot of compliments. She’s usually really shy and timid, but all the praise brought out the best of her. When we arrived at the Maya Art Center, I received the honor of being the translator from the Mayan women to my GV companions. It was truly an honor because I was able to translate all the Mayan cultural info like the meaning of the attire, the thought behind patterns in clothing, how their customs are fading today, and how beautiful Mayan ceremonies are. As I looked around the room, everyone’s eyes were huge and focused on what the Mayan women were explaining. It was incredible to watch so many youth involved in someone else’s culture. They wore expressions that said ‘wow, that’s amazing’ and ‘oh my God, why don’t Americans do that?’ and even ‘when is this going to be over so we can shop for souvenirs?!?’. Whatever their thoughts, a group of high school students were absorbing the knowledge they would one day need to change the world. I’m blessed to say I was a part of that.”
“Well today was the first day of both work and school. I think that actually having to get down and dirty and sacrifice all sense of self-preservation when we were digging holes made a huge impact on everyone’s attitude and views of the trip. I was so impressed to see my whole work team trying to talk to and learn the names of the chapines, not just on the hike (that everyone, including the leaders, completely rallied for) or enduring the break, but as we were working I saw so many people go and choose a place to dig that was much closer to a chapin rather than a spot closer to a gringo. It is such a huge relief to see every person embracing exactly what this trip is supposed to be about. Our boundaries and barriers are crumbling faster than the roads here do-and based on our hike, that’s saying something. Everyone is trying so hard to speak Spanish, even the people who don’t know any. I’ve been trying so hard that even when I’m allowed to speak English, I slip into Spanglish. My thoughts are even in Spanglish.”
Our internet connection has not been able to support uploading videos, but I will try to send some pictures to the blog soon. Take
The 2011 Spring Trip students are participating in their annual Supply Drive and they need your help!
They are gathering medical, school and office supplies to take with them to Guatemala to give to local schools, hospitals and organizations. It is a great way for Global Visionaries to “share the wealth” with our partners in Guatemala who have fewer resources than we do.
If you would like to donate items toward this cause, please give GV Program Manager Reagan Jackson a phone call at (206) 322-9448 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline to donate items is March 31, 2011. Don’t miss out!
All the items we gather will go to the Global Visionaries office in Antigua, Escuela Cerro de Niño, Escuela Segunda Cruz, hospitals in Antigua, and other organizations, clinics, and schools.
What Can I Donate?
If it’s hygienic, can be used in a school, hospital, or office, we’ll take it! For more detailed information, please refer to the Common Hope website for specifics.
12-pack colored pencils
IMPORTANT: No notebooks, paper, or folders!
Teacher Supplies and Classroom Incentives
White board markers
Small craft kits
Children’s books in Spanish
Small incentive items like stickers and bouncy balls
Hygiene and Personal Items
Bars of soap
Be on the lookout for the Summer Trip Supply Drive this June.
Enabling young people to become global leaders, creating a just and sustainable future.