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!