My name is Noel Chapman, and I am a PR and Communications intern. I introduced myself at the beginning of the year (see Greetings from New GV Intern Noel Chapman), but I wanted to talk to you all in more detail about what I am doing here.
You may have seen me or my classmates around the Global Visionaries office, out and about with Earth Corps or digging in at the Local Roots farm. We are all a part of the Humanities for Leadership Studies major at Seattle University, but what exactly does that mean and what in the world are we doing at GV?
As I said in my previous article, the Humanities for Leadership Studies (or BAHL as we call it) is a degree that studies both leadership theory and philosophy as well as practical skills that any leader should have. This major is in direct fulfillment of the last part of Seattle University’s mission: “empowering leaders for a just and humane world.” Sounds a lot like GV’s mission, “Empowering young people to become global leaders in creating a just and sustainable future,” doesn’t it?
One of the reasons why I love this major is the combination of theoretical discussion and then practical application. This has occurred in many classes that I have taken for my major requirements so far and is also seen in this internship experience. It really ensures that I am learning and remembering the information that I get in class.
During the sophomore year of the BAHL degree, we must participate in a local internship. This is obviously a time for professional development and skill building. However, our major does not just leave it at that! We take a class in tandem with our internship. Fall quarter the class was heavily informational as we learned about organizational theory and culture. During winter quarter and now spring quarter, we are doing more application than theory as we reflect in papers and present our observations to our classmates. We focus on applying the knowledge we gained fall quarter.
For those of us at GV, this has been such an incredible learning opportunity. We have and continue to delve into GV’s organizational culture and how GV really works. It has enhanced my internship experience so much! Because of the design of this educational experience, I can now say that I learned much more than those basic office skills that any intern can pick up on; I learned how to identify an underlying organizational culture and evaluate how it fits in with the every day functions of the office.
If you have any questions for me after hearing about this program, please feel free to ask (especially any interested high school students)! I’ll be around the office Wednesday afternoons; so if you’re in, say hi. I promise, interns don’t bite!
Meet Samrawit Zeinu. A recent GV alumni, a current youth board leader, a recent speaker at a Founders Club meeting and an all-around Global Visionaries enthusiast. As Samrawit prepares for college, she applied for the Gates Scholarship which included an essay she wrote centering around her time with Global Visionaries. With her permission, we decided to share her experiences and words about Global Visionaries with you, the readers. Enjoy!
Question: Discuss your involvement in and contributions to a community near your home, school or elsewhere. Please select an experience different from the one you discussed in the previous question, even if this experience also involved leadership. What did you accomplish? How did this experience influence your goals?
Answer: One of life’s greatest moments for me happens when I am giving back to my community. Through service to others, I am able to give thanks for everything I have been fortunate enough to have. No one asked my aunt to adopt me. She believed that taking me in would give me a chance to have a better life. Adopting me was no simple act and she knew she would have to take on a lot of responsibility. This act was her way of giving back to our family and community. She believed that if she could help me then one day I would be able to help my family in Ethiopia and my community there. Growing up in Ethiopia, I had the humble experience of watching compassion take place between strangers. This experience has motivated me to give back as well.
My sophomore year in high school, a youth leadership program, Global Visionaries (GV) came and presented at my school. During the presentation the concept that stood out to me was a quote that stated, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together” by Lilla Watson. I wanted to join the program because of its focus on youth empowerment, leadership opportunities and self-awareness. The program was more than just going to Guatemala and helping others; there was an equal exchange. Having lived in a third world country, I would have hated for someone to see me as a charity case and not someone who can also offer something in return. That was what made me want to be involved with the program. I have been a part of this program for the past three years. During my first year with the program I met weekly with other high school students to talk about social justice; I volunteered as an intern, and went to Guatemala.
The purpose of Global Visionaries is to have students understand their ecological foot prints and where each of us is currently standing in society through monthly meetings. I was encouraged to take on challenges to help the environment such as only taking three minute showers, not buying plastic water bottles, and recycling in my household. It is hard to adapt, but these are changes I continue to make throughout my life. Another part of the program included doing local community service. I became a GV intern to give back to the community that was teaching me so much and changing how I viewed my life. I helped with filing and organizing in the GV office and wrote thank you letters to the donors of the program.
The summer of my sophomore year I went to Guatemala with the same group of students for two weeks. I had the opportunity to volunteer in construction to help build a local school, reforestation, or in a hospital. I volunteered at the local hospital because I am interested in medicine. It was not at all what I had expected. Many of the patients permanently live in the hospital because they have been abandoned. I worked in the different wards which included, babies, young children, adult men and women and the elderly. In most cases, these patients did not have any visitors. I will never forget the smiles that were on their faces as we met them and began to do activities with them. In the young women’s ward, I met a woman named Wendy. Every day she would stand by the gate and ask the name of the person who wanted to pass through. If their name was not Wendy then she would not like it. So one day when I was passing by, I told her that my name was Wendy and in an instant, excitement overtook her. Each day that I visited her, she would talk to me about anything that was on her mind. Even though the language barrier made it difficult for us to communicate, it did not matter because we found a way to talk by drawing each other pictures. Before I left Guatemala, I confessed that Wendy was not my name and she told me that was okay because she liked my name too.
Through the hospital work team I learned that material wealth is not important. It is who I am and what my beliefs are that is important. I believe that words are not always necessary to communicate with others and it is important to not take simple interactions for granted. The hospital work team also reinforced my goal to become a part of the health care system. The hospital I volunteered in was crowded with patients awaiting a doctor. I know that I cannot cure every disease and treat every patient but I am willing to try. I just want to live my life accomplishing as much as I can.
It’s the second to last day of the trip, our last day of work and just hours before our fiesta de despedida (farewell party). I’m sitting here overwhelmed by what we’ve seen, heard and done here in Guatemala in the previous two weeks.
As I prepare to head back to Seattle I begin to imagine what I’ll take home from Guatemala (aside from handmade earrings and hundreds of digital photos). I have memories of the steep, exhausting hill we climbed each day en route to the construction site. I have mental images of the lush hillsides, the cobblestone streets in Antigua and the beautiful smiling faces of the guatemaltecos that we greeted in every passing. I’ll carry with me new relationships, stronger relationships and a greater sense of peace than I had when we left.Above all these images and memories I am leaving with the desire to research. I want to know even more about Guatemalan history and politics. How can the current President of Guatemala be responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of people? How was this former General elected by Guatemalans in 2011? This leaves me with feelings of disbelief, frustration, anger and wonder.
The most valuable and eye-opening experience has been spending time talking with my host brothers, 21 and 18, after dinner. Their wealth of knowledge about Guatemalan history and their passion to raise awareness about politics (of the past and present) are impressive and motivating. My older host brother has led large scale protests in Guatemala City, and my younger host brother won a speech contest while we were there. He spoke in the central park in Antigua about acknowledging Antigua’s true history. I am in awe that there is such little acknowledgement of the genocide and corruption that have taken place in their country. I have never personally known young adults so angry and yet genuinely convinced that change on a large scale is possible and attainable. I look forward to learning more, and I hope that they will continue to inspire youth in Guatemala and from the U.S. to learn and take action in their communities and on a global scale.
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.
Greetings from the Summer Trip. Emily and Diana are two of our traveling teachers and this has been their experience thus far. Stay tuned for pictures:
“Yeah, because, you know, YOLO”
Sitting on the plane about to leave Seatac airport last Wednesday morning I was listening in to the conversation of my two GV participant seatmates. One had been a student of mine in Spanish class at Nathan Hale the past year and the other was a Junior Leader, a participant returning in her second year to take advantage of a new leadership opportunity. As a young teacher, I usually feel pretty competent keeping up with the slang of my students, but now they had me confused.
“Yolo…?” I looked at them, waiting for an explanation.
“Yolo – you only live once!”
“Ahh, got it.”
The term was new to me, but the idea, of course, was not. “Life is short”, “Carpe diem”, certainly we’re all familiar with the idea of making the most out of life, but it’s something that I, and I think many others, still struggle with seizing, putting into practice, feeling that we are really able to live. During the past week in Guatemala, YOLO has proven to be a theme. It’s been taken to a new level for me, however, and I’ve seen the same thing happening in the student participants as well. If you only live once, we are realizing, then each moment takes on a new, grand significance. I have found myself, and the students around me, slowly feeling ourselves overcome by the grandness of each and every moment we live here, overwhelmed by the importance of giving our all, our best, our absolute presence to each minute that passes.
Typical mornings in Guatemala consist of splitting into three separate groups for a few hours of community service work alongside Guatemalan teens. One group works on reforesting a nearby area, one on the construction of a school close to the reforestation site, and the last, which I am a part of, works in a “hospital” in the center of the city of Antigua. While referred to as the “hospital” by GV participants, this institution is really a permanent home to approximately two hundred Guatemalans, children, adults, and elders, with mental and physical disabilities whose families cannot care for them. The grand majority are in wheelchairs and most cannot carry on a conversation. Many do not speak at all. Most are never visited by family or friends. Our work there is simply to spend time with these people. Time. Moments. On our first day in the hospital, as I sat holding the hand of an old woman who could not respond to my question of “¿Cómo se llama usted?” but slowly lifted her head to look into my eyes and smile, I was struck by the power of that small moment. Some days as we return from our snack break for the second part of our morning in the hospital, I’ve caught myself thinking “Oh, only 45 minutes left – how is that enough to make an impact? We need hours, days, weeks, months!” But without fail, I am reminded again and again of the enormity of the briefest of moments. I have seen heads slowly shifted, with great effort, to make eye contact. I have watched lips that seem to have spent years pursed into a frown breaking into an unexpected smile. I have heard raucous, joyful laughs exploding from the mouths of people who cannot speak and whose eyes seemed empty at first approach. I am continually overwhelmed by the power of a few minutes, even a few precious seconds.
I know the student participants are experiencing this same shift towards a more present, conscious experience of the moments in their life. Last night we had our first whole group reflection. Sitting in a “GV circle” (a powerful ring of interconnectedness arranged so that everyone can see the eyes of every other person in the circle) we shared what had most struck our hearts in our time so far in Guatemala. Over and over again, I heard students speak of wanting to give more of themselves in every moment of their work, of becoming aware that the root of happiness lies in simple moments spent with people they care about, and of feeling their worldview and attitude toward life permanently shifted. They are changing, they recognize that change, and they want to bring it back to the United States with them.
We all know life is precious, but through the work we’ve done in Guatemala, be it physically demanding or heart wrenchingly emotional, we’ve been given the opportunity to internalize the incredible power of each moment we live. We will return to Seattle with a deeper understanding of what it means to be present, an enormous gift, because, you know…YOLO.
Last night as I lay on my bed reflecting on the day, I could not believe a week had passed since arriving to Guatemala for the Global Visionaries summer 2012 trip. So much had happened in just that week. A week ago from today I felt jet lagged, irritable and I’ll admit that being surrounded by 40 teenagers all day every day with a jam packed activity schedule of activities sounded less than awesome at the moment.
I’m a Spanish teacher at Garfield high school and to anyone who teaches they can empathize with how hectic and stressful the end of the year is. I frantically tried to wrap my head around the experience that was about to come but found myself feeling anxious and unsure if this was really the best way to spend my time off, after all I had just come from devoting my time and energy for the last nine months to 150 students.
I chose to be on the reforestation team because I looked forward to the physical challenge and being out in nature. And let me say, the first day was HARD. I didn’t take into account how much the altitude would affect me, as well as just how physical the labor would be. We “gringos” paired up with the “chapines” or “Guatemaltecos” to learn about the work we would be accomplishing. After hiking up a steep hill we had to walk another 20 minutes through the lush vegetation carrying machetes, water jugs and a box with snacks for our group. I was shocked at how weak I felt. After all, I go to the gym three times a week and practice Bikram yoga once a week. I lead an “active” lifestyle by American standards. I was in awe at my new chapin friend Mich and how what took me 5 minutes to cut down, be completed in just three swings with the machete. And while I needed to take constant breaks for water and catching my breath, the chapines worked for three hours straight without any breaks.
After a few days of working closely with the chapines and feeling more confident with the tools, I felt powerful up on the hill. Looking over at all the weeds and invasive plants we cleared in just a few days is one of the most accomplishing things I have ever felt. Knowing that we are helping the farmers and working side by side with the chapines of the area is both incredibly satisfying and humbling.
But the most incredible aspect of this experience is seeing how hard every single person in our group works. Chapines and students alike are all exhausted and sore from the previous days work, but no one complains. This really helped me to get out of my self-involved funk and realize that what we are accomplishing is much bigger than me and my problems and has provided me a much needed perspective. Being surrounded by such positivity, beauty and peace has truly been therapeutic lesson I will never forget. Gracias grupo reforestacion, I am so grateful for you!
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
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.
Happiness 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?
I admit that when the day finally came, I was pretty stressed out to be herding my fourth group of eager teenagers through four airports and two sets of customs. But as the last supply drive box was loaded on top of the fancy red chicken bus, I breathed a sigh of relief. We had finally made it to Guatemala. From there, the road was more or less familiar…
I was armed with a minute by minute itinerary of everything we would do over the next 15 days as well as a map of San Miguel Escobar denoting every homestay family. Having accompanied previous groups, I felt comfortable and confident that together with the Guatemalan staff, we would be able to provide the robust, transformative experience we promised during all those school presentations and Info Nights last September.
In retrospect, I believe we were able to do just that. But as usual, things did not go exactly as I had imagined. I keep trying to find the way to articulate what was so different about this trip. I hesitate to compare it to my previous trips because though we did many of the same activities, such as visiting the dump and volunteering on our work teams, the trip (well, really the entire program) is more than its mere components, but rather something that is co-created by its participants. The Spring Program participants reflect a unique and beautiful blend of diverse personalities and experiences of individuals who’ve chosen to create something very special.
There are so many stories, so many small victories and major revelations that I find it difficult to explain. I could tell you about Sam, a kid I once thought of as shy, who ended up infecting the entire group with the YOGO (you only Guatemala once) philosophy and how this pushed everyone to try new things. I could tell you about gorging on cake and ice cream with Annie and Rita during the Antigua tour, or about how Mary-Anne always sang and led her work team in games, or how Stacey spoke so beautifully about her experience in the Hospital that I almost cried. Or I could tell you about trading poems with Devin and Nava. Or about Lupe, who was so eager to translate that she sometimes translated Spanish to Spanish or English to English. Or Steve, who makes the funniest faces ever and still can never seem to get all the way through Redemption Song on the guitar. But these are all just pieces that add up to create something greater than their sum.
Throughout the trip, the Spring participants created and re-created community. They worked hard and played harder. They drew their Chapin counterparts into the fold. They held one another accountable for participating in discussions. They passed each other Kleenex and held hands with people who were feeling homesick or overwhelmed by something they had learned or experienced. Work teams created get well soon cards for people with upset stomachs. There was an attitude of “what can I do to make this a great trip?”
Chris Fontana always says that it is each person’s responsibility to make sure that everyone else “gets it”. And that is exactly what this group did. My experience is that this was a trip filled with compassion, honesty, humility, a great deal of reflection, new found friendships, learning and fun. It was a trip that really connected me in a new way to our mission, because I returned to the States feeling more empowered and privileged to have gotten to know such a special group of people.
I came back really feeling like not only did they “get it”, but that I did too.
Saludos desde San Miguel,The last few days have been very chill. The night rains have made for great sleep. Saturday we had the coffee tour, where my work team was able to talk about what they’d learned about the process of growing, harvesting and selling coffee. Then in the afternoon we shared an excellent group reflection followed by some gorgeous poetry which I hope will become a part of the first ever GV poetry anthology. We have a few sick kids, there is a cold going around and of course some stomach issues, but nothing serious that can’t be cured by sleep and plain rice. Sunday the group went to the ruins of Iximche everyone seems in good spirits.
As you know, each year a few students from Youth Board are selected to become junior leaders. They attend some culture nights and the retreat and they work with Mary Dalton and myself to learn about what GV leadership requires. Then they accompany us on the trip as facilitators. This trip I am privileged to be working with Erica, Emma, and Lena. I’ve asked them each to write a little something so you could see the trip through their eyes:
Emma: I first traveled to Guatemala with GV three years ago, when I was a freshman in high school. When I first found out that I would be returning this year as a student leader, I was overwhelmed with excitement and nervousness; the only way I knew how to organize my emotions was to treat this year’s trip as an experiment. Like any good lab test, I had controlled and manipulated variables (I chose to again work on the Café work team, but I was three years older), a guiding question (“How will I respond to the exact same information for a second time?”), and what I believed was a firmly cemented hypothesis (“I will respond the exact same way, possibly/probably more mildly than before.”) Although I was thrilled for the backbreaking farm work, longed to expand my Spanish knowledge, and yearned for the self-transformation I had undergone three years earlier, I generally expected that this trip wouldn’t force me out of a well-groomed comfort zone for a second time. In fact, I was confident that I’d already broken any such zone.
Immediately upon our arrival in Guatemala, I knew I had been naïve and self-absorbed in my theories about this trip. It wasn’t at all easy to herd the group from gate to baggage claim to bus, actions that only required clear directions. I suddenly found myself unsure of how to balance being a friend and an enforcer, nervous around the group and fumbling with my directions. This was going to be so much harder than I thought.
More than my internal, melodramatic “action!” campaigns about local farming and innate imperialism, I’ve learned so much from this group of participants. I never thought I’d be softly encouraging rather than yelling at people to get work done. I never thought I’d receive a piece of information I didn’t question and criticize. This group is never cynical, never overly heady about everything they’re learning – they stay positive and upbeat; at the core they’re just an extraordinarily caring, inclusive group. I feel so honored to have worked with all of them, especially those on my work team, shout out to Café, for being so happy while working so hard. I had always thought the two were mutually exclusive.
In sum, I can’t believe how wrong I was two weeks ago when I assumed this trip would affect me the same way it did last time. And in wondering why my hypothesis was so far off, I’ve found that I conveniently left the people out of the equation. Somehow I overlooked that by being with different people, I’d learn something beautiful and new from each of them. I have been so, so shaken by this experience-by the language, the information, the work, the Guatemalan people, by yes, the food, but mostly by the kids-and I am infinitely lucky to have travelled this spring with GV. This time, I’m not dreading returning home because “my parents aren’t as nice as my homestay family,” or “my friends won’t understand.” This time I’m empowered to return more patient and focused on the love I need to repair.
Erica: I was so ready to just to go back to Guatemala. When I found out that I was going back in September, I was looking forward to it and would think about it almost every single day. My responsibility as a Junior Leader was nothing like I imagined it to be. I thought I would just be another facilitator of the group and have the privilege of experiencing that same things that I got to experience last year as a participant. But little did I know this trip would become another great growing experience for me.
I find myself being shaped by the whole experience once again, though in ways that I didn’t expect. On my first day in the hospital, I was scared because the last time we went to the hospital I cried my eyes out. It was so hard for me, but as a leader I knew had to be brave in order to help my group do their best. So I encouraged them to take risks and I let go of my own fear so that they would let go of theirs and soon we were all working with patients and it just felt so good to know I helped create their positive experiences.
By the participants that I’ve witnessed grow, the chapines I’ve connected with, the staff I’ve gotten closer to and just being moved by the simple things here in Guatemala. Knowing my potential as a participant and just being able to lead this year has given me more that I could have ever expected. Not only has working in the hospital stretched my comfort zone once again, leading the participants, both the gringos and the chapines has allowed me to learn more about myself and allowed me to blossom in so many other ways. I love being able to plead them and mentor them and know that they are going to be the ones that will make our community and even this world a better place. I absolutely love it here.
Especially with it being my senior year, it’s nice to be reminded of how much I’ve grown because of being a part of GV. GV has had such a great influence in my life and I know for a fact I would not be the young empowered passionate woman I am today. Going to Guatemala once more has not only reminded me that this once in a lifetime experience is worth so much, but it has also allowed me to rediscover myself once again and is the center of my inspiration to step up and leave a positive mark in this world.
Lena: As excited as I was to return to Guatemala, the place where I had experienced the 15 most fun and meaningful days of my life, I could not ignore the nerves I was feeling before the trip. Even the first night in Guatemala, after a stressful travel day, I went to bed nervous for the weeks ahead. I felt so much pressure to exceed the expectations of the adult leaders and to make this a smooth, enjoyable experience for everyone. Yet I was not sure how to accomplish this. After the first full day, however, my worried had been put to rest, and I felt infinitely more confident and excited for the next day. With each day that passed, I grew more inspired and motivated by the group, by what we were learning, and by the memories we were all creating. Construction was hard work from day one, but my team kept up the positive energy and worked through the hot sun.
Communication with the chapines on our team also seemed to improve every day until we were all laughing together and playing jokes on one another. I was no longer nervous for each work day, but excited to work hard and see what memories will be made. But by the time the weekend arrived, I think everyone, gringo and chapine alike, needed some time to sleep and rest.
On Saturday, we had an interesting tour of the process of producing coffee followed by a beautiful poetry session. Then, on Sunday, all of the gringos and chapines headed to the Mayan ruins of Iximche where we learned about the Guatemalan Civil War and spent time relaxing and bonding with one another. Monday was another relaxing day; in the afternoon we watched a documentary about the Guatemalan Civil War then held a conversation about US imperialism. For me, and for many of the other participants, these three days were an important time to think critically about the injustices in Guatemala and our role in the world as US citizens.
With five full days ahead of us, this experience is far from over. But I can already feel the impact that this experience is having on me. I feel incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to return to Guatemala a second time and to be able to experience these 15 days with a truly amazing group of young people. One of my favorite parts of this journey has been witnessing the transformations of the participants.
Just to name a few, Izet has stepped way beyond her comfort zone and shows no hesitance to dance in the bus, to translate a lesson into Spanish for the group, or to strike up conversations with chapines. Aside from that, she works unbelievably hard at the construction site. Thomas has also amazed me: with each day, he tries harder and harder to speak Spanish and make connections with the chapines. It is clear in our group reflections that he has been very impacted by his experience so far and is thinking critically about the problems he has witnessed. These are only two examples of the changes I have seen. Every single participant has blossomed and grown in ways that I never expected. It has been inspiring and thought provoking to see the experience of the participants from a leader’s perspective. I have great faith in the abilities of every student on this program, and I cannot wait to see what further transformations the final days of the trip will bring.
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.
If Global Visionaries had a poster child, Emma Shull just might be the “IT” girl. Over the course of three years, Emma participated in our First Year Leadership Program, went on to serve as a member of the Youth Board and capped it all off as a Gap Year volunteer once she graduated from high school. She’s currently wrapping up her undergraduate studies, but more on that later…
As a First Year participant, Emma traveled to Guatemala on the Summer Trip, where she worked on the construction work team and first met Billy Lopez (last month’s featured alumnus). Asked why she decided to serve on the GV Youth Board, she responded that the inspiration came from a retreat workshop put on by the previous year’s YB pro-justice (PJ) team on the Theatre of the Oppressed. Not surprisingly, she spent her year on the Youth Board passing on her pro-justice knowledge onto the succeeding group of First Years. And then there was Ruthie Ditzler, whom Emma had met in her first year with GV; Ruthie made enough of an impression for Emma to decide to expand her role with GV as a Gap Year volunteer when the time came. Emma spent her first six months undertaking work that was near and dear to her heart: developing the pro-justice curriculum and topics for GV workshops. With GV’s help, she also applied for and obtained a Youth Venture grant (worth $1,000) to support her ongoing work. The second half of Emma’s gap year was spent in Antigua, Guatemala, where she continued to develop her pro-justice work and expertise; this time adapting the model and theory for training of GV’s Guatemalan staff and volunteers. Emma was careful in ensuring that what she taught reflected a Latino context.
One of the exercises that GV used to have its First Year participants do upon their return to the US was to write a letter addressed to him or herself, that would be received a year later. In Emma’s letter to herself, there were three resolutions:
Go back to Guatemala
Attend a university that would provide opportunities to travel the world
Use the knowledge gained during her time with GV to help other youth
Go back to Guatemala – did so as a Gap Year volunteer!
…and fast-forwarding to today for resolutions 2 and 3:
Attend a university that would provide opportunities to travel the world – Emma is getting ready to graduate (May 10th) from Long Island University Global College with a BA in Global Studies. In the course of her undergraduate career, she has lived in Costa Rica, China and Ecuador. Even more remarkably, her Gap Year in Guatemala was accepted for 18 credits as part of a “Life Experience Portfolio” towards graduation requirements, so she’s finishing a year early!
Use knowledge gained during time with GV to help other youth – Emma is currently undertaking a Spring internship with the Sadie Nash Leadership Project to promote leadership and activism among young women (particularly those of color).
Finally, some words directly from Ms. Emma herself…
Please describe how your experiences with GV have helped you to interact with people, cultures and environments outside of your own during your studies abroad.
– Above all, my skill as an observer is one I often attribute to my time with GV. I appreciate how GV encourages participants to always ask questions and to reflect on observations. My experience with GV directly influenced my decision to enroll at LIU Global as it is a school that emphasizes experiential learning.
Have you experienced any moments of profound insight, where you realized that had you not been a part of GV, your perception of an event or issue would be quite different?
– In general my time abroad always leads me to this conclusion. The biggest concept I have taken with me abroad is the recognition of my systemic role in societal oppressions such as racism and imperialism. Without this point of reference my experiences abroad would be completely misconstrued. GV has taught me to think critically (not negatively) about my surroundings and about the people I meet along the way.
One of the issues that GV participants sometimes face upon completing their time with us is tackling the question of how to continue living the mission in their own lives. Beyond your internship with SNLP, what are your plans for continuing to be mindful of all that you’ve learned through GV and beyond in living a conscientious life?
– I am passionate about youth and creative learning. Wherever I am, and whatever I am doing, my role in the empowerment of youth will be essential. As far as long term goals are concerned, one day I’d like to eventually start a youth-run Theatre of the Oppressed troupe.
Do you have any advice for current GV participants (first year, YB or those considering a Gap Year with GV)?
– My advice to current participants is to really search within your community, in Seattle, and outside of Seattle who have similar sets of interests. I feel that it is important to create a sense of community where you live, and GV (although a great community) can also become its own bubble. Get out, and volunteer with other like-minded organizations and expand your network!
Enabling young people to become global leaders, creating a just and sustainable future.