My Volunteer Experience in Guatemala
By Chris Logan, Spanish student
In 2006 and again in 2011 I volunteered a week at a time to the program Safe Passage-Camino Seguro in Guatemala. I went both times with my grandmother, who is is involved in a Rotary club. While looking for an international project to participate in, they came across this program, which they really liked. Safe Passage offers aid to children and their parents who live near the Guatemala City dump. All the children in the program have parents who make a living scavenging for recyclables in the dump to sell, as well as for whatever supplies or necessities they can find. The motto of Safe Passage is “combating poverty through education.” They help the children of these families receive an education by offering aid for school uniforms and books and by providing mandatory after school programs (Guatemala only offers half day schooling) that make available tutoring and extracurricular activities. Through education, they hope to equip the children of the program with the skills to find a career, to escape the overwhelming poverty that surrounds them. Last year, they were ecstatic to announce their first two students to move on to college.
Due to my general lack of Spanish speaking ability (I am currently enrolled in Spanish 101), I was primarily able to contribute to the youngest children. This consisted mostly of playing games, helping with basic work, distributing meals at lunch and snack times, and aiding the teachers with classroom preparations and cleaning. The experience was tremendously rewarding. On my second trip, another volunteer pointed to a child she said was having difficulty adjusting to the program and making friends. She asked if I would spend time with him and try to make him comfortable, so I kept him company and tried getting him involved with the other children. By the end of the week he was participating in the classroom and had made a friend. I never thought I could make such a difference, even for just one child, in only a week. My volunteer work was eye opening, to both the extreme poverty in much of the world and what little effort it takes to make a substantial difference.
Find out more about Safe Passage and about how you too can contribute at their website: www.safepassage.org.