Hi everyone! So the purpose of this blog is to spread awareness about the educational situation in Guatemala and ultimately to raise funds for Jardin de Amor (the school in Santa Maria, Guatemala that I taught at for a month). If you’re interested in making a donation, please see the “Gofundme” tab in the top menu. I hope that by posting the story of these children and their families and my experiences in Guatemala that it will spread awareness and encourage donations. Ultimately, a new wing of the school needs to be built in order to accommodate their growing population. The far reaching goal is to have enough money to create a computer lab, since most if not all of these children have no access to a computer at home and currently the school only has a few. The school also builds about one house a year for Santa Maria residents, since most current homes are not up to proper living standards and lack important aspects such as floors. So, enjoy my posts and contact me if you have any questions or want to share any experiences you have had! 

Go to the Posts page in order to read my daily posts. I don’t always have internet access or the time to type online, so a lot of my posts are handwritten and then typed later. Sorry for any delay!

I just want to post a disclaimer about volunteering abroad. I see a lot of negative posts online these days about volunteers that 1) exploit communities abroad, 2) just do it for themselves and don’t make an actual impact, 3) do it just for the pictures, and 4) make bonds with these children and then leave them with a feeling of abandonment. First of all, don’t knock it until you try it, because chances are if you’re reading/writing one of those articles you’ve never volunteered abroad. 

  1. I don’t exploit the resources available in Guatemala any more than the next person. Like a normal Guatemalan, I walk to the market, take the chicken bus (which by the way, aren’t extremely safe but the one I take to Santa Maria is on a safe route since there are stops with armed guards), pay the appropriate amount of Quetzales, and get off the stop at Santa Maria like everyone else. I sit next to elderly Guatemalan women with their woven goods to sell for the day, and next to young Guatemalan women breastfeeding their babies (also let me mention that this happened to me once while cuddled up next to a woman in a two seater on a miniature school bus). So no, I’m not taking a private car or anything that’s out of the average, I’m behaving just like a local. And yes, I am using some of the resources offered by the tourist industry on the weekends which is by nature exploitative, but it is honestly inevitable. And if the tourist industry helps expand the economy here and increase the standard of living for Guatemalans, I’m all for it. 
  2. Yeah, obviously the work I’m doing here makes me feel a bit better about myself but that’s not the reason why I’m doing it. And if you can find one purely selfless action in life that doesn’t benefit yourself at all please let me know. Yes I’m only going to be at Jardin de Amor for a month, but when I leave, another volunteer will come, then another and another.  The girl before me let me know what she covered and I’m picking up from there. And I’ll do the same with the next volunteer.  
  3. Obviously I’m going to take pictures because the kids I work with are the absolutely cutest kids I have ever met (sorry to all the kids that I babysit and teach swim lessons to, I still love you guys too). I think it’s important to take pictures so I can look back and remember how great this trip was, how promising all of the children were, and not to mention also to post here. People take pictures to preserve memories, so that’s what I’m doing. If you think it’s to brag about what I’m doing or get attention, that’s fine. There’s clearly something else going on with you that has caused you to think that way. And honestly, since these kids are so cute I’m attempting to use pathos to entice you to donate. And also, whenever I take photos of the kids, its always because theyre screaming “¿Seño Kara, puede tomar un foto?!!!” And most of the time I let them take the photos even though most of them end up with a thumb in the corner of the frame, but whatcha gonna do.
  4. Believe me, I’m going to be so sad when I have to leave and I’m sure the children will be too. Most of these children don’t have a strong connection with their parents since they have to work so much, so they definitely really look up to me. And I know that it may negatively impact many of them when I leave, but does that mean I should deprive them of EVER having a relationship with an adult by just never coming? Is it better for them to not have any exposure to a role model at all? My vote is no, because as I’ve mentioned, when I leave, another volunteer will come for them to look up to. The program I found Jardin de Amor through, Maximo Nivel (which has programs in several Latin American countries and if you’re interested you should visit their website because they’re great) is going to be sending more volunteers when I leave because of the partnership they have with the school. So if you think it’s better for these kids to never have a role model, you need to reevaluate. I wish I could stay longer and make a bigger impact, but I’m not really at the point in my life where I’m ready to up and move to another country.

Obviously all of the points above are not true for everyone, but they are overwhelmingly true for me.