What We Do

Measuring more than 40 acres, the Guatemala City dump is one of the largest open landfills in Central America.

More than 60,000 people live in extreme poverty.

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1 out of every 3 residents has never been to school. Most parents have only a fourth grade education. The average family of six lives on just $4 per day—less than a dollar a day per person. With limited opportunities and training, many adults struggle to make a living in the informal dump community.

Guatemalan public schools provide only 4 hours of education each day, and many of those hours are spent in rote memorization. Strikes, weather, and other disruptions cause up to 30 cancelled school days per year. Even the most motivated students have a hard time staying engaged and enrolled.

Hanley Denning founded Safe Passage to help these people.

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Safe Passage touches the lives of thousands of people, providing opportunities and building futures through the power of education. In 2012, the Guatemalan Ministry of Education welcomed our proposal to operate an independent, accredited full-day school.

Today, over 550 children, ranging in age from 2 to 21 years, are currently enrolled at Safe Passage. More than 100 parents and grandparents participate in Adult Literacy and 40 mothers are members of Creamos.

We’ve come a long way from our early days when Hanley began teaching eager children in the small church across from the garbage dump.

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Our Educational Model

Safe Passage offers comprehensive, progressive, holistic education and social support focused on three key areas:

Full-Day Education

  • Safe Passage students age 2 through grade 4 benefit from full-day education programs
  • For our youngest learners, we utilize the Planting Seeds methodology to develop pre-math and reading skills through play and collaboration
  • Grades 3 to 4 receive hands-on, activity-based lessons utilizing a teaching methodology based on Expeditionary Learning

Half-Day Educational Reinforcement

  • Public school students receive 4 hours of after-school enrichment programs at Safe Passage
  • Extra-curricular activities include sports, English lessons, computer lab, Creative Expression, health education, and Next Step graduate career counseling.
  • Saturday clubs complement weekday studies and provide opportunities for students to engage with peers in a safe, welcoming environment.

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Health Education

Our students and families are particularly vulnerable to a variety of health complications that threaten their wellbeing. In partnership with Shared Beat, Safe Passage provides students and families with year-round access to an on-site infirmary. Our Health and Nutrition program emphasizes patient education and comprehensive care. We strive to not only treat but to prevent health complaints.

Adult Literacy and Creamos Social Entrepreneurship

Safe Passage provides learning opportunities for children and adults alike. More than 50 adult students participate in daily reading and writing exercises, tutoring, and computer literacy training to prepare them for graduation.

Our social entrepreneurship program took root in 2008, when mothers in our Adult Literacy program began making recycled paper beads. Those beads were the seeds that grew into Creamos, a group of 40 moms transforming discarded plastic bags into handbags and totes, and discarded paper into jewelry. These women transform the trash of the dump into an honest living wage, business experience, self-esteem and respect.

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Next Step Graduate Program

For Safe Passage students, access to education continues well after high school graduation. Founded in 2013, Next Step provides graduates with professional development opportunities and access to tools for securing employment and applying to university.

Family and Community Services

Psychologists and social workers from the Safe Passage Family and Community Services (SERFACO) program provide students and families with resources and guidance to reduce emotional and social barriers to educational success.

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Where our Students Learn

Students of all ages demonstrate their innate intelligence in so many different ways. We create and preserve learning environments that respond to the needs of every student. Safe Passage meets the needs of the whole person.

We prepare students, young and old, for life.