This article is a feature story from Safe Passage Sponsor, Ambassador, and Support Team member Maggie Seitz.

On January 25th, 2014, a group of Falmouth High School students and teachers, including myself, boarded a plane headed for Guatemala City and Safe Passage. At the time, I had heard stories from other students who had taken the trip. Stories about the dump, and of the families living in the surrounding community. Stories about emotions, both happy and sad. But I didn’t truly know the experience I was about to have.

Beforehand, I didn’t know much about Safe Passage. I knew that they are an organization in Guatemala City that helps children through education, but they became much more than this to me during my trip. The empowerment they give entire families is amazing! With hygiene, nourishment, education, creativity and imagination, every aspect of Safe Passage encourages these families to be the best they can be. Every person I met was undeniably positive despite their living conditions, and many of them, no matter how young or old, had high hopes for a bright future.

There are 4 lessons that have become very important to my daily life to remind me each and every day of all that I learned about the world and myself during my time in Guatemala:

Be positive. This is one of the hardest things for me to remind myself. There is so much negative energy in the world. Nothing seems impossible with positivity, and anyone can reach their dreams if they believe they can!

Life isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. Everyone in the U.S. talks about first world problems. Nothing was as impactful to me as realizing how little all of it seems when there are so many people out in the world without shelter, food, and good hygiene. Although it may seem like a tragedy that the air conditioning is out in your car and it’s 100 degrees outside, it’s not the end of the world and there are people out there that have it worse than you—and they aren’t complaining.

Don’t be so materialistic. Growing up, I focused a lot on all of the “things” I wanted. I’m still guilty of this, but it’s hard to be a middle class teenager in the United States and not feel the urge to impulse buy those $150 boots. I’m getting better at it—and I just donated a lot of those impulse buys to people who can’t afford shoes. I’ve learned it feels better to donate my time than to have the one extra pair.

Do something each day to benefit someone other than yourself. Whether it be holding the door for someone on your way out of the store or surprising your mom with a bouquet of flowers, doing something nice for someone else can make their day. This also goes back to the negative energy. Being surrounded by negativity can make it very hard to keep your spirits up, and even the smallest gesture of kindness can make it a little easier.

635 days ago, I began the most important journey of my life so far. 248 days from now, I will be making that journey once again.

Becoming an ambassador of Safe Passage and being a sponsor to a beautiful little girl, Laiza, are two ways I am able to stay connected. I hope that my trip next year will help me continue my journey to becoming the best person I can be and live the life I was put here to live. I will never forget the profound impact Safe Passage has had on me and what I hope to do in the future.
—Maggie Seitz

Maggie is a sophomore Physical Therapy student at Ithaca College in upstate New York. She grew up in Falmouth, Maine and now lives in Kennebunkport, Maine.