When I first realized that I wanted to return to Guatemala after 12 years away, I knew that it was the right choice for me at this time in my life. I so enjoyed my year-and-a-half in Quetzaltenango in 2000-2001, and I knew that it was time to return and experience the beauty of the country and its people. With some research and a referral from a friend, I came to Safe Passage as a Support Team leader.

Then reality set in. Was I idealizing my past experience in Guatemala? Would the reality of working and living in Guatemala be all that I imagined? I think many of us consider these questions when we decide to make a major change and commit to something new. I am happy to say that living in Guatemala and working with volunteer teams and the children at Safe Passage has turned out to be all that I had hoped for. For those of you who are considering how you can find your place within the Safe Passage community, let me share a couple of stories that I´ve witnessed in the past six weeks.

Exploring Your Passion

Connor, a high school student, came to Safe Passage with a support team from northern Michigan for the third time this January. He always enjoyed working with the students and playing with the youngest children in the Escuelita. During this visit, Connor had the opportunity to discuss his senior thesis on Games as an Educational Tool with Susan Schmaltz, who developed the Planting Seeds early childhood curriculum for Safe Passage. For him, this was the best part of his third visit. Now, he is considering coming back as a long-term volunteer, where he can bring his knowledge of alternative learning styles to benefit the children here.

Growing Up Together

Gretchen has come to Safe Passage three times – twice as a support team leader for her high school Spanish students. This time, she brought her mother along as a chaperone. During their time working with the children, Gretchen decided that it was important that she sponsor a young child that was approximately the same age as her own daughter. Now she and her mother are planning how they can enrich the lives of both their daughter/granddaughter and their sponsor child as they grow up together through this special relationship.

What is your place within the Safe Passage community? Whether it be through sponsoring a child, coming as a Support Team or Long-term Volunteer, sending financial support, or joining a Friends group, each of you has a role to play both in providing new and continuing opportunities for our students as well as in creating new experiences in your own lives through your participation with us. We look forward to hearing from you and helping you find Your Place within Safe Passage.

-Leigh Ellen Key, Support Teams Coordinator