We are proud to announce that eleven Safe Passage high school students, four mothers, and one father received diplomas this year. Some have decided to enter the formal workforce right away and others have already begun preparing for their college entrance exams.

According to UNICEF, in Guatemala only about 40% of school-aged male students obtain a secondary education. The number is even less for female students. The Guatemala City garbage dump has been open and informally employing generation after generation for the past sixty years. These eleven graduates have effectively broken that cycle of poverty; it only takes one generation to do so. 

With the degrees these students now hold, they are ahead of the majority of their Guatemalan peers. It should really be no surprise that some are still unsure of what’s coming next for them—they have so many options to choose from. They could become teachers, they could balance budgets for multi-national corporations, they could open their own restaurants. Amidst all the uncertainty, though, one thing is clear: they will never have to work in the garbage dump.

Four mothers and one father of Safe Passage walked the stage as well last Saturday during the Adult Literacy graduation. They received their sixth-grade diplomas, which will undoubtedly open up formal income opportunities for them all. Perhaps even more importantly, though, these parents are now shining examples, to their children and family members who attend Safe Passage, that education matters. The father who graduated is named Zefer. At graduation, I was sitting behind his younger brother Junior, who will be in high school next year. As Zefer crossed the stage to accept his diploma, Junior looked back at me. “That,” he said, pointing at Zefer. “That is my brother who is graduating.” He was shaking his head, near tears. “I just can’t believe it.”

Safe Passage is an incredibly complex organization: we work with children from ages two

to twenty one; we work with mothers and fathers, both in adult literacy and in social entrepreneurship; we have a full time clinic, a nutrition program, and so much more. But despite this complexity, our mission remains simple – to empower the children and families that live around the Guatemala City Garbage dump through education.

Last Saturday eleven former Safe Passage high school students walked into the top percentile of their peers, four mothers and one father inspired their children and siblings to continue their education—and all sixteen graduates took one of the most important steps toward breaking the cycle of poverty and replacing it with one of hope. There is still so much work to be done, for the graduates and for Safe Passage, but we can look at Saturday’s graduation and say in a small and happy way, mission accomplished.

-Joshua Fleming

Safe Passage Visitors Coordinator