When I arrived at Safe Passage in August 2010, I had plans to volunteer in a classroom for 4 weeks. I never guessed that I would soon be watching my return ticket lapse and making a commitment to work with and learn from this community for the next few years.
During my time here, I’ve seen the incredible impact that sponsorship can have on a student’s motivation and self-esteem. As an English teacher, many students excitedly ask me to help them learn some new English phrases because their madrina or padrino was coming to Guatemala to visit. I have also had students ask me to help them draft letters to their padrinos or translate what they’d written in response. Sponsors ask about students’ grades and give them attention and affection that can often be lacking in the homes of their hard-working families. Sponsor letters and visits provide emotional support for these students who rarely receive that personalized attention outside of the project.
When I decided to make a longer-term commitment of volunteering at Safe Passage, I realized that I had a great opportunity to become a sponsor and build a friendship with a specific student while getting to see him or her every day. I reached out to the Sponsorship Department who then paired me up with Francy, a 3rd grade boy. The day I told Francy I was going to be his madrina, his face lit up, and he gave me a huge hug. Each afternoon when he arrives at the project, I try to welcome him at the door or find him at lunch to make sure he knows that I’m here. I usually ask him about school and find out what homework he needs to do in the afternoon. When my schedule allows, I join him to work on his homework, or we study our math flashcards to reinforce the multiplication tables. Now, months later, I feel so fortunate that I was able to give not only my time in volunteering but also financially support a student and an organization that I care deeply about.
My family has been incredibly supportive of me during my time volunteering here, and they’ve recently become sponsors as well! My mom came to visit the project and support the English Program last July. While here, she made a connection with one of the boys from Francy’s 3rd grade class and decided to become his sponsor. My sister-in-law, never one to be left out, jumped in and sponsored another student in the same class after hearing more from my mom about the project. So now, we have three sponsor kids – three boys to keep up with! Calling home is always so much fun because I get to fill my mom in on what crazy antics Gaspar is up to and tell my sister-in-law that Jerson passed all his classes this year. As a volunteer living far from home, it's amazing to feel that my family not only understands why I'm here but that they believe in the mission of Safe Passage and are willing to make a regular donation. Even more, when we go out with the Sponsorship Department for special occasions like birthdays or celebrating good grades, I get to spend an afternoon with three wonderful, funny, and special little guys!
-Megan McAdams, English Program Coordinator