Meet long-term volunteer Keara Farrelly

The family and construction staff in front of their new home.

Keara with construction staff and an affiliated family in front of their new home.

Name: Keara Farrelly
Position: Housing Program Assistant
Time with CH: 7 months
Favorite Guatemalan cuisine: Tipica! Beans, rice, platanos, and tortillas
#1 Travel Essential: A good book, and a snack!

1. How did you come to volunteer here at Common Hope?

I’ve always been so fascinated with Latin American culture and the political and economic struggles many Central and South American countries have faced. My desire to really learn and understand more sparked when I studied abroad in Argentina. I loved speaking Spanish, learning about new places and customs, and really seeing such a different world than what I grew up with. During this time, I realized I wanted to invest my time and energy into helping those less fortunate. I began looking for opportunities in Central American countries and came across a video of the work Common Hope does. I was immediately engaged with the faces of the children in the video and applied as quickly as I could for a position that equally caught my attention. Of course I was nervous to leave my family and home and move to a country I had never even visited, but I will be eternally grateful for stumbling across that video!

2. What has surprised you the most about working with Common Hope?

I am continually surprised at how committed the families are to their own self development and how committed the organization is at continually improving the lives of the families we serve.

3. What is a new skill you have learned through living in Guatemala?

In the short few months I’ve been here, I can’t believe how much I have learned. I’ve learned how to mix cement, lay a tile floor, and build a home! Apart from work, I’ve learned how to bargain prices at the market, how to hail a chicken bus, and how to speak a little bit of Chapin. However, I think the most important skill I learned was adapting to a new culture, learning the traditions and customs of my coworkers and friends, and learning to go with the flow as much as possible!

4. What do you want people back home to know about your experience here?

I want people to know that while Guatemala is considered a developing country, the lifestyle and attitude of the families we work with is anything but. During my time here, I have met some of the strongest, happiest and positive people. While there are a lot of difficulties and struggles within Guatemala that Common Hope and other organizations are working to alleviate, the work we do is received very well by the Antigua population and by the surrounding communities. I’ve had tons of native Guatemalans ask me “So, what brings you to Guatemala?” and the response is always positive, and many even thank me for the work and time we give as an organization to their country.

5. Has anything happened during your time here that will make your life different?

My time so far in Guatemala has been life changing, and I look forward to the time ahead of me. As a construction volunteer, I find myself in a very lucky position to be able to work in the surrounding communities and really get to know the families we work with on a personal level. Seeing the conditions the families live in and how thankful they are to us for the humble home we build with them has deeply impacted the way I act and look at the world. I am happier living a more simple lifestyle, not driving a car, not carrying my iPhone, etc. These small changes have had a big impact on me that I hope to keep with me for the rest of my life.

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