Favorite Guatemalan cuisine, #1 travel essential, what inspires her about Common Hope’s work, the result of a dramatic run-in with her apartment’s stove, learn this and more from a little Q and A with long-term volunteer Rachel Stone.
Position: Short-Term Volunteer Coordinator
Time with CH: 4 months
Favorite site in Guatemala: The rooftop of my apartment
#1 Travel Essential: A good book
- How did you come to volunteer at Common Hope?
I originally came to Guatemala a few years ago with one of my close friends who did her student teaching down here. I didn’t really know anything about Guatemala or Antigua before that trip (really just wanted to escape the cold!) and was surprised by how attached I felt within such a small amount of time. A few years later I heard about Common Hope through a friend of my mom. The mission of the organization and the fact that it was in Guatemala really struck a chord with me, and when I saw the opening for a long-term volunteer position I decided to just fill out the application and see what happened. In many ways it was a surprise to me that I made the decision to come down here long term, but I couldn’t be happier about that decision and am excited to see what this year brings.
- What have you enjoyed most about working for Common Hope?
One of the things I love most about my job is the amazing people I get to interact with on a daily basis, from the other volunteers and employees to the short-term volunteers to the families and children that we work with. The collective life experiences and drive of all of these people to improve the status quo are a part of what make our organization so strong, and I feel lucky to be a part of it every day.
- What do you want people back home to know about your experience here?
Part of what drew me to Common Hope was their focus on education as the way to lift families out of poverty, and that they took a practical approach to giving kids a path out of their present circumstances. The poverty here is on a scale that largely doesn’t exist in much of the western world, and the challenges that these families face are something that I can barely begin to comprehend. I think it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the problems faced here, but if everyone gives just a little bit, either through volunteering, sponsoring a child, making a donation or just talking about our work, the cumulative effort can be significant.
- What is a new skill you have learned through living in Guatemala?
I’ve already learned so much in my short time here! Working and living in a different language is a challenge for me, but I feel like I’m improving little by little. I rent an apartment from a really great family in Antigua. A few weeks ago, the landlord offered a whole fish to me as a gift, and he seemed somewhat shocked when I explained I didn’t know how to cook it (removing the head, bones, etc.). A few days later, I was turning on my oven for the first time and I thought I was preheating it, but really I was just letting the gas run. When I realized the oven wasn’t hot, I started fiddling with the dials, which triggered a somewhat large explosion. Luckily, no one was hurt, and my landlord’s wife gently suggested that perhaps I should start taking cooking lessons from her on Saturdays. So, hopefully my domestic skills will improve, too!
- What are your hopes for 2014?
I hope to continue building an already strong volunteer program, see more of Central America, learn a lot and have fun while doing all of it! I will be forever grateful for the time I get to spend in Guatemala with Common Hope, and I hope I’m able to give as much in return.