Common Hope was fortunate to have received support from dozens of short-term volunteers who worked with us throughout the year. Some stayed for a couple weeks, others for a couple months, but all of them made significant contributions in the areas in which they worked. Thank you to each and every one of you who came to Guatemala to support Common Hope’s work. The generous giving of your time and talents has made a lasting impact.
Below are some highlights and quotes from 10 outstanding short-term volunteers about their time spent with Common Hope.
David Evert spent two months in Antigua working in construction and maintenance. About his time in Guatemala, he remarked, “the time went much too quickly. The work was so gratifying. I had the unique pleasure of witnessing a woman watch her house appear out of nowhere in four hours last week. A woman who all her life has lived with dirt floors and holes for walls. What must it feel like to watch such a major transition happen right before your eyes? Thank your for the opportunity to work with these outstanding individuals and for the chance to create so many wonderful memories.”
Luis Cuyun is originally from Guatemala, now living in Minnesota and working in IT. Luis volunteered with us for a week in the CDI (computer lab).
Luis also asked his friend and fellow computer science professional Javier Gramajo to give the kids a presentation on being a young entrepreneur. The part Luis enjoyed most about his experience was working with the kids. He said volunteering truly inspired him and seeing the young Guatemalan generation working hard on their education gave him hope. When asked what he would say to anyone considering volunteering with Common Hope he said, “it is an experience that could have enormous and positive impact in a volunteer’s life. It is an enriching experience in both ways. The sponsored kids and their families could see their life improve dramatically by donated work that, in our eyes, seems little. At the same time, a volunteer could see life through a difference lens; learn about himself/herself and become a different person. In my opinion that new person is a hero. I’ve seen them.”
Judy Godinez and Aaron Malakoff volunteered for one week in April in the medical clinic. Aaron is a doctor focusing on urology and end of life care, so volunteering in the clinic was a great use of his skills. Judy and Aaron really enjoyed their time with the medical staff, and they plan on returning to Guatemala to volunteer or as part of a Vision Team with their family. When asked if they could sum up what they learned in their time with Common Hope, they said, “everybody needs to know that they matter–that their efforts and challenges and they, as persons, are seen and appreciated.” Judy and Aaron also said that if anyone is considering volunteering, not to hesitate, adding that “the facilities are exceptional and a joy; the staff and volunteers are delightful people to know and work with; and the children and their families will warm your heart.”
Chris DuFlon heard about Common Hope through a friend who worked for the organization a couple years ago. Chris grew up 10 minutes from Familias de Esperanza in Antigua and passed the project almost everyday on his way into the city. After deciding to take some time off from attending University in Canada, he thought volunteering would be a positive experience and Common Hope was one of the organizations he chose to work with. Chris currently volunteers two afternoons a week with the Apoyo de Jóvenes Study Club. He enjoys working with the Youth Study Club team and said, “their energy is contagious and the connections they form with the children who become regular attendants are caring and long-lasting.”
Marnie Yanacheak and her daughter Gabby were introduced to Common Hope’s work at Latin American Heritage Camp in Colorado. Marnie first traveled to Guatemala on a Vision Team, returning later with her daughter to work as a Homework Aid in the Partner Schools for two weeks over the summer. Marnie says that during her time with Common Hope she learned that life is about relationships and connections. “The more people we know and connect with, the more we know about the world.” Marnie and Gabby plan to stay connect to Common Hope’s work through their sponsorship and they want to volunteer in the future.
Nancy Chirhart is a preschool teacher who has visited Guatemala to volunteer every summer since 2009. She has worked in a variety areas, but has spent most of her time at our Partner School in Santa Catarina where her sponsored student Marisol attends school. Last year, Nancy helped build a new home for Marisol and her family. “My heart was just dancing the whole time,” Nancy said. We previously posted a story about Nancy’s experience, which you can read here.
Andrew Cardoza and Katie Shaughnessy came to Common Hope as part of the International Summer Service Learning Project at Notre Dame University, which focuses heavily on leadership and service. For eight weeks, they split their time between working at our Partner Schools and working in the clinic. They also helped with various tasks, like translating and construction. About her overall experience, Katie said, “When you truly believe in the work a foundation does, you will do whatever it takes to go back and continue the fight and that’s what Common Hope represents for me. I can’t wait to come back to el proyecto (the project) in the future. All of the long-term volunteers were such role models for what you can do with your life if you take some time to think outside the box. Really there are just a million little things I love about the foundation, the people, and the city of Antigua.”
When asked the same question, Andrew described the experience as “unreal” saying, “I really learned a lot and assimilated myself into a different culture that just kept on giving back.” Andrew also wrote a paper for school, in which he described his experience more in depth. His paper was insightful and heartwarming, and we’d like to take this opportunity to highlight a few passages.
“The final thing that I take away from this powerful experience in Guatemala is what I learned from the wonderful people of Guatemala. The Guatemalans were some of the nicest and friendliest people I have ever met. Whether it be at the clinic, the project, or even a home visit they are very kind and hospitable people. They have taught me the value of how rich a culture can be and how to truly be happy and appreciate what you have. More importantly, they taught me the importance of family and religion. They represented what it means to make sacrifices and to work hard for what you have. They were examples of having faith and being the best person you can be. I hope to use some of these lessons in my senior year at Notre Dame and for the rest of my life, as I emerge transformed from this International Summer Service Learning Project.
I am very humbled and grateful for the opportunity that I had here in Guatemala. It has changed my view on how I look at poverty and its different aspects. Even though my time was limited in Guatemala, the amount of memories, friendships, and things I learned during this journey will always be kept in the back of my mind.”