When asked what seasons Guatemala has, I’ve often answered, “rainy and dry season and each lasts six months.” I recently decided to reframe my answer. The other day as I drove the road between the neighborhood I have lived most of my life to the place that I have worked for nearly half of my life (16 years), I did what I always do—I noticed the beauty around me. What got to me, again, were tall Jacaranda trees filled with purple blossoms. They decorate the skyline and their falling blossoms immediately make magnificent purple carpets. It was on this day I realized there is another season in Guatemala. Jacaranda Season.
I am reminded how seasons change and we accept them for all the good and bad they bring. No one has taught me more about weathering the seasons than our wonderful Minnesota donors and volunteers over the years (my first orientation on 9th calle was about how to talk weather with Minnesotans).
I have had the honor of seeing many seasons of change at Common Hope; some difficult and some joyous. Some were spent at a funeral with a mother whose baby just died, going to court with a young victim of violence, or rushing to the city to fill out paperwork at a government office–sometimes all in one day. Oh, and don’t forget a container arriving unannounced at 4:00am. Some were spent creating processes and controls that would allow us to sustain our mission for the long haul; seasons of adding more people to walk with more people through mudslides, cancer diagnoses and low scores on report cards. All the tough seasons were spent in preparation for the joyful ones—seasons of students graduating, a child getting a prosthetic leg, or a young man being the first in his family to have a professional job.
There was a season with Dave, John, and Ana driving people to the hospital or supporting Pat and Karina as they developed a professional team of social workers to build more self-reliance in our communities. There were meetings in the ravine interviewing families, building New Hope, and vetting a qualified local team (way to go Renato and Jeff!)
There was the season of naming the first Guatemalan leaders at the Antigua and New Hope sites (Sandra and Mynor, carry on). Watching Lesbia walk the Pathway of Dreams beside the first San Rafael Common Hope graduates and the season we named Alma as leader at San Miguel Milpas Altas. A season that saw Rosalina lead the department so dear to her heart. A season to watch Josué build the Antigua covered ball court and a season to bring on Pablo to stabilize our IT.
Throughout all of these seasons, we have helped our employees in Guatemala go from junior high education, to high school completion to securing a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
There was a season for engaging public schools, improving classroom management, and building a reading culture; earning us the respect of the Board of Education and a platform to accelerate our results over the coming years.
Next up? Yet another season, one that will bear the fruit of a third rural community.
We could not have weathered it all without your trust, the dedication of the Guatemalans who do this important work, and the committed staff and long-term volunteers who work in the U.S. office and in Guatemala (many of whom forfeited profitable careers to dedicate a chunk of their lives to our families). You know who you are, and I am so blessed to have known you, worked with you, and learned from you.
For all of you who have invested or have yet to invest, the season coming is a good one. The changes in Guatemala are phenomenal. Roads, telecommunications and education opportunities are better. Guatemalans are fighting corruption. We are serving more people than ever and Common Hope is learning how to achieve even better results.
Our work is not done. There is still a lot to do and we have to keep at it. After almost 30 years of watching the towns that Common Hope serves grow and develop, I am a witness to the power of hope and opportunity in real ways in towns like San Pedro Las Huertas or San Juan del Obispo; towns where one family from Minnesota got us to believe something really good was possible then let us go and make it happen.
Today, in all of the towns around the Antigua Site, it is normal for parents to send their kids to school. We propelled that change. We walked beside families, did what it took to remove barriers, and got them in.
Then, we took what we learned in Antigua and New Hope and began to serve rural indigenous communities.
Today, I have the rewarding challenge of trying to go throughout my day and not run into one of our students—a student who has made it over the hump of extreme poverty and improved their life through education. Just last month while I was at church, Miguel walked up to me and told me he is almost done with his engineering degree. He shared that he has kept a good job in a corporate bank headquarters for 3 years. Let me be clear, there is not a single day that goes by that I do not run into one of your ROIs. I am blessed to see these living testimonies every day and to have been part of this beautiful work for all these years.
Jacaranda season is drawing to a close. I soak it up with my kids, playing in the fallen blossoms. Soon it will end and another season will come to water the earth and provide refreshment. As I turn over the reins to a new Country Director, for me, too, a season is ending. It’s a season that has been awe-inspiring. It has grown and stretched me, all with love, integrity, and passion. It was always a calling and a gift. My new season is with my precious family, still in Guatemala, still watching the impact Common Hope has on the people and nation I walk alongside. This new season will bring refreshment and newness for me and it will do the same for Common Hope.
If you are in Guatemala, I hope we bump into one another at the park or the market, and that I can personally introduce you to the living, breathing, successes you have invested in so faithfully. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.
John was kind to let this kid tag along, and then brave to entrust me with his baby to steward for a season. We’re bigger now, the work is great, and the next 30 years are going to be incredible.
For all the hundreds of you who have not only loved the families we serve, but have loved our kids Samuel, Olivia and Ian, Felipe and I are grateful for your example of generosity and service.
Felices TREINTA Common Hope,