“So much of what Common Hope provides to students and families is possible thanks to volunteers.” -Erin Treinen
Back to School is a favorite time of year for many Common Hope staff members, including Erin Treinen, Associate Director of Guatemala Visitor Experience & Sponsorship. Not having volunteers on-site to help deliver supplies made it feel a lot different this year.
“Returning to Common Hope after the holiday break and getting ready for Back to School events is one of the highlights of the year,” said Erin.
“We look forward to seeing students and families get their school supplies – their excitement and energy is really infectious! Going shopping for school supplies is a childhood memory for many. We try hard to generate that same excitement and enthusiasm for students here and get them excited to go back to school after a vacation,” Erin explained.
In a typical year, Vision Team members and volunteers help execute Back to School events. These volunteers pack and organize bags, drive them to the community, and help distribute them. As many as 40 volunteers work alongside staff each year to deliver on this large operation. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, Back to School looked quite different this year.
“Volunteers are so critical to our Back to School events. They put in so many hours of hard work preparing, packing, loading, unloading, organizing, and distributing. Since we’re currently unable to host Vision Teams and volunteers, Common Hope staff had to adapt and we definitely felt the impact of not having our wonderful volunteers alongside us. They were greatly missed,” Erin shared.
The broader impact of not being able to host any visitors and volunteers during the pandemic matters. “At Common Hope so much of what we are able to provide to students and families is possible thanks to volunteers. Volunteers build homes for families, help run the Early Childhood Center, provide activities for the Youth Groups, volunteer in our tutoring center, and even Common Hope’s Dental Program is 100% volunteer-run. And that’s really just a sampling of all that volunteers make possible,” she explained. “We miss them. This year, though, I cannot extend enough admiration for my colleagues here. Everyone is stepping up. Masking up. Keeping socially distant. And, putting families first. It’s truly been an incredible.”
Erin’s sentiments are echoed across the departments and the families. In 2021, Common Hope restructured a number of areas as a result of key pandemic learnings. The sponsorship and visitor experience programs have merged and teams and programs in education, youth support, and technology, to name a few, have been organized and changed to drive more efficiency and incorporate key learnings that have presented during this pandemic.
Erin’s new role leading the merge of volunteers and sponsors will create new opportunities for cross functionality in both programs. “These programs are responsible for all visitors to Common Hope in Guatemala including Vision Team members, dentists and hygienists, volunteers, tour guests, and sponsors who come to visit their student during a trip to Guatemala or for graduation,” Erin explained. It’s exciting to consider cross-functionality to provide the best possible volunteer and sponsor experience for everyone!
Common Hope looks forward to welcoming back visitors in 2022 (AND THE CALENDAR IS OPEN and filling up) once it is safe to do so. “This team of incredible women–– Lys Barios, Isabel Romero, and Marissa Vasquez–– are ready to tackle any challenge this pandemic throws at us. Between us we have 35 years of experience working with students, families, and visitors. We cannot wait to welcome you with open arms to this country we love, beautiful Guatemala,” said Erin.