Hi! My name is Tanya. I am a Canadian woman who just spent 6 months living in Guatemala.
My time there was spent travelling throughout the country, while maintaining a residence in my all time favorite city, Antigua. Living in a different culture had quite an impact on me and I plan to return to Antigua this year. While I loved it down there, it was not without its downsides. Crime and corruption are rampant. I personally was victim to three instances of criminal activity in that 6 months, and I was being extremely careful the entire time. Once I established a social circle I heard many, many more stories, almost all of which revolved around robbery and assault, mostly by young men and women. I knew someone who was stabbed, and another who was shot, along with dozens of other milder assault and robbery stories. Why would I want to go back somewhere like this?
The Guatemalan people there quite proud, and the ones that do not opt for crime refuse to beg, working incredibly hard for disturbingly low wages. These honest citizens are kind, openly affectionate and passionate people. The country itself offers much for the adventure traveler but people is what made the place so magical for me. I saw so much poverty in contrast to the beauty, but what really struck me was the lack of opportunity these people have. Putting children in school costs money, so most families never do. The family goes as a unit to pick coffee beans, or weave materials for tourists. There is no government programs in place to help those that want help, or need food. Given the lack of options, it’s no surprise there is an abundance of crime. When faced with education, or starvation, parents often do not consider school a choice, because it really isn’t. Growing up, they are not taught about birth control, other cultures or even the English language which could help them to get a good job.
I lived in a shared accommodation with one Canadian woman and two Americans, all who were living there as volunteers with Charitable Organizations. It certainly gave me a different perspective on how these charities impact the lives of people, and even made it more “real” for me. To hang out with people who were on the front lines, listening to stories of dying babies, hopeful children and families that they had worked with that very day. My roommate Liz works for Integral Heart Foundation, and would come home exhausted because she and other volunteers had spent hours carrying a mattress and food up to a family who are literally starving, and sleeping on a cement floor. They were taking the children to the market the following day to buy shoes for them, since they did not have any. That was a normal day for her, taking money donated and turning it into life impacting necessities.
My other roommates were a young couple that had been three years with The God’s Child Project, which is a larger scale charity that builds homes for families, gives children education and clothing. They tirelessly worked 50 hours plus a week, helping run this charity and host groups of volunteers from the States. I was able to see this first hand, and it continues to inspire me to help every day.
And so I have decided to take action in order to help. Click here to see my plan.