MY WORK IN GUATEMALA

I have been back from Guatemala for almost a month already. It's crazy how fast time flies. One of the questions we get asked the most is how to volunteer abroad. I am the triplet that's always doing that - so here I am to answer your questions! I do want to point out to you all that we have a "how to" section and I've also briefed readers in on a post about selecting humanitarian organizations here and how to find organizations here on our FAQ page, so please don't be afraid of the blog smog - we've got categories to help do that for you. 

Good Neighbors is a non-profit organization based right here in LA, and they are insanely rad. One of their main focuses is child sponsorship - and they have all kinds of programs to help improve children's lives who live in poverty throughout the world. I was blessed with the opportunity to travel with them to Guatemala and film for two weeks straight. As we speak, I am in the middle of editing two videos, each about 10 minutes long, to share with you all in the next few weeks. It spotlights each of these children - and to be honest - will be way cooler to see than read, so you're in for a treat. 
Meet Delmy. She is 8 years old and is sponsored by Good Neighbors. She loves to read scary mystery books and wants to be a teacher when she grows up. She is extremely smart and loves to write, and since her mother never was able to attend school and get an education she is teaching her mom how to write her name. 
Delmy has two adorable sisters and their favorite pass time is playing hide and seek together. You'll see more of that in the video I'm making - and lemme tell you, it's the cutest stinkin' thing I've ever seen. They giggle a lot and are so so playful - I was literally rolling around with these giddy girls for an entire day, and they are a constant party. 
 Meet Ana Cristina. She is not a sponsored child, and since her parents cannot afford to put her in school she stays at home every day and helps her mom by sweeping their house and running errands with her grandparents. She misses going to school - and when her mother told her this year she couldn't afford to put her through school, she asked her daughter for forgiveness with tears in her eyes. You know someone has extremely special character when as a 12 year old girl they simply say, "It's okay mom. Maybe next year I can go to school," without causing any kind of fuss. She seems to understand their tough situation and Ana is always working hard to help in any way she can. 
 Ana has a big family and they all sleep together on one Queen sized bed in their home made of metal sheeting. They have no running water except for a spicket outside they use when there is water available to wash the clothes. Her youngest sister lost her eye when she had a mishap with a lolly pop, and even at Ana's young age she is already doing things I didn't know how to do until I was in my teens. She loves to share and is very kind and patient. They play a lot of games on the street outside their home (pictured above) and you can hear them laughing at their silly "cop and robber" games and plot clever ways to find each other in hide-and-seek. 
 Meet Elvin. Elvin has had a very difficult life. He is just 10 years old and works full time collecting garbage at the dump. I've been to that dump. My heart nearly broke. The stench was so overwhelming, I have never felt those emotions before and while I filmed him working and stumbled through the trash with my camera equipment I couldn't help but be overwhelmed with empathy for little Elvin. When you watch the video, you will see what I saw but it is only the tip of the iceberg without the accompanying smells and reality in front of your own eyes. Elvin works very hard to pay for the beans to feed his little sister and grandmother, who is his caretaker. He is often sick because of all the germs he is exposed to, and is extremely malnourished. 
 When Elvin grows up he wants to be a policeman. He says it is to care for the people of his country, but I've got a sneaking suspicion he likes the idea of a uniform! (he said it with a smile). Elvin is a sweet boy and extremely, extremely shy. Little boys like Elvin need extra hugs and special care. He lives in a makeshift house, of tarps and sheet metal, and eats only beans from breakfast, lunch and dinner. Because he works full time, he is unable to attend school and is missing out on gaining an education and making new friends. He wants to be able to learn and go to school, but in his given situation as a sole provider of income it is practically impossible without outside assistance. 
 Lastly, meet Maria. She is a trooper, and this girl is smart! She goes to school and comes home to help her mother in their fields and to make homemade tortillas. She made me some while I was at her home, and hands down was the best tortilla maker on this planet. Her mother is a strong Christian woman who loves God and shares that with her daughter. You can feel their love and compassion for others just by exchanging smiles with them. I felt truly loved and welcomed in their home, and Maria is always smiling and works very hard to be the best person she can be - and boy, is she good at it.
 When you meet kids like Maria, you just have to be awe-struck at the amazing things they are capable of at such a young age. She is incredibly polite and patient, and very tender with her little sister. She grew up in a home with a mother who really teaches her good values of hard work, generosity, and Christ-like love for everyone she meets.

The children I was able to interview, speak with, and spend entire days together taught me lessons of humility, love and compassion like nothing else could. As is usual with humanitarian experiences, you walk away a changed person - a better person - and I encourage you to really consider reaching outside of yourself, your life, your communities and looking for ways to help people that really, really really need it. Your heart will thank you later.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again - the world is not just here for us to explore and have fun. It's here for us to connect with other people - to build relationships - and to make a difference.

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12 comments on MY WORK IN GUATEMALA

  1. I'm so excited to see these videos! That is really neat that you had the opportunity to learn about these amazing little kidlets. These are the types of children I think of when I hear that we need to "be as little children". Thanks for sharing, I can't wait to see what you're working on!

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  2. wow. seriously wow. love this kylie. so glad to hear this side of it.

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  3. wonderful project, looking forward to see the video! thanks so much for sharing those amazing stories, they make me sad and happy at the same time... xx

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  5. One of my favorites of your travels, Kylie. Gorgeous photos- you have such a talent, friend! :))

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  6. What a neat post. I really enjoyed learning about each child; thanks for that. How difficult their lives are. I can't even imagine. I'll definitely be looking into Good Neighbors!

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  7. This is GREAT! Answered my questions totally. Nice job. I'm glad you had such a good time, it looks amazing :)

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  8. So cool kylie. I can't wait to see all the videos

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  9. i can't wait to see your video :)

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  10. kylie, this was touching. gave me some ideas for my near future. thanks for helping us remember to truly 'see'. love you and all that you do.

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