Today was our first day going to Safe Passage. I was super excited to meet the kids, but I was also a bit nervous to see how different their lives are. First, we went to watch a video about the founder of Safe Passage. That really stuck with me throughout the day because it showed me how Hanley took action rather than sit back and watch everything happen from a distance, and I can imagine how much courage that would take.
After learning a little more about Safe Passage, we went over to the main cemetery. There, we saw a drastic division between social classes in the way their loved ones who had passed away were buried. One of Guatemala’s wealthiest families had a huge Egyptian temple burial space, while those who lived in poverty could barely afford to rent out apartment style burial spaces for those who had passed away. If they couldn’t pay their rent, their loved one’s bodies would be removed and dumped into the dump adjacent to the cemetery. That broke my heart because I know in this culture death is a very important part of their culture and it is widely celebrated through many holidays.
We also got a view of the dump and saw many people sifting through the trash. It saddened me that so many people were in the dump and knowing that chemical waste trucks dump their hoses right in the middle of all the people. Knowing that even having a small cut could be the difference between life and death because of the many dangerous situations.
Later we went to the preschool and volunteered in an English class. One of the girls who I had just met sat on my lap right away and we started laughing together. We gave the kids lunch and then went outside to talk with our Safe Passage leader Kassidy. She told us about the housing situations and how almost all kids have difficult home lives and are involved in every kind of abuse imaginable. It was difficult to hear about that because by just seeing the kids, they seemed so happy and excited to learn about everything, despite troubles at home.
Afterwards we went to Creamos (where the parents go to school), and we saw graduation photos of adults, who all seemed so happy to graduate from 6th grade and other grades. The parents in Creamos must have a big influence on their children and inspire them to further learn by showing them their personal progress and achievements. Some of the parents are off in university studying psychology after completing their schooling at Creamos.
After Creamos, we went to the elementary and middle school. We volunteered in a first-grade class. I sat next to a girl and we started talking and playing pattycake with each other. They were working on their handwriting and spelling by writing their own names over and over again. They would count how many times they wrote their own name and I would always look at a girl named Kriya and she would look at me and laugh. She would lose track of the number she was on. When she finally finished counting, I would ask her what the number was in English. Usually I would have to tell her, and she would imitate my voice, because she thought I sounded silly.
After, we volunteered for a 6th grade class and helped them study for their upcoming spelling bee. Some of the words I couldn’t even spell such as feburary or conslours office. Some of the kids were better than me at spelling. It was a fun day and I am excited to interact with the kids more. I think the most difficult part of today was the lack of communication between the kids and me because I don’t speak Spanish. It breaks my heart not knowing what they are saying to me.