My Week in Guatemala

My FTF Organizational Development internship officially began last month when I went to Guatemala to visit our field workers, Reilly and Andrew. Being in the field is, in my opinion, one of the biggest parts of the mission of FTF, and one of the most important steps when it comes to helping local visionaries in their quest for a better life.

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I really enjoy being in the field. It allows me to get a real sense for how different and difficult life can be for people in low-resource neighborhoods; and how challenging the mission of FTF is.

As I have already had the opportunity to work in Africa and Brazil, I could not have been more excited to discover Guatemala through the perspective of First Things Foundation and the day-to-day lives of the FTF field workers.

We began our trip in Momostenango, where many of the opportunities for FTF are taking place. We stayed for three days in a village close to Momostenango, where I had the opportunity to meet local people and the inspiring volunteers who created and are currently working at the local medical clinic. I particularly enjoyed our daily commute from the town to our village, as it was an accurate representation of how people live in the Guatemalan mountains. I also had the chance to play with the kids from the village while the boys were baking cookies with the local women.  Unlike the kids who were used to running for hours at such an altitude, I was out of breath after 5 minutes. It was still amazing to be part of their game and it reminded me of my time in Cape Town when I was teaching at an orphanage.

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My first official job as a member of the FTF team was rather challenging; a woman who owns a restaurant in town asked for our help in finding solutions that would improve her working life. She needed ideas for how she could attract more customers to her restaurant. After an intense discussion, many brainstorming sessions, and guiding remarks from the FTF team, the business owner found the solution to her problem by herself and is now trying to implement those ideas to increase the number of costumers coming to her restaurant.

The next three days of the trip were completely different, yet just as insightful as the first few. We took (too) many rides in chicken buses, during which I discovered that it was possible to not feel my legs for 3 hours straight.

On the first day of our trip we stopped in Xela, a vibrant and exciting city where Reilly and Andrew introduced me to John “the guy who knows everything and everyone in Guatemala” – according to them. And they were right. I know I played with his dog more than I listened to his stories, but the knowledge and passion that came from this man were incredible and really inspiring. Plus, he is a pro at making coffee.

After another chicken bus ride, this one lasted nearly 4 hours, we arrived in the well preserved colonial town of Antigua. There, we managed to see most of the town and take some great pictures for the FTF Instagram.

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With its rooftops, amazing sunsets, and very cool vibe, Antigua is for sure one of the best cities I have been to. We even had a good American burger because the guys were missing home. We had the chance to meet great people in Antigua, many of them with important skills we will use to build our FTF Project Development Hub. More on that to come!

Thanks to this short but intense trip I realized that, aside from the fact that Americans can be funny and interesting, there are many things we can do to assist the poorest communities in Guatemala and support local impresarios in developing their projects and professional ideas. I am continuously surprised by how culturally diverse all the countries I have worked in are, and how each mission, though different, has a profound impact on the lives of those they serve. Sierra Leone, you are next on my list, so field workers, prepare yourselves.

The only let down of the trip:  I was eager to climb a volcano, but the FTF guys gave some sort of work excuse. I think they were just tired! Next time!