Volunteering: Back into my roots.
Guatemala — Uniterra
There is something strange about cycles. I strongly believe that we are all operating in cycles. In each cycle we are challenged with different tasks and things we have to learn about ourselves and behavior. Now, I am facing a new one. I am in the same physical place I was two years ago, but with a different mindset, ideas and conviction.
I have been working with CECI for three different year-long contracts. The first one started in 2012. I had just graduated from college, and I was really excited to find out what it was like to work in international cooperation. It was an amazing experience; I got to meet different artisans, farmers and community leaders. At this time I was getting to know myself working in the field. So everything was new and excited.
The next following two years I had to work with 15 different artisan organizations.
Getting to know their hard work, families and dreams was a life changing experience. When you are working with low income communities you are constantly facing barriers that you are not accustomed to. The ones that they have to deal with on their daily basis and some additional one. It is a humble experience to see how they can make it work with lack of resources and battles they faced.
Even though this was a profound experience, it became overwhelmed and exhausting. Throughout my three year contracts, my patience, communication skills, and perseverance were constantly tested. Working with people of different cultures is a constant challenge, and this is something that everyone knows while working in international cooperation. But it is a whole other thing living it. I needed a break, so I took it.
During the break, I was working for a big organization. I started a new cycle with a competitive salary, immersed in a corporation dynamic. It was doing exactly what I thought I wanted or needed for a very long time – but it felt miserable. I couldn’t understand why it was so hard for me to get up every morning. It felt like a punishment and it didn’t make any sense because it was something that I chose and sought out.
It was one year of being seated in front of a desk for ten to twelve hours a day, in an environment that was surrounded by big industries; industries only interested in money, power and competition. Worst of all, I was representing a company which conflicted with my values and professional ethic. I knew it was time to look for new opportunities.
At the time, I had no idea that why I chose working in this industry. Now, everything make sense. When you are in a place where you don´t feel good. You are constantly question yourself what makes you happy. Where you want to be. Who you want to meet. You can picture yourself in the place you want to be surrounded by great people. It helps you define what you really want to do for your next cycle. It becomes a trigger.
Two years later, I am back. With more experience, knowledge and self-awareness. Everything looks different. In this new adventure I have had the opportunity to visit different towns, communities and organizations. Documenting the work that volunteers and CECI Guatemala´s team has made in the past 25 years. I am discovering many incredible stories and people. The great thing about this is that it’s only the beginning of a new cycle.
For an instance a couple weeks ago, I met Diana, a ten-year-old daughter of the leader of an organization that works to empower women around Sololá. Esperanza, her mother and leader of the organization, told me that one of her daughters dreams was to be a fashion designer or a veterinarian. After been playing with her collecting clovers on the big landscapes of Godinez Sololá. I asked her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She replied, “Well, I just want to be happy and I am working to get it.”
My eyes started tearing. I was shocked on how a ten-year-old girl had clear one of the main values or things we need in our life. Happiness is not just a feeling. Is the result of different actions we do that make us feel pleased and accomplished. After sharing some time with Diana, I knew I was in the right place and time.
I am having the opportunity to work with great women and youth. I am back in my roots with people that are working every day to be the best version of themselves. Talking with people with amazing stories and building a network willing to make a change in their communities. I will have the opportunity to share with others their work and lives. But most importantly to learn from them.
Esperanza told me: “I had worked my whole life to be a role model for my daughters. I want them to know that they are capable of making their dreams come true. All three of my daughters are studying and working to become great professionals.” One of her main goals is to continue spreading this message with other women. She had been working with different local development organizations in the past. She knows that this is her journey.
This is the privilege we receive as volunteers. We get to experiment and followed different places, people, and experiences. But before anything else, we get to live the journeys of others to become the best version of themselves. As we learn new things about ourselves.