Re-Introducing a Fine NGO
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Most of you who have followed Emma’s and my adventures throughout the years know about Las Manos de Christine, the NGO we’ve returned to Guatemala several times to assist. However, what you may not remember is that Las Manos, now standing on its own in Aldea El Hato, began as an effort to support another great NGO: Camino Seguro, or Safe Passage.
Safe Passage, around for nearly a decade and half now, began by aiding children of the families who live near and work in the Guatemala City dump. It’s the largest dump in Central America and the sole source of income for an entire community, fishing out anything recyclable, in Guatemala’s capital. Since 1999, Safe Passage has grown into much more, now offering not only support (educational, nutritional, medical, and psychological) to the area’s children, but also programs for women, a nursery for babies and toddlers, and classes for reaching adult literacy. Through years of service, Safe Passage has made and continuous to make an undeniably positive impact on the community that surrounds it.
The non-profit was founded by a US-born woman, Hanley Denning, who came down to Guatemala to study Spanish in 1997. However, after visiting the dilapidated neighborhoods around the garbage dump, she sold her computer and car to fund a project to help the children she’d seen. Thus, in 1999, Safe Passage was born, beginning with forty-six of the poorest children in the area. Over the next eight years, Hanley fostered the program and the community, as well as garnered vast international support, local volunteers, and a devoted foreign staff. Then, in January of 2007, she died in a car crash.
Though obviously shaken, Hanley’s admirers, friends, and staff pressed on, continuing the vision that had consumed the last eight years of her life. Today, Safe Passive provides educational support, various health services, and means to rise out of poverty to over 550 children, not to mention the support given to families from bottom to top. Perhaps as notable, however, is that Hanley’s love and devotion has opened the eyes of so many others, those who worked with her, who continue what she began, and for whom she labored on behalf of.
In 2008, the first time Emma and I lived in Guatemala, Emma worked at Safe Passage every afternoon, teaching English classes provided by a tiny NGO called Las Manos de Christine. By the time we’d returned in 2010, this time as full-time volunteers for Las Manos, Safe Passage had outgrown the need for Las Manos-funded English classes, which is why we began our work in Aldea El Hato. However, the mission of Safe Passage has remained strong in our hearts, and in the world, and for me, the two NGOs will forever be intertwined.
For more information on Safe Passage, visit the website: www.safepassage.org.
Thanks for your interest. In the coming year, I hope to provide a monthly blog post about the exciting, inspiring projects happening in Guatemala. If you know of one, would like your organization to be included, or are particularly interested in some facet of NGO work, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Until next time, best wishes.