The Road To Guatemala

This is the first of many posts to stay in touch with friends and family who I will miss greatly while I work in Guatemala on a project that is very close to my heart. I thought it might help to start with a little background for those of you who are just learning of ninosdellago.

About four years ago, I traveled to Guatemala for a 3 week Spanish class and to search for a start-up project where I could make some level of difference. Guatemala was of particular interest to me – their poverty and illiteracy rate is one of the highest in Central America and they are still suffering from the 36 year civil war that ended ten years ago. Guatemala is our neighbor just south of Mexico, their needs are great, and their resources are limited.

I was referred to Niños del Lago, a project to develop a camp for Guatemala’s at risk children. I was especially drawn to this idea because it builds on existing programs and is being developed as part of a network of services as opposed to a stand alone project. Children's causes have always been my passion. We've all had experiences as a child where just one encounter with someone or something positive became a pivotal moment for us. Children need this and I am passionate about supporting organizations that exist to do this.

After hearing about the project, I sent an email to the Founder, Arlaine Cervantes and via a series of strange circumstances, discovered that I was on my way back to Guatemala through her home town, LaPaz, Mexico. I already had tickets in hand to LaPaz when I learned this -- A coincidence worthy of my attention.

While there, I worked with Arlaine to prepare the 501C3 application for non-profit status, which was quickly approved. I later served on the Board of Directors and worked on special projects including recording financial information, creating budgets and helping with an overall plan. Over the last four years, the land has been acquired and cleared, the camp entrance has been built and water tanks have been installed. Further, Niños del Lago has developed an organization in the Netherlands that has provided funds for further construction and they have developed a global partnership with Capgemini (they are raising $16,000 to install electricity - thank you Capgemini!!). With these latest financial commitments there is much work to be done. We need to continue to build the camp and begin to prepare the programs. Arlaine needs assistance.

For this reason, I am taking a career sabbattical in order to travel to Guatemala to help with this next phase of Niños del Lago’s development: building the administrative infrastructure and working with Arlaine to expand our presence in Guatemala, developing the networks of organizations that will refer the children to the camp and preparing the scholarship program.

I couldn't think of a better way to spend 2009 but I had to consider it carefully because funding to support this job does not currently exist. This was not a good enough reason to pass up this opportunity to be a part of something this important and so I am embarking on a campaign to raise those funds.

My immediate goal is to raise $16,000. In the U.S. there are more than 300 million people and I need only 650 who are willing to donate $25 to the project in order to reach my goal. If you would like to join me in supporting this wonderful project for the children of Guatemala, please click on the donate button and forward this to anyone who you think might also be interested in helping.

Research shows that a well organized camp experience with individual mentoring to the child and focus on building self concept does make a difference. I hope you’ll join me and support me and ninosdellago.