I arrived in Santiago Atitlan in the middle of September as the rainy season was coming to an end. Starting as an intern with Pueblo a Pueblo, I was interested to see how an international not-for-profit organization works in a developing country. I was also very excited to practice my Spanish and complete a life goal of living abroad.
Prior to my trip to Guatemala, I was working as a community organizer in central Illinois. So what motivated me to intern with Pueblo a Pueblo, as opposed to the many other not-for-profits operating in Central America, was their emphasis on working with partners to create sustainable solutions to localized problems.
As an intern I was able to assist several of Pueblo a Pueblo’s projects and see the immediate effects of their work. My favorite memories are my mornings spent at the recently constructed school library in Chacaya, where I helped catalogue the freshly minted, incoming books, and share in the students’ excitement of discovering the world around them through reading. I was also inspired by the Organic School Gardens project and the children’s passion for locally-grown food and environmental protection.
It was also rewarding to help with the Maternal Child Health and Family Planning Champions projects, where mothers are alleviated the extra burden of worrying about healthcare for themselves and their children, and whose lives are forever changed through education on healthy living.
Some other tasks and responsibilities included data collection on the School Nutrition project and assisting on communication tasks, so those of us on the ground can keep you updated and informed on what’s happening in the organization.
However, what I found to be most unique and inspiring about Pueblo a Pueblo is how they work as co-creators and equal partners with local Guatemalans to empower entire communities, especially women and children. Pueblo a Pueblo emphasizes the training and development of their beneficiaries, so that they can become local leaders and eventually sustain projects independently. This is not always the norm for international not-for-profits, and it could not happen without the collaboration and involvement of local staff and members from the community.
I’m happy to say that over the course of three months, Santiago Atitlan, which first appeared as foreign, dreary, and rainy, became home. Every day I am inspired by Pueblo a Pueblo’s multicultural and enthusiastic staff and I am proud to return in January as their newest employee.