Ten years have passed since my first visit to Guatemala and the unforgettable encounter with UPAVIM. The impact of that place and its incredible people has remained steadfast throughout the years.
Back in the summer of 2013, I embarked on a journey to the community of La Esperanza, where I joined the English program at the UPVAIM school as a short-term volunteer. Over six weeks, my fellow volunteers and I immersed ourselves in the vibrant culture, connecting with students, teachers, and the remarkable women leading the organization.
It didn't take long for me to fall in love with Guatemala and be deeply moved by the dedication of the UPAVIM women in brightening the lives of their fellow citizens. Their resilience, creativity, and unwavering optimism in the face of challenging circumstances left an indelible mark on my heart.
Inspired by my time in Guatemala, I pursued studies in Spanish language, Latin American history, and culture during my undergraduate years. Even back in Tennessee, where I worked for an organization serving young people from Guatemalan immigrant families, my connection to the country remained strong.
After graduation, as I established a career in communications in Washington, DC, I volunteered to teach English to adult learners, many of whom hailed from Guatemala and El Salvador. My ties to Guatemala only grew stronger as my husband's family, half of whom were Guatemalan immigrants, became an integral part of my life.
In fact, my experience with UPAVIM was one of the first ways I bonded with my father-in-law.
As fate would have it, my career path took me to Fairtrade America, an organization dedicated to building ethical trade relationships with farmers of high-risk products, including cocoa, coffee, and bananas. We partnered with numerous farmer organizations in Latin America, with a significant presence in Guatemala. I heard countless stories of incredible people working relentlessly to improve their livelihoods and communities, echoing the very essence of what I witnessed at UPAVIM a decade ago.
Grateful for the transformative experiences in Guatemala and the profound connection it brought to my life, I am now honored to serve on the Board of the UPAVIM Community Development Foundation. Being able to support the inspiring women of UPAVIM and their mission fills me with immense joy. I eagerly anticipate sharing their empowering stories with others, as they unite to create a brighter future in La Esperanza.
As I look ahead, I am excited to continue contributing to the remarkable work of UPAVIM and stand beside these extraordinary women on their quest to create a better world for all.