UPAVIM and I, 15 years later
Updated: Jul 27
By Janessa Landeck, UCDF Board President
15 years ago, I arrived at UPAVIM as a 22 year old new nurse, eager to make an impact- and left humbled and inspired. It is no understatement to say that volunteering at UPAVIM changed me deeply and also changed the course of my life. Not only have the relationships formed through UPAVIM deeply enriched my life, but my connection to UPAVIM continues to profoundly influence my work-life, family-life, priorities in finances, values I pass on to my children, and future goals. I continue to be so honored to do this work and to be able to stay connected with an organization that took an idealistic young person and allowed me to learn the difference between charity work and solidarity work.
I recently visited UPAVIM again to reconnect with old friends and bear witness to the tremendous impact UPAVIM continues to have amongst the women themselves and in their larger community.
I am always so impressed with the incredible warmth and generosity of the women who receive me as if no time has passed. That is the level of family that exists in this organization.
Many of the mothers I once knew are now grandmothers and time has changed us all. Being connected to this amazing organization over such a long time has allowed me to see the impact UPAVIM truly has had on women and families. In this rough neighborhood, it is a miracle to see how UPAVIM has allowed women to usher their children through the mine-field of adolescence in a community so impacted by gangs and teen pregnancy. It is the norm among the women of UPAVIM to have children progressing into high school and university.
While visiting, I had dinner with a woman whose oldest son is in medical school and another woman who is studying to be a lawyer herself. Education and the opportunities it provides take time to impact communities, but over the thirty years since its founding, these seeds are now coming to fruition. These women have a new expectation for what their futures look like and that modeling of independence and self-assuredness ensures a new way of being for this next generation.
I greatly appreciate UPAVIM’s cooperative model and that it is an organization run by the people it benefits. This method of governance can be frustrating and slower than someone from the outside coming in and “fixing” things but the result is so much longer lasting and actually changes what people think they are capable of instead of disempowering them and creating dependency.
These women are feisty and know what they value and want! They have fought for this sisterhood through threats of extortion, threats of violence, financial crises, and now a global pandemic and I truly believe they are unstoppable. Come visit and let them inspire you!
I stand with the women of UPAVIM today because I truly feel I receive much more than I give through my continued support for UPAVIM. The gravity of the work as President of the UPAVIM Community Development Foundation is sometimes overwhelming, but I am strengthened by the knowledge that I am in good company as I know the women in Guatemala are working doubly hard to create a better life.
If you are interested in true solidarity work that changes the lives of women and families, please consider lending your support! The first step, as with most things, is to listen and learn. Consider visiting, volunteering, donating, joining the Board, and/or sharing the stories of UPAVIM with your friends and family! The women of UPAVIM don’t “need” us, but they welcome us to walk alongside them, hear their stories, and lend a hand to their efforts if you’re able.
There truly is no better use of your time and money than investing in women. The women and I thank you for your support.