Safe Passage: A School for Children Living Around the Guatemala City Garbage Dump

my worldbettering communities

When I was planning our family vacation to Central America a few months ago, I wanted my children to have a well-rounded and culturally rich experience by offering them a variety of activities, including sight seeing, traditional events, as well as opportunities to have play dates with Guatemalan children their same ages.

I also wanted them to have their eyes opened to the poverty that exists in the world so they would come back with a greater understanding and appreciation for what we have and the lifestyle we enjoy.

The day before we returned from Guatemala to the US, we toured a facility called Safe Passage.

Safe Passage (“Camino Seguro”) opened its doors in 1999 to provide a safe alternative for children living around and working in the Guatemala City garbage dump. We believe that every child should have access to education, and we enable those enrolled in our program to attend school and to access opportunities for work and life beyond the confines of poverty in the Guatemala City garbage dump.

Today, Safe Passage serves approximately 550 children and 70 adults who represent over 300 families living in the vicinity of the Guatemala City garbage dump. We run a comprehensive program that incorporates healthy living, academics, creativity, and fun for students young and old.

On our visit, we first went to a spot overlooking the garbage dump. Chase (age 9) and Connor (age 7) truly couldn't comprehend what we were witnessing. That this was a place where garbage was discarded? Easy enough to understand. That entire families, including children, spent their days there, collecting anything and everything to sell for their survival? Not a chance!

So next, we took them to the Safe Passage facilities—first to the school and then to the women's facility.

The boys were able to go on a tour of the school and see how it differed from their own. They interacted with the children and asked lots of questions.

Then, we went to the women's center, where we met mothers from the nearby shanty towns who were receiving business training and English lessons. We bought necklaces they had made from the paper taken from the garbage dump—now a viable business for many women there.

On its website, Safe Passage quotes William Arthur Ward:

We can throw stones, complain about them, stumble on them, climb over them, or build with them.

I loved being able to show my children an example of an organization who "builds with them" during our travels to Guatemala. It was definitely a perfect ending to an already wonderful family vacation.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Safe Passage, click on this link.


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An active part of the Mom It Forward team, Jyl primarily writes about parenting, social good, and all things travel related. In a past life, Jyl was an award-winning copywriter and designer of corporate training programs for Fortune 100 companies. Offline, Jyl is married to @TroyPattee; a mom to two teen boys and a beagle named #Hashtag; loves large amounts of cheese, dancing, and traveling; and lives in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Topping her bucket list is the goal to visit 50 countries by the time she's 50.

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