Dear Readers, I am Laura Barbosa.
In July I started in the role of Program Coordinator of Guate Groundswell helping to support the local Program Officers (Isabel, Noe, and Antonio) who are leading the initiative in each of our three partner communities in Guatemala.
For this first post, I wanted to introduce myself and what has sparked my personal inspiration to be part of the initiative.
If this is the first time you’ve heard of our Guate Groundswell program, you can also learn more here.
I am from Colombia, a country that, like Guatemala, lacks basic needs such as education. Also, I grew up in a family of educators, most of my Uncles and Aunts are High School or University Teachers/Lecturers. I witnessed the daily struggle they went through to help youth and children in Colombia have access to quality education. I even had the opportunity to attend some of their classes and educational projects in vulnerable communities. I saw how fearless and entertaining they often had to be in order to hold a student’s attention and find a way to drive home an important principle. These experiences were a milestone in my life.
My desire to learn and gain new experiences led me to dream and work hard so I could travel to other countries. I knew once I was capable of immersing myself in a different culture and learning from it then I could be part of the change that our society needs.
I moved to China in 2011 to learn Mandarin as well as, work, volunteer, and travel throughout Asia. I saw that Cambodia, Thailand, and Turkey were countries that all had something in common: not every child had access to education. I volunteered, teaching in small communities of children between the ages of 9 and 11. Like my family, my purpose was to find a way to drive home an important principle “Nurture their aspirations, confidence, curiosity, imagination, self-respect, and responsibility to others”.
My passion for education continued growing, and now, I was not only enhancing my skills in education but also I was able to speak two more languages: English and Mandarin. I was hired as a translator, which is an activity that requires commitment and a ton of love. It is not just about translating words but about interpreting an intention, an idea, and the heart behind it.
In 2014, I decided to make my career in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in Public Relations, and I worked as a Spanish teacher for youth, young adults, and adults. Learning a language is not only about grammar and vocabulary (although these are important). What really helps is being able to understand the culture of the language. Spanish, like the countries and the people who speak it, is a language where expression, charisma, and affection shape the language. My students are role models/testimonies that to learn you need to have fun, and until now this has been and will be my engine.
I volunteered in a community of refugee Myanmar children who were settling in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Seeing the positive and generous attitude, they approached their lives with, despite their very difficult circumstances reinforced to me what H. Jackson Brown once said, “Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”
I moved to Canada in 2019 with my husband. This was my chance to reunite with my sister and be together after 9 years of being apart. I worked in different jobs that helped me understand the Canadian culture, this being important when going to a country different from our own, and to improve my communications skills.
Yet, due to my previous experiences as well as my family background I had a special place in my heart for education, youth, and community outreach.
June 2020 was when I first learned about Students Offering Support. During my initial interview, while getting to know more about the Guate Groundswell Program, I knew I wanted to work with SOS because of the organization’s approach to facilitating exchange and collaboration across cultures and supporting education. This was a mission that I had experienced in my own life. This role is a dream come true for me.
Though it has been only a few months (5 to be precise) working with the SOS team. It has been incredible to witness the development of our youth mentors and mentees over these recent months. I can’t wait to share some of their stories in the months ahead through a series of regular blog posts. Through this blog we want you to have a chance to get to know our mentors and hear about our program activities, and how you can get involved.