Laura Viselli, SOS’s Director of International Programs at SOS, spent 10 days in Guatemala visiting partnering organizations in Guatemala in October 2017.
The morning I meet with Niños de Guatemala (NDG) for the first time is also my first full day in Antigua. Prior to my arrival Antigua was described as the must see destination of my trip, “the” city in Guatemala for backpackers, linguists, students, families, and environmentalists. I was worried about one city’s ability to have enough within it to meet all the needs of those different people. How can one city achieve so much? Interestingly, I had a similar thought prior to meeting NDG: How do they do so much?
Niños de Guatemala is a Dutch run NGO based in Antigua, operating programs in Antigua, Ciudad Vieja and San Lorenzo del Cubo. This month marks their 10 year anniversary but you wouldn’t expect that looking at all their organization’s offerings; two primary schools and one secondary school fully staffed with teachers, kitchen staff, social workers, and more, serving over 500 children. And this is in conjunction with their social businesses; The Good Hotel, a locally built and decorated hotel in Antigua; Cambio Language School, the only non-profit Spanish language school in Antigua; and the Experience Guatemala tours, showcasing local traditions from confectionery making to coffee roasting.
Even with this extensive resume, no NDG employee, staff, or volunteer, ever conveyed that these offerings were the limit. Our conversations centered around improved volunteer experiences, expanding social businesses, and increasing the quality of the school programs
Over the course of my trip, I spent time with NDG on three separate occasions; first a meeting at their office in Antigua, then visiting their three schools, and ending with two Experience Guatemala Tours. Across these activities their message is clear: Education, Empowerment, and Entrepreneurship.
NDG’s 3 schools serve as an obvious connection between their mission and their organization’s programming. However, it stood out to me that NDG is playing a unique role in educating the backpackers, linguists, students, families, and environmentalists that come to Antigua. Their Experience Guatemala tours offer an intimate and real look at the lives of Guatemalans in nearby communities and provide a mutually beneficial opportunity for them and tourists in Antigua. They are the true definition of an innovative organization as they have adapted to regional market and travel trends.
During our time together I met many people impacted by NDG’s culture of empowerment. Rosa, a maker of Guatemalan quitapenas, or, “worry dolls” who patiently lead us through the process of making our own while sharing her personal story and the story of her family. Carmen, the owner of a coffee co-operative who gave us a tour of her business and showed us the process of coffee roasting, grinding, and drinking. Christian, our NDG tour guide who opened his home to us to make Guatemalan sweets with us and lead our Experience Guatemala Tour to visit NDG’s 3 schools. And last but not least, the NDG staff – at their main office, at the Good Hotel, at Cambio Language school. Having work and a means to provide for oneself is crucial to a person’s development – just as important as receiving an education. NDG is able to empower their students, their school staff, and those whom they collaborate with for their social businesses.
Niños de Guatemala has successfully combined doing ‘good’ and doing ‘business’ and they are paving the way for young professionals and altruists to not have to choose between the two.
Visit https://ninosdeguatemala.org/ to learn more about NDG!