Laura Viselli, SOS’s Director of International Programs at SOS, spent 10 days visiting partnering organizations in Guatemala in October 2017.
I meet Edil from SEED Alliance for the first time outside of Casa de Los Amigos, in Guatemala City, our hostel for the night and a favoured accommodation for SOS volunteers. After a quick intro we are off, and Edil battles the traffic and maintains a conversation for the better part of a hour. (A balance I cannot imagine). We drive to meet Sheily and before I can get out of the car she has me wrapped in a tight hug and is wearing a huge smile across her face. I know it’s going to be an amazing 3 days.
Over the time we spend together the story of SEED Alliance, of Sheily and Edil, and of their long term plans for the organization unfold naturally. The organization is intimately linked to their history as leaders, as students, and as dreamers for a better future in Guatemala that I cannot separate the individuals, Sheily and Edil, from the SEED employees, Sheily and Edil.
Anyone who spends time with Edil and Sheily knows that their work ethic to improve their country is only beat out in magnitude by their love for one another. Within our first few hours together I quickly became aware that being in their presence is being in the presence of true love through their respect, admiration, and appreciation of one another.
As we discuss the future of SEED Alliance Sheily and Edil are perhaps the most modest people I have ever met. Being parents to a two year old, and working full time jobs, they always reiterate what they are going to do next; how they will improve and expand- not when they will take their next break.
The foundations for SEED Alliance were built by Edil and Sheily when they were selected to participate in a program offered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) at Georgetown University. The program, entitled Scholarships for Education and Economic Development (SEED), sought out leaders in different regions of Guatemala and gave participants leadership development, technical training, cultural enrichment programs, and more, for a period of 2 years. Although the program has now ended, the impact it has had on Sheily, Edil, the SEED Alliance team, and their communities is extremely visible.
Sheily and Edil created SEED Alliance in 2014 to mobilize Alumni from the SEED program to implement the skills they learnt in order to better their communities. SEED Leaders propose community projects, ranging from water projects, to sports courts, to classrooms, and oversee their development and completion in conjunction with the community and SOS. SEED Leaders propose projects in the communities in which many, if not all, of them were born and raised in.
Sheily and Edil imagine a future for SEED Alliance where SEED Leaders are able to work with more organizations like SOS to develop their communities, and in the process, continue to develop themselves as leaders. In our conversations together, Sheily and Edil focused on the word empowerment, and not just for the communities in which projects are built, but for the SEED Leaders who bring them to fruition.
Empowerment was also a trait I saw amongst the network of leaders and communities that SEED Alliance has created and is strengthening. They imagine a future where leaders across Guatemala are motivated and empowered to speak openly for their needs and to sustainably develop their communities.