Foundation for the Higher Good in Guatemala

Hi I’m Charlie, a third-year classicist, and this summer I went to Guatemala with an organisation called the Foundation for the Higher Good to do some work in a few communities there.

The Foundation is an organisation that was started by my American grandfather, my Papa, after he went to Guatemala for the first time in 2005. He started going a few times a year, so I grew up hearing about his trips. I always wanted to go, but never could. However, last summer my best friend, Bethany, who also goes to Trinity Hall went down there for a month with my Papa, and upon her telling me that she wanted to base her dissertation on some work she would do there this summer, we decided I should come with her. This was partly so she was not alone, but also largely so that I could go be a part of all the things I had grown up hearing about.

During the month we were there with my grandfather, we went to Chichicastenango, Magdalena, and Panajachel, all places that the foundation has been working in for several years, partnering with local people to help wherever needed. We got stuck in immediately, and over the course of that first week in Chichi, Bethany and I taught six English classes, helped put the floor and roof onto a house, and visited several families to bring them food and other basic necessities. The latter two tasks were done with a team who were there from my home state in the US. Words cannot do justice to how incredible the people we interacted with were. Our translator, Pedro, who ran the English school we helped at, welcomed us as though we had been there forever. The family whose house we were building worked alongside us both days, and were so grateful for simply a tin roof and concrete floor. The house visits were where the sheer scope of everything hit me, though. I had never met these people, I had done nothing for them save walking the five minutes to their houses to deliver some corn and soap, and yet they thanked me as though I had saved their child’s life. I was fully undeserving of the gratitude they showed, but they gave it so freely anyways.

This theme of unwarranted gratitude continued as we went to Magdalena, where we built two houses with some locals who have been partnering with my grandfather for the last few years. They build homes for those who need them out of a mixture that contains concrete, volcanic ash from the surrounding areas, and crushed up plastic bottles. While I was by no means the most helpful person there (I do not know how to build houses without very clear instructions), there was still that deep gratitude. Something that would look entirely insignificant to many people in England or the US was life-changing for them, and they were overjoyed to have a two room house with a few windows and a padlock. Another one of the days in Magdalena was spent driving to a village a few hours away to deliver food as part of a feeding program there. It was quite literally in the middle of the jungle, to the point that in order to get there we had to ride in the back of a pickup truck so that the vehicle was small enough to survive the narrow and windy roads, but still had four wheel drive for the rough terrain. They genuinely had nothing, and still we left with several bunches of bananas that they had picked from their trees as a thank you. To see people who have nothing still finding a way to give when they could very much use the gifts themselves is indescribable.

Once the team left, we found ourselves in Panajachel, where we spent some time learning from a couple who have built several learning centres around Guatemala and have a scholarship

program that puts thirty-five girls through high school with the help of the foundation. This culminated in Bethany and I teaching a two and a half hour English class to some of the students, which was simultaneously fantastic and terrifying. Aside from this, we helped my papa begin to update the foundation’s website, set up a youtube page, film some videos showing what they do, and other communications tasks. Papa is incredible, but technology is not his strong suit. Whilst all of this was taking place, Bethany was also conducting interviews with the people there for her dissertation. I was present for most of these for two reasons. Firstly, moral support because she was nervous, and secondly, to hear the stories of those she talked to. I don’t have time to go into any of them right now, but they were incredible to put it mildly.

The month I spent in Guatemala was beyond amazing. I knew going down there that realistically, while I would give as much as I could to everyone we met there, they would give and teach me far more than I ever could to them, and I was entirely correct. They are some of the most generous, grateful, joyful people I have ever met, and getting to experience that is more powerful than I am capable of expressing. I am continuing to help my grandfather with the foundation now, and my hope is that in doing what I can to assist him there, I will be able to give back a fraction of what they gave to me. I am extremely grateful for the support I received from the Association that allowed me to go. Truly, I cannot thank all of you enough for the opportunity you gave me and the experience that came with it, but nevertheless, thank you. I would love to talk to anyone who is interested more later on.