Hi, my name is William Bessette, and I am a board member here at Guatemalan Humanitarian Tours and Be Humanitarian. I have served on the board for four years now. I assist with marketing and branding for both companies. And I am here to talk to you about when I visited Guatemala on a humanitarian aid trip. You are probably thinking, “This is part two, where is part one?” Well, I went on Part One four years ago when I first joined the board. Unfortunately, at that time, I did not write a blog to record my experience. But this time I did. This is the second time I have gone on a Guatemalan Humanitarian Tour. And this one was just as powerful. But also different.
This being the second trip, I was intrigued. How had things changed in four years? Well, first off, things changed quite a bit. Four years ago, Guatemalan Humanitarian Tours was going around the country, helping various organizations and charities in different locations. We were quite mobile. We visited orphanages and other NGOs that were helping their communities in education, nutrition, and finding work. As Tobie Spears, our fearless leader and founder states, “I was sprinkling seeds.” But this time, four years later, Tobie and Guatemalan Humanitarian Tours were planting a tree. We were going to put in roots and help an entire community.
Our home would be San Andrés Semetabaj, up in the hills and mountainsides surrounding Lake Atitlán and the town of Panajachel. It was here that Guatemalan Humanitarian Tours would set up shop and buy a piece of land to build a sewing center for local moms. The goal? To enable local mothers to do something for a living for themselves and their families. While we were there we painted, we excavated tons of dirt – literally, tons – and we visited local families in the town where we have planted vertical gardens. Vertical gardens – an idea gifted to us from Kenyans – take less space and water than square box gardens when producing the same amount of fruits and vegetables.
We spent time with Daniel, our sponsee, who immediately took to Brandon, my husband. But then again, everyone loves Brandon. He is a ray of light in a sometimes dark world. And Daniel responded to that light. For only $37 per month, we make sure Daniel is fed. We met his family and spent time with them, painting and playing with kids and chatting with his parents. They were the nicest people. And Daniel became a member of our family. He already was, but now the deal was sealed. He’s the cutest little guy and we are happy to have him, his sisters, and his parents in our lives.
Every time we do one of these tours, we bring thousands of pounds of food and supplies and this trip was no exception. We brought down 3,000 pounds of food, clothing, medical, and educational supplies for our mothers and families. We are providing nearly 3,000 dinner boxes and sponsoring the education for dozens of children every month. And now, with this sewing center in San Andres, we are planting a tree that will hopefully bear the fruit of humanitarian aid, self-sufficience, nutrition, and education. Every time I come down here and see the work we do, I am amazed. This is part of the good service vacations do in the world.
But here’s the thing. We aren’t just down here doing good work. We also have fun. While a significant portion of the trip is spent visiting local mothers and seeing first-hand the work we do, another portion takes us to notable areas around the country. We get to visit Antigua, a bustling and beautiful town in old Spanish colonial style. Colorful streets and energetic vendors await. And the fun doesn’t stop there. We also get to go zip-lining through the jungle near the lake. We spend time down in Panajachel visiting the shops and supporting the local community.
Ever been to an active volcano? Part of these humanitarian tours involves a trip to Volcán Pacaya. Pacaya is an active complex volcano in Guatemala, which first erupted approximately 23,000 years ago and has erupted at least 23 times since the Spanish conquest of Guatemala. And here we were, walking up the side of it (for me, the second time) near to its cone. The day was gray, cold and windy, but you cannot control Mother Nature. We got to see the steam rising from the vents of the volcano floor and do our best to roast marshmallows. We were together and that is what mattered.
Finally, we would spend a day on Guatemala’s Pacific Coast at a beautiful riviera style home, playing in the pool and the ocean and having dinner, discussing our time there. We held a video fundraiser that’s raised over $6,000 towards a $10,000 goal. There isn’t much time left, but you can help us reach the goal by clicking or tapping this link. We had fun, but we still worked for our families.
My time as a board member of Guatemalan Humanitarian Tours, now transitioning into Be Humanitarian, has been nothing short of incredible. To be part of the work we do helping others bring so much joy to my heart. And meeting the child we sponsor literally put a smiling face to the work we do. It is an honor to be giving my time to this cause. Would you like to? Are you interested on going on a humanitarian trip to Guatemala? To sponsor a child or learn more, simply reach out to us and we would be happy to give you more information on the work we do.