Alternative Spring Break Group Hopes to Raise Awareness: A safe passage in Gutamela

Posted by Taylor Ray '17

This spring break, from March 7 to 16, a group of 12 Skidmore students will depart on a trip organized by Jane Dowd '14 to work with Safe Passage in Guatemala. Safe Passage is an organization that collaborates with the surrounding community in order to recycle the country's trash and to extend services to impoverished Guatemalan families. Dowd and her group will focus primarily on the Guatemala City municipal dump and the surrounding area.

According to the organization's website, Safe Passage makes an effort to provide any kind of support needed for children from areas affected by the Guatemalan City municipal dump to attend school. The organization also extends resources to parents who live in the area and/or work at the dump, and has programs that teach the families important skills that will help them break the cycle of poverty effectively and permanently, according to the site.

Two events this week aim to spread awareness of the issues that Safe Passage confronts and to raise funds for the organization. A screening at 6 p.m. this Wednesday in the Spa will feature the short film Manos de Madre, created by Safe Passage. The film gives a brief overview of the struggles and daily lives of dump workers in Guatemala City and the help that Safe Passage extends to them. The screening will be accompanied by free Esperanto, and is free for all students and faculty. Donations will be accepted during the event, either in cash or through a SkidCard.

A fundraiser in Falstaff's will also aim to bolster funds and spark interest in the trip. The event begins at 8:30 this Friday, Feb. 21, and will feature performances by student groups, including Villains, Drastic Measures, Breakbeats, Bandersnatchers, Rhythmos, Dynamics and Bo Peep & the Funk Sheep.

"We hope to raise around $1000 to donate to Safe Passage to show that the Skidmore community is invested in their mission," said Dowd. Although the event is free, there is a suggested five-dollar donation.

Although Skidmore has not worked with Safe Passage in the past, a new partnership is arising between the college and the organization. Skidmore alumna Megan McAdams works full-time at Safe Passage, and Dowd herself has previously worked with the organization during a six-month stay in Guatemala. The trip this spring break will expose Skidmore students to work being done to help those far beyond our college borders and allow them to contribute directly to that work. 

"I hope that this trip will inform students of the recent history of the Guatemalan Civil War, help them understand why that society has become what it is and offer a more critical look into the inner workings of international NGOs and nonprofits," Dowd said.

Along with the experience and benefits that come with traveling to a foreign country and putting work and critical thought into a cause, students involved in the trip also had the opportunity to enroll in an optional 1-credit course in the Latin American Studies department this semester.

"I hope that the incentive of getting credit for the trip will push people to want to sign on in the future," said Dowd.

Information about the Guatemala spring break trip events can be found on the Manos de Madre and Falstaff's Fundraiser event pages on Facebook. For those who are unable to attend but would still like to donate, the group is accepting donations through Go Fund Me. 

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Reporting from D.C.: Dreaming of Journalism