Thorns, Buds, and Roses – Safe Passage Day 2

August 9, 2016

Morning view in Antigua, Guatemala before heading to Guatemala City.

Today’s blog is written by Hayli Poisson ’17.

As my Senior 4-Point I have decided to take this trip to Guatemala to volunteer for a program called Safe Passage. It is a chance for me to learn more about the impoverished communities around the Guatemala City dump and understand what it means to work for a non-profit organization.

Today was an amazing introductory day to Guatemala City and Safe Passage. To end the day, each of us went around in a circle telling our “thorn, bud, and rose” of the day. For those of you who don’t know what that is, the thorn is your least favorite moment or a moment that you found unsettling, bud is an idea or moment that you found inspiring or want to know more about and then finally ending with the rose which was your favorite part. In today’s blog I am going to share our “thorns, buds and roses” with you!


Looking at the entrance to the dump from the school yard. The dump is 2 miles long.


One of the hardest parts of today was going to see the Guatemala City dump. This dump is where trash from all across Guatemala City (2 million people) comes and is dumped into a ravine. Over 2,000 people make a living sorting and selling any items of value that they find in the dump. Many of you are probably thinking of your local dump and that it may not be actually that bad, but I’m sad to say that whatever you are thinking does’t compare to the reality. Hundreds and hundreds of trash trucks come to the dump each day to pour their trash out. People are up to their knees in the trash searching for anything that may be able to be re-sold for a profit. The stench is unbearable, people are colored black from the dust and dirt and circling overhead are hundreds of vultures just waiting and spying. For me, it puts everything in perspective. We are so grateful to have a roof over our heads each day, clean running water, a bed that isn’t a floor, and food on the table. When I think about the fact that I have been begging my father to buy me an iPhone, I immediately realized that I don’t need it. I am so fortunate to have what I have and my family doesn’t have to worry about when our next meal may be. My parents have always advised me to think about what I need verses what I want, and after seeing the workers smiling and proud of the hard and honest work they are doing to survive, it all made sense.

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Hanley Denning Safe Passage

Hanley Denning photo from google images


Our first activity of the day was watching a documentary on the organization Safe Passage and the person who started it all, Hanley Denning. She was a woman who was inspired and motivated to educate and provide hope for the children working and living in the dump. Hanley and her team worked together with the community to understand their needs, gain their trust, and  support to educate their children and keep them out of the dump. The public schools in Guatemala are categorized as free but in reality they are required to pay for their uniform, books, lunch, all for an education that is all memorization and no solid learning. Most families that are working in the dump don’t have the ability to pay for their children to go to school, and would rather have the extra hands helping them work in the dump. Hanley decided to create a school that was completely free and enabled the kids to do activities and have attention which was something that was so rare in their world. Her vision became a reality starting out serving up to 50 students but has currently grown to 540. In January 2007, Hanley was tragically killed when a bus lost it’s brakes and collided into her car. Even though she is not present in now, her positive spirit, hope and the vision of education to help make the lives of others a better place is still present today. This moment watching the documentary and listening to her speak about her passion inspired and reassured my team and I that every person makes a difference despite that fact that each of us are only one person.


As the day went on, we traveled around to all of the Safe Passage schools for a tour to see where we will be working later in the week.  In the afternoon, we stopped at Hanley’s Garden which was the school full of children ages 2-6. As we toured around the school we stopped in on one of the students’ hip hop inspired english classes. We watched in awe as the kids danced, laughed, smiled and jammed to the music. It was eye opening to learn that without Safe Passage, these children would be living and working in the dump. Now, they are  here they are in school, dancing, laughing and smiling. Safe Passage has given them a breather in a way, allowing them to separate from their reality. Thanks to Hanley’s vision Safe Passage is able to provide these children with an oasis and a chance to actually be a kid.

Stay tuned for tomorrows blog! It’s going to be another fun, eye opening and exciting day!



Safe Passage Team Gould 2016



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