Social Justice Work at Safe Passage in Guatemala
In July, youth from the Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady will travel to Guatemala City, where we will spend time working with youth of Camino Seguro (Safe Passage), a top-rated charity organization begun in 1999 by Hanley Denning and members of the Guajero (dump picker) community. Camino Seguro has grown from an educational reinforcement program serving 46 children, to current day, providing more than 550 children and 100 parents with education, social services, and the chance to move beyond the poverty their families have faced for generations. According to their website, “Safe Passage is a refuge for children facing difficult situations marked by extreme poverty, neglect, and abuse. Safe Passage is a gateway out of poverty. Safe Passage is hope.”
Our congregation has been working with Safe Passage for 14 years. We have developed deep, meaningful, and lasting relationships with the children, youth, and adults at Safe Passage. Each time we go, we collaborate with Safe Passage to determine which project we will work to fund. We work for an entire year to raise the funds we need for Safe Passage. We pay for own travel and housing expenses. We create lesson plans for the children in addition to the project we fund. This year, our project is to fund the Quinceañera (a favorite, both for our group and the youth in Guatemala). A Quinceañera is an important Coming-of-Age ritual for the Guatemalan girls who are turning 15 and their families. The funding we raise helps defray the costs of the Quinceañera educational program, which includes classes on self-esteem, higher education, and healthy sexuality. It also includes a celebration for the girls and their families and friends. Without our work, it would not be possible for Safe Passage to host the classes or the celebration. As Fredy Maldonando, one of the founding members of Safe Passage, said to us during our last visit, “The most important thing is that you are giving the girls something special, something unforgettable, something that is about dignity. They will never forget it. This is so important to the girls and their families, the dump.”
Funds raised will go toward the Quinceañerea and program fees for Safe Passage.
Transformation: UU Youth...
In 2015, the First Religious Society (Unitarian Universalist) in Newburyport, MA for the first time sent a youth delegation to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The impact of this trip was profound. In fact, just a few weeks ago, when members of that delegation held a panel discussion for this year’s delegation, several of them said that the trip is something that they think about almost daily.
“The time we spent at Pine Ridge was shocking,” one of them has written. “It felt surreal to experience a reality in this country that is so drastically different from what we believe the “American” experience to be—we were face to face with the other side of history that doesn’t get mentioned, and it was beautiful, frightening, and intensely frustrating to see and hear from a culture that the American government did its very best to erase.”
These trips help to strengthen a growing justice ethic in our teenagers. This is some of our most important and meaningful church work; this is faith in action.
This June, eighteen of our youth will make the trip to Pine Ridge. In addition to working, they will have educational and cultural experiences with the people of the Reservation. We’re partnering with Amizade, a Pittsburgh-based fair trade learning organization with projects all over the world. This is a new partnership for us and we’ve been excited to hear the strong reviews they’ve received from other UU congregations. Amizade’s philosophy is one of solidarity; all of the work we do will be directed by the people of the Reservation.
The youth going on the trip have committed to a year-long program of justice learning, community building, and fundraising. So that we, can make this trip truly accessible to all, regardless of each family’s financial status, we’re seeking to raise $14,800. Other fundraisers have included creating a Haunted Church at Halloween, hosting a waffle breakfast, providing childcare for parent events, and having tables at local festivals to lead children’s activities and educate the public about Pine Ridge. Future fundraisers include an art show, yard sale, and car wash.
Thank you for your support. Every donation truly counts and gets us closer to our goal.
Plano, TX Youth Service Trip to New Orleans
We are sending youth and adults from Community UU Church to New Orleans on June 12-17. They will work with local partners to learn more about the rebuilding efforts following Hurricane Katrina and to add their labor to current projects.
We can send our largest group ever if you help us meet or exceed our Faithify goal of $750.
Since the first New Orleans service trip in 2010, this service trip has grown to include more and more youth. Last year 7 youth and 7 adults participated. This year 12 youth and 7 adults signed up for the trip.
Our youth group is growing! The youth group has increased from 8 in 2017 to over 12 youth attending every Sunday. For the early May bake sale, 21-24 junior and senior high youth created wonderful treats in a member’s kitchen. The advisors regularly need to recruit additional volunteers to staff the youth classes. We are running to catch up with this growth.
Between fundraising throughout the year and grant applications, we are within $2200 of our goal to fund the service trip. This Faithify project is one of our last efforts to cover the added costs of sending such an abundance of people.
Why do we go to New Orleans? The recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina continues for many neighborhoods in the area. For the past eight years, members of Community Unitarian Universalist Church have been coordinating with local organizers in New Orleans to complete individual projects for area residents. Members have an ongoing relationship with the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal (http://celsjr.org). The Center for Ethical Living has its offices in the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans (http://firstuuno.org).
This year our housing expenses will support another service organization. We will stay at Molly’s House, a mission of Trinity Episcopal Church in New Orleans (https://www.trinitynola.com/mission).