History and Mission
Images from the Guatemala City Garbage dump
Camino Seguro, also known as Safe Passage, is a non-profit organization based in Guatemala City that aims to improve the lives of children through education in the slums near the Guatemala City garbage dump. Camino Seguro’s mission is “to enable the children enrolled in our program to attend Guatemalan public school by providing financial support to cover costs of enrollment, school supplies, and uniforms,” as outlined on the organization’s website. The organization was founded in 1999 by American Hanley Denning. Denning was a teacher in North Carolina before she came to Guatemala in 1997 to learn Spanish. Denning was so moved by the poverty she witnessed in the slums near the city’s garbage dump that she used all of her savings, sold her computer and her car, to create Camino Seguro. The organization paid the educational expenses for 46 children to attend public school. It also provided healthy snacks, tutoring, and support and attention for the students. Throughout the years, Camino Seguro has grown in its scope of provided services. In 2004, they started the early childhood education program and opened the educational reinforcement center where students could come for homework help and other assistance. In 2006, the program opened a US office in Yarmouth, Maine. That same year, Camino Seguro expanded its services to include an adult literacy program. The organization has continued to grow and today offers health services, sports and art programs, and a social entrepreneurship program for community members. The organization that began with 46 students now serves 550 individuals in Guatemala City and its surrounding neighborhoods. As Camino Seguro has grown, it has worked to empower the community by providing education at every stage of life. Camino Seguro was featured in a 2006 award-winning documentary, Recycled Life. In 2007, first lady Laura Bush and Guatemalan first lady Wendy Berger visited the organization to show their support. Although founder Hanley Denning passed away in 2007, her organization has continued to grow stronger each year.
Financing and Organization
Camino Seguro is financed through donations. According to their website, they received the Charity Navigator’s four-star rating for transparency, efficiency in use of funds, and sound financial management. The Camino Seguro administrative team consists of executive director Richard Schmaltz, a three-person Guatemala management team, and a five-person US development team. Camino Seguro also has a board of directors that -includes both Guatemalan and American members. The school is staffed by Guatemalan teachers and assisted by volunteers from around the world. Some volunteers receive a stipend for their work, but most are unpaid. Camino Seguro offers a public service to the Guatemala City garbage dump community in many ways. The organization not only aims to improve lives, but also to connect worlds. Their website shares the stories of children, mothers, and volunteers who have all come together to learn and grow. With the financial support of Camino Seguro, children are able to attend school and increase their opportunities in the future. Mothers are given the skills they need to start their own businesses. Volunteers are exposed to a new culture, new language, and new lifestyle that will forever change their perspectives.
I will begin my work with Camino Seguro on July 15th. The organization accepts volunteers to work as tutors, teaching assistants in their classrooms, and helpers for their creative expression program and health center. Volunteers are expected to commit a minimum of five weeks to the program, and volunteer teachers must work for a minimum of six months. These time requirements ensure a stable environment for the children in the classroom. My volunteer work will relate to my academic field of study in many ways. I am a Spanish minor and will have the opportunity to improve my speaking skills both during my work in the classroom and in my day-to-day life outside of the internship. Camino Seguro has arranged for me to live with a host family, allowing me to practice my Spanish and learn more about Guatemalan culture. I am a joint public health and international development major, and my involvement with Camino Seguro will provide me with valuable experience in both of these areas. I will be able to observe first-hand how a non-profit organization functions in the developing world. I will witness the challenges Camino Seguro has faced and how they have dealt with them. I will also be able to talk with professionals at the health center about their work with public health in the community. I am so excited to finally arrive in Guatemala City and begin my internship with Camino Seguro.