- Unitarian Universalism Connection
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 12 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 year-long 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, their families, the dump. You think you are changing lives, but that is not true. You are saving lives.”
All funds raised will go toward the Quinceañerea and program fees for Safe Passage.