Mt. Hebron is one of the many stops on the Safe Passage outreach tour, which began in Maine earlier this fall. On Oct. 22, Jessa Coulter, a Mt. Hebron alumnus, and Mariah Healy spoke to Spanish and Environmental Science classes about the developing educational program in Guatemala.
The mission of the program, which was started by Hanley Denning in the early 2000s, is to aid the poor children of families working in the Guatemala City garbage dumps by creating opportunities and advocating dignity through the power of education.
Denning created this non-profit organization after she saw the damaging conditions of the dumps in Guatemala City during a visit she took to the country. She began her organization with 46 students and only $5,000 of her own money. After a few successful years, the educational reinforcement program moved to a safe and beautiful building further from the garbage dump. This improvement was made possible because of the hard work and dedication of the staff, community members, international supporters and volunteers.
Unfortunately, on Jan. 18, 2007, Denning was tragically killed in a car accident in Guatemala. However, her legacy still continues today. Now, Safe Passage has 600 children and 100 mothers who are supplied with education, social services and more opportunities to combat their poverty.
Coulter and Healy, the two presenters at Mt. Hebron, spoke about their experiences in Guatemala and informed the students about what they can do to help.
“There are so many ways, such as financial ways [to help], so I would say that sponsoring a child is the best way to help us work towards our mission,” said Healy. “Giving that child a mentor type of person from afar like someone who is rooting for them from another country can boost their sense of self worth.”
Originally, this tour of promoting Safe Passage began in Maine, where Denning and the program started.
“Our office is in Maine, and we have so many supporters from Maine because Hanley was from Maine,” Healy said. “All of the schools in the area send support groups, and we have a lot of local events. When I speak to supporters there, I get so fired up and so excited because everyone loves Safe Passages there. My idea for the trip was just to replicate that experience in other places.”
In addition to providing various educational activities such as tutoring, sports, art, music and health classes, Safe Passage also gives children access to a health clinic, school supplies, proper nutritional meals and help from psychologists and social workers.
“You can’t learn if your stomach is grumbling,” Coulter said.
Various individuals can volunteer and contribute to this growing program.
“People like you spreading the word about Safe Passage is such a huge cause because the more people know about Safe Passage, the more we can support Safe passage,” responded Healy when asked what individuals can do to help.
Another way to help is by joining support groups, which each spend one week in Guatemala volunteering and learning about the program.
Safe Passage continues to thrive and is always looking for new volunteers and donations. For information, visit http://www.safepassage.org.