David Benthal

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Jazmin’s 2017 Mission Experience

Founder Jazmin Carrillo shares her experience of the 2017 mission trip to San Antonio, Guatemala in Spanish and English. Read both below!

En Español – Misión 2017

Fueron aproximadamente 40 horas de viaje. Una nevada en Nueva York que causó la cancelación de muchos vuelos incluyendo el nuestro. Cinco fueron las veces que nos dijeron que nuestro vuelo iba a ser cambiado. De frustración pasamos a preocupación pues una de nuestras compañeras llego a Guatemala primero que nosotros. Pese a todo esto creo que éramos los únicos en todo ese aeropuerto llenos de positivismo y emoción porque sabíamos la alegría que nos esperaba en nuestro destino. Por fin salió nuestro vuelo y la escala nos llevó a Panama. Para nuestra suerte llegamos tarde y perdiendo la conexión. Fueron largas horas de espera y muy incómodas, puesto que ya sentíamos el cansancio. Por fin después de tantas horas de viaje logramos llegar a la ciudad de Guatemala. Contentos aún sin haber dormido lo suficiente y aún después de tantas complicaciones llegamos a nuestra pequeña aldea San Antonio. 

Al llegar a San Antonio  nos encontramos con otra realidad muy triste. El ver las consecuencias de una sequía que está afectando a nuestro país esta teniendo un impacto muy negativo en tantas familias. Muchas de ellas perdieron todos sus cultivos pues no ha llovido desde hace 2 años. Convirtiéndose este en un agobio más para la ya desolada condición de esta comunidad. 

Nosotros al llegar tratamos de que nuestra energía positiva y ganas de ayudar fueran más grandes que las dificultades que se están viviendo. Llevando así lo que siempre tratamos de impartir; amor y esperanza. 

Así empezamos nuestra jornada. Ver niños sonreír al recibir su caja de cereales y leche no tiene precio. Para ellos es un lujo raro que no se repite seguido. 

Seguimos repartiendo esperanza disfrazada de una mochila y uniforme. Allison, una niña que no se canso de decirme muchas gracias. Tanta felicidad, que a su corta edad ella sabe lo afortunada que es de poder recibir útiles, mochila, uniforme y por poder formar parte de una banda musical donde ella toca el Guiro. Al platicar con ella y con su  mamá nos enteramos que su papá trabaja en Haití y solo lo ve 15 días cada año. Ella dice que son momentos tristes al no tener a su papá. La historia de Allison es una que se hace muy común, padres que dejan el hogar para ir a buscar mejor suerte ya sea a la capital o en este caso, a otro país. 

Una de nuestras metas en este viaje era tomar una foto a cada niño. Y así se se hizo. Mientras los niños se tomaban sus retratos yo jugaba con los pequeñitos para distraerlos y dejar que sus padres pudieran firmar los permisos necesarios. Cada uno emocionado de tener una session de fotos con el talentoso David. 

La meta con estas fotografías es empezar un programa en el cual cada niño puede ser patrocinado y así asegurarles un mejor futuro. 

Ver que tan lejos hemos llegado en tan poco tiempo es emocionante. Escuchar a más de 50 niños en nuestra banda musical  tocar composiciones Guatemaltecas es algo que me llena de orgullo. El profesor Germán, quién es el encargado de el programa de música- ha hecho una excepcional labor. El instruye a mas de 50 niños que reciben clases tres días por semana. Ahora también contamos con seis violines los cuales se utilizan en turnos  de 30 minutos por cada niño. Limitándolos así a su tiempo con el profesor y sin tiempo para ensayar. Pensamos que un objetivo para este año sería la compra de más violines y más instrumentos de orquesta para que cada niño pueda tener acceso a horas de ensayo y práctica. Puesto que creemos firmemente que la música promueve liderasgo y disciplina. 

Guatemala es un país tan hermosos que cuenta con paisajes que roban suspiros, pero su gente, especialmente los niños, sufren en su día a día. La malnutrición es un problema muy familiar en las comunidades pobres de mi país. Tenemos tanto por hacer y nuestro trabajo es tratar de encontrar soluciones para poder abrir el camino de estos niños y no dejar que obstáculos como este les impida alcanzar sus sueños. Esa siempre ha sido la meta. 

Gracias al la generosa ayuda de mi equipo, mi tia Alba que se encarga de organizar todo en Guatemala. A mi Madre que siempre tiene un consejo cuando me encuentro en situaciones difíciles. A mi familia en San Antonio que no se cansa de ayudarnos y asegurarse que tengamos tortillas y frijolitos para comer. El súper talentoso David que hace que sus imágenes transmitan lo que nuestra gente está viviendo. La colaboración de mi querida amiga Rachel que sin necesidad de recibir direcciones y a pesar de la barrera de el lenguaje ella sabe perfectamente lo que Sueños necesita de ella. Alice, que aceptó la cordial invitación de venir a Guatemala y donar su tiempo para hacer el trabajo de David más fácil. Gracias a todos ellos, a padres de familia, a nuestra comunidad en el North Fork. Son ustedes quienes hacen Sueños posible. 

El anhelo de construir la escuela sigue, y aunque va tomar más tiempo de lo que yo esperaba siempre seguiremos en la lucha. Mi prioridad son estos pequeños que merecen un futuro mejor. 

In English – 2017 Mission

It was about 40 hours of travel. The snowfall in New York caused the cancellation of many flights including ours. Five times we were told that our flight was changed. Worry took over thinking about our friend who had already left for Guatemala and would arrive first on her own, in a country she did not know. In spite of all this, I think that we were the only ones in that airport that felt a sense of positivity and joy knowing the beautiful warm smiles and hugs that awaited us. At last our flight departed, and took us to Panama. With more set backs, we arrived late and missed our connection. Finally after so many hours of travel, we managed to reach the city of Guatemala. Happy, regardless of the long hours behind us of no sleep or rest, after so many complications, we arrived in our small village, San Antonio.

Arriving in San Antonio we discovered another sad reality. We saw the awful consequences of a drought that is affecting the country and is having such a negative impact on so many families. Many of them lost all of their crops because it hasn’t rained for two years. This is now just another burden for the already desolate condition of the community.

When we arrived, we tried to ensure that our positive energy and desire to help were greater than the difficulties we had experience, practicing what we always try to impart; love and hope. We started our journey by distributing cereal boxes and fresh milk thanks to a separate private donation from our North Fork community. Watching our children excited for this delicious treat was priceless. This is a rare luxury that does not happen often for them. We continued to spread hope disguised as beautiful donated backpacks and uniforms. Allison, a girl who never tires of saying thank you, received her backpack with a smile. We were so happy that at such young age she knows how fortunate she is for her and her fellow students to be able to receive supplies, backpacks, uniforms, and to be part of a marching band where she plays the Guiro. When we talked with her mother, we learned that Allison’s father works in Haiti and only sees her family 15 days each year. Allison expressed how sad it is to not have her dad around. The story of Allison is one that becomes very common; parents leave home to go and seek better luck either to the Guatemalan capital or in this case, to another country.

One of our goals on this trip was to take a picture of each child. And so, that is what we did. While the children had their portraits taken, I played with the little ones to distract them so their parents could sign the necessary consent forms. Everyone was excited to have a photo session with the talented David Benthal. 

The goal with these photographs is to start a program in which each child can be sponsored, thus ensuring a successful academic career. Seeing how far we have come in such a short period of time is exciting.

Listening to more than 50 children in our marching band play Guatemalan compositions is something that fills me with pride. Professor Germán, who is in charge of the music program, has done an exceptional job. He instructs more than 50 children who receive classes three days a week. We now also have six violins, which are used in turns of 30 minutes for each child, limiting their time with the teacher and offering no time to rehearse. Another goal for this year is to purchase more new instruments, including more violins and orchestra instruments. This would also ensure each child gets more practice time. We firmly believe that music promotes leadership and discipline.

Guatemala is such a beautiful country. Its landscapes makes you sigh and daydream. However, its people, especially the children, suffer in their day-to-day. Malnutrition is another very common problem in the poor communities of my home country. We have so much to do and our job is to try to find solutions to lead the way for these children. Removing obstacles such as these to help them reach their dreams is part of our goal.

 

Thank you to the generosity of my team. Thank you my Aunt Alba who is in charge of organizing everything in Guatemala, my mother who always has the right advice in difficult situations, and my family in San Antonio that does not get tired of helping us and making sure we have plenty of tortillas and beans to eat. Thank you to the super talented David whose images truly show condition and emotions of our San Antonio community, the collaboration of my dear friend Rachel, despite the language barrier, who knows perfectly what Programa Sueños needs from her, and to Alice, who accepted the invitation to come to Guatemala to donate her time and assist David in his work. Thank you to all of them, to the parents, and to our North Fork community. It is you who make Sueños possible.

The desire to build a new school continues, and although it will take more time than expected, we will always continue in this mission. My priority is these little ones who deserve a better future.

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Our 2017 Trip is Successful, and Complete

It’s amazing how quickly we adjusted into life in San Antonio. Tortillas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are deliciously normal (How many tortillas are too many? Ask Alice, the Food BlogHer). Children regularly came through the outdoor kitchen saying hello and looking over our shoulders as we reviewed our photo stock made us laugh and smile. Play time is the best time for kids big and small, and Jazmin especially is always ready for a game of soccer.

David and Alice took a hike with some of the kids, photo gear in tow, and explored high hills and dirt roads in the sun. The drone in particular was mesmerizing experience; this strange thing that can fly only at David’s command. (The footage captured is amazing by the way…)

Jazmin’s uncle took her and Rachel on a trip to Guatemala City to pick up some supplies for the week, and had breakfast at a small comedor. More tortillas, no complaints. Simple scrambled eggs, black beans, crema, and salsa picante were perfect. The trip was long with traffic, but it was worth it for the sights and sound of the small country. It’s funny how used you can get to bumpy dirt roads, and how little you care. It’s all part of the experience, right?

Wednesday was the most important day for us and the students; it was the day we were handing out donated backpacks and school supplies. It was sunny and hot, and the families gathered round as Jazmin spoke about our program.

“It’s a blessing to have everyone here today, I feel so much gratitude because I have the opportunity to speak to you this morning and to witness how far we have come. Let’s keep working together as a community so we can make sure our kids have a brighter future. Like Mother Teresa said, ‘I can do things you cannot do and you can do things that I cannot.’ Together we can do great things.”

Alice and Rachel handed out the backpacks and supplies to expectant students with huge, contagious smiles. “Gracias, gracias,” said mothers and children. We smiled back and said, “De nada,” though we were just as thankful for this opportunity to help. David became “Tio Gringo” to one little girl, Allison, donning a new pink backpack, almost the same size as her. Thumbs up, niña.

Notebooks, pens and pencils, markers, pencil sharpeners, folders, and more were all made possible by the generous donations of Programa Sueños supporters. To understand the impact our North Fork community has made, you have to visit the village of San Antonio. Seeing is believing, and the experience is unmatched. Our annual week-long trip seems to have flown by in just hours, and some of our team is just getting to know these amazing people.


Thank you to the people of San Antonio and our supporters. Goodbyes are always difficult, but we will be back.

In the coming days our team will be sharing their individual experiences on the blog.

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2017 Mission Trip to Guatemala Begins

As January marks the New Year, it also marks the time for the annual Programa Sueños mission trip to visit students and parents in San Antonio, Guatemala. January is also a perfect time in New York for chilly weather and winter storms like Helena to wreak havoc on travel plans.

 

While volunteer Rachel Bosworth managed to make it to Guatemala City as planned, founder Jazmin Carrillo, photographer David Benthal, and volunteer Alice Falcone were not as lucky. After 40 hours of delays, flight changes, ultimate cancellations, and missed connections, the rest of our crew made it to Guatemala! With suitcases of donated school supplies and hopeful hearts, we set on our way to the remote village.

Jazmin’s (known as “Lucy” to locals) family graciously welcomed us into their home for our week-long stay. We awoke to children wandering around the family compound, eager to see new and old faces, and the sounds and smells of homemade tortillas being made for breakfast. Because we are New Yorkers at heart, we did bring our own coffee to share from North Fork Roasting Co., which happens to be one of our biggest supporters. Thanks for the coffee, ladies!

The village is small and humble, and the people offer more than they have with a smile. This is something we already knew, but is still a surprise every time.

Our first day we walked took the very short walk (two minutes, actually) to the school that has been benefitting from Programa Sueños since 2013. Jazmin spoke to the students and parents as their school year was ready to begin, and met with the principal and teachers to go over the week’s plans.

David set up shop in a small classroom, one of three that accommodates the approximately 200 students that attend. We are developing profiles of all of the students to individually introduce them to our supporters, and the world. Excited for newcomers and of course to have their photo taken with their friend, David, the students eagerly awaited their turn, peering through classroom windows at lucky classmates. Stay tuned for more on students like these…

It was a long afternoon for the families, but we took a lunch break as the children played. They awed at David’s shots and called “Lucy! Lucy!” to play football even after they finished practicing. We admired them in their uniforms that bared the “Programa Sueños” name on the back. As we spent time in the open dirt field (future home of a new school…) near the family home with the kids, we heard the marching band practicing in the distance.

As the music grew louder we quickly realized it was not practice, but a performance. As the players rounded the corner into the field, looking beautiful in their crisp red and white uniforms, it was our team that had the biggest smiles. Drums, trumpets, and chimes played to the maestro’s command, and we were awe struck at how much they learned over the course of a year. The finale included front players placing their instruments down and taking us by the hands to dance, and a sign reading “Beneviendos Programa Sueños!” Their appreciation in that moment alone is worth the trip every year.

See a clip of the performance and follow more of our adventure here.
Our trip has only just begun, and we’re eager to share more of this journey with you.

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