I first learned of EFTC when a close friend took part in a volunteer trip through our college. She raved about her experience and strongly encouraged me to come along the following year. I was nervous, yet fascinated by the idea of experiencing a new culture, as well as the opportunity to support children and families that are in such desperate need.
During my 2 week volunteer trip in May of 2016, I quickly fell in love with the beauty of Guatemala as a country, but more importantly the children, families, and staff at The School of Hope. I was overcome by an inexplicable sense of belonging, even despite my very limited Spanish language skills. Observing this level of poverty firsthand, was eye opening, to say the least. Equally as striking was the immediate affection and trust the children shared with anyone who walked through the front doors of the school. It was something I had never experienced. I returned back to NY with the feeling that my life was changed and I knew for certain that would not be my last visit to EFTC.
After returning home, I completed my final semester as an undergrad and accepted a teaching job in my college town of Albany, NY. Despite embracing the new opportunities and challenges there, I couldn’t get Guatemala and EFTC out of my mind. Throughout the months after my volunteer trip, I maintained contact with a few of the staff members and eventually inquired about available teaching positions. Even though I felt I would be in over my head, given my limited Spanish, there remained something in the pit of my stomach that told me this was where I was meant to experience the next chapter of my life. A few weeks later, they offered me a position as the 1st and 2nd Grade English teacher for the coming school year! Scared beyond belief, I packed up my life and at 5:45am on January 1, 2017, I boarded my flight to Guatemala.
When people ask me about my experience teaching English in Guatemala, it’s hard to organize my thoughts because I’m instantly overcome with a million different feelings. First and foremost, I am filled to the absolute brim with gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity to spend a considerably transformational year of my life learning and growing from the most loving children in the entire world. Yet as I write this, I feel a slight sense of guilt because after all, my goal moving to Guatemala was to teach English, to give back, and to have a positive impact on my students and their families. The truth is, that impact is minuscule in comparison to how the foundation and my students have profoundly changed my own life. Working at EFTC, I was able to see firsthand the unfair and truly cruel economic disparities in the world and the direct effect upon the children. This not only inspired me to work my butt off to be the best teacher, protective factor, and support I could possibly be for them and their families, but it also guided me in discovering my passion for social justice. It is because of my time with EFTC that I pursued my Master’s in Social Work so that I could continue to do the work to help those who were given unfair life circumstances.
Aside from the meaningful relationships with all 100 of my students and their families, as well as the staff at The School of Hope, I had the privilege to meet and work alongside a few incredibly strong, hardworking, and inspiring women. I am blessed to call these individuals lifelong friends to this day. Over the course of the year, I was also fortunate to have had many of my friends and family from home come to visit Guatemala. Each and every single one left the school head over heels for the students and quickly became dear padrinos (sponsors) for specific students at the school.
I was blessed with countless incredible memories including: morning meeting sing-alongs, student fashion shows, thousands of hand written notes and drawings, the best belly laughs, and oh so many sweet hugs that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Alongside the wonderful moments, were also incredibly sad and challenging ones. I was confronted with, and had to deal with, the daily fallout many students encountered as a result of the awful and unimaginable aspects of their home lives. After roughly five years, and having worked with hundreds and hundreds of other children in the US, I still think about my students in Guatemala every single day. Each one of them has had a genuine impact on my life and the person I am. I will continue to do everything in my power to provide support for my students and EFTC from afar.
Around the end of the school year, when I was preparing to head back to NY, I was approached by an administrator who knew that I had a very close relationship with one of the higher needs students. She shared that I could continue to stay connected to this sweet, yet wild, boy by becoming his sponsor. Without hesitation, I was onboard! Soon after, I was officially Wilmer’s Madrina. Now, after sponsoring Wilmer for the past 5 years, I can confidently say that being his Madrina brings me the utmost pride and has continued to bring me so much joy. For the price of a handful of Starbucks coffees a month, I have a hands-on impact on Wilmer’s life, knowing that he is continuing to receive a good education along with proper nutrition.
While I absolutely loved becoming a sponsor right off the bat, leaving Guatemala and the kids was so very difficult. I missed my students more than anything and I was thinking about them nonstop, especially the ones who had troublesome home lives. This evoked an overwhelming feeling of helplessness and I knew that I needed to do something. This is exactly how NY for EFTC was born.
In March of 2018 and then February of 2019, I planned and held my first two fundraisings events in NYC. Both years were a blast! We had a great turnout, everyone ate, drank and the best part of all was that we were able to raise money for my sweet students in Guatemala. About six months later, I was so excited to start preparing for the third annual NY for EFTC event to be held in April of 2020. With the help of Sara Miller, EFTC’s director and my dear friend, we had plans for the event to be the best one yet. Unfortunately, COVID had other plans. Now nearly two years later, we are finally ready to come together to celebrate and support the cause nearest and dearest to my heart, EFTC. This is where you come in! NY for EFTC 2022 will no doubt be our biggest and best event yet!!!
NY for EFTC 2022 will be held on Saturday, April 30th 2022 from 6pm-9pm at Captain Bills in Bay Shore, NY. Tickets are $100 for a jam-packed night including 3 hours of top shelf open bar, dinner buffet, DJ, and dancing with the very talented Groveline Entertainers, as well as raffles and an auction! I hope that you will come join me for this fabulous event, for an even greater cause. It is promised to be a night you definitely do not want to miss! If you are unable to make it to the event, donations of absolutely ANY amount are very much appreciated.
As always, thank you to my wonderful family and friends for continuing to hold EFTC near and dear to their hearts and for every ounce of their love and generosity in supporting my kiddos!
Check out our Raisely page and join us!