Connections with people in life are crazy and I love when they work out to their fullest potential. My cousin Nick Balera volunteered with Fredy in San Juan la Laguna over 3 years ago. They stayed in touch and so we met up with him as well for a solid 5 days of helping out with whatever we could. Fredy is starting his own non profit called ‘Sueños y Esperanzas’ which will benefit the local kids and give them scholarship and the support they need to fulfill their education and build future skills. He took us around the city showing us the local murals explaining Mayan life, traditions, symbols, and stories.
He has this case full of school supplies donated to him by visitors so we made over 60 small paper bags (from scratch assembly line style) full of supplies for 3 classes of kids who go to the public school in town. I drew a different type of animal on each bag with the idea-help of his son and niece. We wrote the English and Spanish way to say the animal, and we all made a good team!
About 400-700 kids go to school at 2 different sessions during the day and there’s another session in the evening for adult school. When we went to the school, Fredy introduced us then had each class close their eyes and count backward from 5 so I could surprise them with a drawing on the board.
Other things we helped out with around San Juan la Laguna were also projects to utilize our artistic skills. We originally hoped to clear some land in the family’s coffee farm so they could later build a youth center, but since it was in early stages and our time was limited, we got the opportunity to help with some design work instead. We created some logos for a local traditional artisanal women’s textile shop (Casa del Tejido y Tours) and for Fredy’s small coffee business — 25% of the proceeds go to his foundation and the other amount of his coffee sales help him devote more of his time to working with his non-profit.
These days so far have been some of the most fulfilling on the trip allowing us to really get to know a community of incredible people. We highly encourage other travelers to help out wherever they are in whatever way they can using their skills. It really helps you get to know a place and you make life long friends.
Get out and Vounteer!