Seattle Ambassador: Adventures in Guatemala & Nicaragua

Seattle may be best known for its contributions to the music, tech, fishing and coffee industries, but did you know it’s also a major hub for global philanthropy? The region is home to more than 300 organizations — including Jolkona and about a third of our nonprofit partners, plus powerhouses like the Gates Foundation and World Vision  — working to improve lives in the world’s 144 developing countries. I think we need a brand, like Silicon Valley. How about Compassion Corner?

Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 2.09.52 PMAimed at raising awareness of our amazing global development sector, Jolkona partner Seattle International Foundation and the Office of the Mayor launched the Seattle Ambassador program earlier this year, inviting citizens to apply to be the city’s representative on tours of poverty-alleviation projects abroad. The inaugural ambassador is Jozlyn Pelk, 21, a University of Washington – Bothell senior who is currently making her first trip outside the United States, visiting Guatemala and Nicaragua. She’ll be back next week, making her first public remarks about her trip at Jolkona’s Corks & Forks celebration on Oct. 10, then a featured appearance at the Seattle Ambassador Fall Bash on Oct. 17.

Jozlyn is blogging and tweeting (hashtag #206global) while in Central America. Here’s some observations from her blog posts so far:

Oct. 1, 2013:

I spent hours with the group of 20 scholarship students; who knew drawing and balloon exercises could teach us so much about community.  It struck me to hear the children speak about their desire to help out at home, what their communities’ need, and their dreams to become teachers, firefighters, and singers. The children are so young yet they know what community is and how to contribute. This was striking to me.

I see where their passion comes from. At the end of our visit at Casa Blanca, we met with the school’s committee of mothers of these students. I have never encountered such genuine and endearing people, who expressed their deepest gratitude for their opportunities provided for their children by showering us with beautiful gifts consisting of hand woven cloths, headbands, and typical Guatemalan atole and tamales. Their gifts and long goodbyes will be something I will always cherish for the rest of my life.

Oct. 2, 2013: Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 2.23.46 PM

I was inspired by the CECAP’s emphasis on creating economic opportunities for women. Rosalía shared that nearly all of the women I met with in these workshops have become small business owners and are able to generate an income because of their new vocational skills. 90 percent of vocational workers in Santa Cruz have graduated from the help of the Amigos scholarship program.

I had life-changing experience of meeting with a woman who has set an example for others in the community because of her involvement at CECAP. We were welcomed into the humble home of Espiritu Santos Alvarez, a 30-year old woman who has completed two beading workshops at the vocational training center. Espiritu laid out her jewelry portfolio on a table under the shade of the tin roof of her house, which consisted of aqua-colored doorways and windows, an outdoor stove, and a weaving table. Espiritu shared her story of becoming an artisan, and how her time at CECAP has allowed her to earn an income to support her family.

Oct. 3, 2013:

Before Escuela Milagros (“The Miracle School”) was built in 2011, children had to walk down this steep rocky hillside to Tzununá to get to school. When the river is high, they are unable to leave Tzanjumel. I thought to myself, “How in the world are children supposed to get to school in these conditions?” It was already a struggle trying to drive up the uneven rocky surface with four-wheel drive. Imagining children trying to hike up and down this hill everyday — or not being able to make it to school at all — consumed me with frustration.

This is the stuff that creates new philanthropists. We can’t wait to hear more from Jozlyn at our Corks & Forks dinner next week!

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