Hola. It’s Michael, or as the locals know me, “Miguel”. In just 3 weeks I’ll be turning 20. I’m here in Guatemala to learn Spanish and help Semilla Nueva achieve its mission: to help Guatemalan farmers create a brighter, healthier, more prosperous future for themselves, their families, and their community.
Semilla Nueva is achieving this by teaching farmers sustainable agriculture techniques and planting a legume called pigeonpea. When these techniques are combined, Guatemalan farmers and their families are able to fight malnutrition, soil degradation and poverty. Before coming to Guatemala I believed in Semilla Nueva’s mission, but it wasn’t until I arrived that I fully understood it.
Coincidentally, on my flight from the U.S. to Guatemala City I was seated next to two Guatemalan farmers named Enrique and Heberto, who would become my “Airplane Amigos”. They were on their way to visit their families for a couple months. The rest of the year they live with 8 other farmers in a single apartment and work long hours in the U.S. in order to support their families back in Guatemala. Their story isn’t unique; there are thousands of Guatemalans who are forced to do the same thing. Unfortunately most farmers aren’t lucky enough have the opportunity to visit family like Enrique and Heberto do annually.
Although I couldn’t speak much Spanish, I was able to understand their stories. In my best Spanish possible I told them about Semilla Nueva’s mission, and how they are teaching Guatemala farmers how to simultaneously increase their crop yields and income, feed their families, and improve the fertility of the soil.
Before we parted ways, my airline amigos told me the work Semilla Nueva is doing is wonderful. It means that the farmers in these communities don’t have to leave their families for the majority of the year. They can live, work and spend time with their family all year long. They wished Semilla Nueva and I luck with the mission. I left that plane empowered and encouraged, knowing that the work I am going to do in Guatemala will make a difference in many Guatemalan family’s lives.
For the last month, I’ve been studying 5 hours a day at a local Spanish School and living with a Guatemalan family (see picture above). Before coming here I knew only a few words in Spanish. Now, I’m able to hold a basic conversation. Like I said, my reasons for coming to Guatemala were to learn Spanish and experience working for an NGO. What I didn’t expect to learn was Guatemala’s sad, yet inspiring history. I’ve also learned how lucky I am to have been born in a country where I’m able to pursue my dreams. It isn’t that way for most Guatemalans. I’m excited to be a part of the progress Semilla Nueva is achieving right now and will be achieving in the future.
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to donate to Semilla Nueva’s Crowdrise fundraising campaign and help Semilla Nueva create a better future for Guatemalan families!
If you would like to read more about Miguel’s experiences in Guatemala, check out his blog or follow him on Twitter!