Why am I here?

By Cesslie Davalos

(english version is below the spanish)

El significado de la vida es encontrar tu don especial. El propósito de la vida es compartirlo”, Pablo Picasso.

Decidí empezar el blog con esta cita porque creo que mi vocación en la vida es trabajar con estudiantes, compartir conocimientos, aprender de los demás, luchar por la justicia social y hacer de este mundo un lugar mejor poco a poco. La única forma en que puedo disfrutar mi vocación es compartirlo a través del trabajo con otros, aprendiendo las narrativas de los otros mientras construimos comunidades. Mi primera semana en Guatemala ha sido un poco difícil, me he dado cuenta cuantos privilegios tengo en casa sin saberlo siquiera.

Por supuesto, una de las cosas más difíciles ha sido extrañar a mi familia y a mi pareja. A todo el mundo allá en casa en realidad. Sin embargo, ellos son la razón de porqué estoy aquí. Mi mamá es de Guatemala, por eso es que tengo una conexión tan fuerte con esta tierra.

Hablaba por facetime con Braulio sobre cómo me siento antipatriótica por haber nacido en una nación construida en base a opresión, esclavitud, racismo e inequidad. Le decía que por eso me siento tan orgullosa de tener raíces en Guatemala y lo llevo con mayor orgullo, pero ¿no hay mucho de eso mismo aquí también? Braulio mencionó una cita de Calle 13 “el que no quiere a su patria no quiere a su madre”.

Estar aquí me está ayudando a dar un poco más a mi comunidad y a dejar un poco de mi vocación en la tierra que le dio a mi mamá resistencia, coraje y que la hizo la magnífica persona que es. Sin mi madre yo no habría podido graduarme ni ser la persona que soy ahora. Así que no solo estoy devolviéndole algo a mi comunidad, también se lo doy a mi familia, a mi madre, a mí misma.

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away” Pablo Picasso

I decided to start of my first blog with this quote because I believe that my calling in life is to work with students, to share knowledge, learn from others, to fight for social justice and to make this world a better place little by little. The only way I can enjoy this calling is by giving it away by working with others and learning others narratives while building communities. My first week at Guatemala has been a little hard realizing so many privileges I have back at home without even knowing it.

Of course, one of the hardest things has been missing my family and my partner, everyone back home really, but they’re the reason why I’m here. My mom is from Guatemala that is why there is such a strong connection to this land.

I was talking over facetime with my partner Braulio about how I feel unpatriotic of being born in a land built on oppression, enslavement, racism and inequality. I was telling him that’s why I feel so proud to be from Guatemala and I carry that so much more proudly, but isn’t there so much of that here too? So why am I pretending like none of this exists here? My partner Braulio mentioned a quote from Calle 13 “el que no quiere a su patria no quiere a su madre”.

Being here is helping me give back to my community and leave a little piece of my gift to the land that gave my mom resilience, courage, and made her the magnificent person she is. Without my mom, I would have not been able to graduate or be the person I am today. So not only am I giving back to my community but to my family, to my mom, to myself.

Week 4

On Wednesday I facilitated two classes. One on Signs of Abusive Relationships and one Healthy Relationships. Lucia wasn’t able to be there because she was at an event, so it was really nice when two students in the first class helped me open the door to the classroom we use and helped me make copies and set up the projector. Another student, Negli, one of my mentors from my Saturday class, helped me run the projector so I could stay in the front of the class. It was really nice to know that the students are invested in the course. In the first class as we were going over signs of an abusive relationship, the students and I thought of safety plans for survivors, identified “red flags” and types of abuse, and discussed the cycle of abuse. The students also did a group exercise where they determined where different situations which may occur in a relationship belonged on a continuum between “acceptable” and “not acceptable.” The idea behind this was to understand that we all have different ideas of what is acceptable for us personally. One student, as we discussed the safety plan for leaving an abusive relationship shared her personal story of leaving an abusive relationship, such as letting her family know, packing her and her children’s things, getting a new cell phone, saving money, and having a place to go. We thanked the student for sharing her story and we were able to use her example to glean ideas for what we would need to bring in case we leave an abuser. This was touching because it showed that the student trusted the class enough to share and that they were connecting their experiences with the subject material.

 

In the second class we discussed Healthy Relationships. In this class the students had to determine if example situations were healthy or unhealthy and why. My favorite part of this exercise is when the students determined that some were more of a gray area, which was not part of the exercise but showed that they were thinking critically. The students shared about their own relationships or their ideas of what they want in a relationship and we determined what ideal communication would look like in a healthy relationship.

The next day I went out on the town to eat breakfast by myself before going to the University. I looked a little fancy I guess since it was Yohanna’s birthday and we were going out right after the last class. So when I stopped at a little cafe, Cafe El Echape, and asked the proprietor what the Cafe’s address was, I think she thought I was a travel writer or something because she looked at me with hope in her eyes and began telling me the Cafe’s address, name, and her name. I really just wanted the address so I could let the taxi know where to get me, but then I suddenly felt like she was expecting me to give the Cafe a review or something. So here I am, telling you readers that I ate a typical breakfast, platanos, huevos estrellados, pan, y frijoles with horchata and it was excellent. That day Yohanna and I co-facilitated two courses on Signs of an Abusive Relationship. In the first class, since it was her birthday and the class was pretty small, I got cake for everyone. Lucia had brought happy birthday glasses and a candle, and some of the students bought soda for the class. Another special surprise was that Daniel Velasquez, veteran member of MIA, came by the class and I finally got to meet him! He was amazing and told all the class about himself and his work, and he participated with us in celebrating Yohanna’s birthday and going over the day’s coursework. The second class was the same material and that class also went really well. Then Yohanna and I went to Trova Jazz, a Trova bar in Zone 4 for her birthday.

 

 

The next day, Friday, I went to visit my friend, an amazing poet named Manuel Tzoc, at his work, Ronald Esteticas in Zone 1. We hung out at his work for awhile and then took a walk to make copies since I needed them for Saturday and he needed to make copies of his new poetry book. We stopped and had some pupusas and then I went home since it was almost dark. Though I told him I couldn’t go out that night since I’d be prepping all night for Saturday, when Jenny called me and also invited me out, I realized how badly I wanted to get out. So I stapled up all the new copies, prepared the schedule for the next day, showered and went out with Jenny to see the same band in the same bar as before, at Cien Puertas. Thereabouts, as Cien Puertas and Gran Hotel are neighbors so we always end up at both, we saw both Manu and Abner, which was nice.

On Saturday I got to see the Video Project class again. I am love with Saturdays. This day we discussed domestic violence, we filmed a scene for each video, we took photographs for our bios, and we did a brief editing workshop. After welcoming everyone back we did a brief icebreaker wherein we had to say what we called our gentials. Then, to remind the students that their videos are supposed to be revolutionary as in based on Latin American Revolutionary Film Theory, they got into their groups and discussed how their videos are revolutionary and then presented.

 

Afterwards we broke up into small groups of the students with their mentors and discussed 6 handouts based on domestic and sexual violence, how to be supportive, and crisis intervention. Later we presented more on Domestic Violence based on materials from the Long Beach WomenShelter and then the students did a test on DV created by a good friend of mine, Marea Perez.

After a short break the students broke up into their video groups and half of them filmed while the other half took photographs and vice versa.

To end, we did a short editing workshop and ended with something positive.

The mentors and I, mainly Emmi, filmed some of the events of the day and I made a short video of what we did.

That night there was a rock concert in the Park in front of the National Palace and I told both Jenny and my old friend Carlos Ibanez that I would meet up with them when I suddenly ran out of saldo (minutes on my phone)! I wasn’t able to call a taxi and finally, after a lot of time and thinking, I threw on a hoodie and walked the 6 or 7 blocks by myself, at night! I never in a million years thought I would do that, but I did it and it was completely fine. I won’t do it again of course, but I am proud of myself in a way for not letting my gender paralyze me completely. When I first got there I couldn’t find my friends and luckily after awhile met up with one of Manu’s friends Joel who I met the previous week and he let me stand with him so I wasn’t alone in the park. Finally I found everyone and we all rocked out and then went out dancing at El Gran Hotel.  Carlos, Giovanni, Jenny, walked alone.

The next day I met up with Joel again in his music studio and he agreed to make original music for the student’s videos if they need it. How super exciting!

 

 

Week 3

By Marina Wood

This weekend was crazy because we had the film project on Saturday and Sunday instead of just Saturday. Saturday was devoted to talking and learning about feminism, sex, sexuality, the body, body image, sexual pleasure, sexual boundaries, sexual health, sexual identity, and gender identity.

We began with an icebreaker wherein everyone in the class had to say one word about sex.

Then, because I promised them the first day that we would watch a movie clip and analyze it but the tiny computer I brought didn’t have a DVD slot, so we watched a short clip from Miss Congeniality and talked about it.

We then discussed the homework from last week which was selected portions from the article “The Male as a Risk Factor: Masculinity, Mental Health, and Reproductive Health” by Benno de Keijzer. This was exciting since some of the students were just bursting to talk about it and had clearly learned a lot.

Then, to transition to the next topic we did another icebreaker wherein everyone had to form a circle and mime an activity they like doing such as swim or dance.

The next topic was something I decided to create after the previous week’s comments. When we were teaching about Feminist Film Theory the class had a lot of misconceptions about feminism and were turned off by the word because they equated feminism with separatism. So we started with an exercise in which each student was handed either a myth or a fact about feminism and had to determine which it was and why. This was to show the diversity of opinions about what feminism is and to think through some of the uglier misconceptions. Afterward the class read a short essay I wrote defining feminism out loud and we spoke more about feminism and clarified vocabulary and history questions.

Then we did a private, silent activity called Yes, No, Maybe though we started with one out loud as an icebreaker. The idea is to read a detailed list of intimate and sexual acts and situations and determine if you would do them, not do them, or maybe do them. The one we read out loud was “My partner can touch me affectionately in public” and everyone had to answer. The class then worked on their personal Yes, No, Maybe lists in order to determine their personal sexual limits.

We then watched a video about bodily diversity and looked at photographs of different penises, breasts, and vulvas in order to understand that, as Planned Parenthood says, different is normal. Then we watched a video about how to safely and properly use a condom.

After that we broke up into small groups: 2 students to each mentor and spoke about a range of topics such as feminist sex education, menstruation, safe sex, sexual and gender identity and orientation, and sexual pleasure. We then reconvened into the larger group and shared what we spoke about.

The last activity was a short ally training in which I taught the students how to be an ally to the LGBTQ community.

We then ended the day by sharing something positive either about the day or in general.

That night my friend Emmi stayed the night since she lives very far and had to come back the next morning. Though we were exhausted, we planned the next day’s activities and then I took her out to eat in a fancy Mexican restaurant. Emmi works very hard both at home and at work and is still poor so I treated her to dinner and then when she mentioned she had never been out in Zone 1 I took her to two of the best bars there, Cien Puertas and El Gran Hotel, where we ended up dancing all night. She was super happy to be out of her house since her family doesn’t let her go out, and I was super happy to show her a good time.

The next day, Sunday, we had a long day. Instead of meeting from 1pm to 6pm we met from 10am to 6pm and since the University wasn’t open we met at MIA’s founder and director’s apartment/office in Zone 1. Though the day was longer we had less activities that took longer to do. We began with an icebreaker by Emmi, one of the mentors. She had the class write down five things they like about themselves and five things they would like to change and then present. She explained that the reasoning behind this was to recognize how we typically concentrate more on the negative than the positive in ourselves and also to practice praising ourselves since it is something we are not accustomed to do.

Then everyone cut up magazine they brought to make collages on their new notebooks that MIA donated to them.

After that the students and mentors presented on the three Latin American revolutionary film manifestos that they had read the night before: Imperfect Cinema from Cuba, Third Cinema from Argentina, and Cinema Novo from Brazil. When one of the students, Carolina, presented on Imperfect Cinema I literally cried because at sixteen years old she understood the article so well and the concept was so beautiful. (Imperfect Cinema basically says that cinema does not need to be professional and expensive and anyone who wants to make films as a tool for social change can do it.) We then watched a short clip of The Hour of the Furnaces (Getino, Solanas 1970) as an example of Third Cinema.

After that we brainstormed about how many films we wanted to make and on what subjects and the students decided to make two films, one about family violence and one about competition between women. Once the groups were formed I brought out the cameras and they opened them and practiced using them. Then we all walked down to 6th street which is kind of like Universal City Walk or Downtown Disney and in the two groups we ate lunch, talked more about the videos, and took more video footage. Unfortunately it started raining heavily and we hid out for awhile in Quiznos but finally had to go back because a few of the students had to leave at 4, so we all ran home in the rain.

Then we watched some of the footage the students took and talked about it and closed with something positive.

HTML for youtube video of footage taken by Michelle, one of the students:

Since this weekend was so full, I will start my next blog with Monday.

 

 

 

Week Two

By Marina Wood

Paulina and Guiby doing the personal space exercise
Paulina and Guiby doing the personal space exercise

This week was super exciting because it included the first day of the Revolutionary Filmmaking Project, Guatemala, one of the most exciting parts being that I got to meet the students and the mentors who would be helping me. Me and the mentors met two hours before class to go over the day’s schedule and get to know each other. Olga, Paulina, Negli and my friend Emmi are my four mentors, all with diverse interests and experiences and all either are working on their master’s degrees or have them. Luckily Olga speaks good English so when I stumble on certain words I have help. When class started we began with a simple icebreaker and an introduction to MIA and the mentors. Though almost all of the students have been through at least half of MIA’s Hombres Contra Feminicidio campaign and understand gender, I always like to start with a shared definition. Olga facilitated a lively conversation about what gender is and we provided a definition: “The culturally specific presentation of masculinity or femininity.”

 

Genderless Crush exercize in pairs
Genderless Crush exercize in pairs

Our first activity was something called “Genderless Crush,” an activity we used at the Queer Resource Center of the Claremont Colleges. The activity is done in partners and each student takes turns describing someone they have a crush on without using gendered language or adjectives. The reasoning behind the activity is to understand just how gendered our language is as well as understand the heterosexual privilege of being able to talk about one’s love interest in public without fear. Then we talked more in depth about gender and learned the difference between gender, sex, gender identity, gender roles, gender attribution and gender expression.

Afterward we did the string exercise, an activity meant to teach the class about the importance of believing and supporting survivors of sexual assault. After that we introduced the basics of Feminist Film Theory and Revolutionary Film Theory. The last activities were centered around the idea of consent. We did three separate activities in which we had to tell someone not to touch us, ask someone if we can touch them, and determine at which point our personal space was violated.

We ended with reflections, questions, comments and homework assignment. The very last thing we did was each person had to say one positive thing either in general or about the day.

 

String exercise
String exercise

After the super duper exciting Saturday and after a very long and sleepless week of preparation, I decided to take my Sunday to the lake and visit a friend. It took a 20 minute taxi ride, a 3 hour long bus ride, a 5 minute long Tuk Tuk ride and a 10 minute boat ride to get there. On the way home the next day I just took one bus and one taxi, but I realized that its not too much of a vacation considering how much time and energy it takes to get there and back. Either way, it was very nice to get away.

Then on Wednesday I facilitated two classes on sexual harassment which went really well and on Thursday I facilitated three classes on healthy dating, all at the University of San Carlos. Though Yohanna, the co-facilitator for Thursdays wasn’t present, she previously invited me to go see live Trova music with her in zone 4 so I decided that I would go. I took a yellow cab and met up with her and her friend Luis and though I felt left out since the entire audience knew the words to most every song, I had a great time since I love live music and Trova is a beautiful genre since it is based on leftist politics.

On Friday I prepared for Saturday all day and then at night had a night out on the town with my friend Jenny. We also saw live music, but it was rock, and it was kinda cheesy but I guess her friend Ana was dating the guitarist. Tomorrow is going to be a blast with the Film Project because we are talking about sex.

 

Lakeview from Cafe Atitlan
Lakeview from Cafe Atitlan

Movie Project – week 1

By Marina Wood

 

At Claro, the phone/internet company.  Going there is just like going to the DMV.  I was excited because my number was my area code in California.

 

Some graffiti I found fitting for the video project “Art is a way to express your feelings, to follow your heart”

 

My poor towel.

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Marina Wood recently graduated from Claremont Graduate University in California with a Masters in Cultural Studies and Media Studies.  She holds a Bachelors in Women’s Studies from Long Beach State University and is a California State Certified Rape Crisis Counselor and trained prevention educator and facilitator.  Marina has been volunteering with MIA for four years and, in 2009, she co-facilitated the Hombres Contra Feminicidio (HCF) campaign in Guatemala for 10 weeks.  She decided to return to MIA and Guatemala to both help with HCF and to launch a pilot media justice project, “The Revolutionary Filmmaking Project, Guatemala” which provides hands-on film making classes designed to introduce youth to the art and craft of film making.

 

Week One: August 14-19

By Marina Wood

Blog 1: Week One

Here I am again in Guatemala City! Two years ago I came to Guatemala thinking “what the heck have I gotten myself into…?” and today I am here again with much more confidence but a similar feeling of being overwhelmed. Why overwhelmed? Well, let me make one thing clear: it is virtually impossible to make things go the way you plan. What with the rain, the busses, the fair weather taxi drivers (meaning it is only safe to use a taxi driver you know personally, and they aren’t always available), the pre-paid phones that cause people not to want to use minutes, the lack of internet in many households, the danger, … I mean I could go on and on. But regardless of certain setbacks, upsets, and changes, I am incredibly happy with the way the week has gone.

First of all, I got here August 14 in the evening. This time around I am working side by side with Lucia Munoz, the founder and director of MIA, Mujeres Iniciando en las Americas, so we spent the evening catching up and going over out schedule for the week. I arrived by way of Nicaragua for a two week medical mission, so this time it took much less time to get accustomed to the different lifestyle and language. The next day few days I spent organizing paperwork, my room, getting groceries, putting minutes on my phone, buying an internet USB, getting hangers, and creating power point presentations for classes I would be facilitating on Wednesday and Thursday. I also managed to almost burn the apartment down when I plugged in a lamp I wasn’t sure worked and walked away, not realizing it was on and my favorite towel was drying on top of it. Needless to say, nothing burned except a piece of towely.

Just looked at my first blog to see where I left off and realized I didn’t send it! Here is blog #1 below:

Wednesday I facilitated a course at the University of San Carlos (USAC) on Aggressive, Passive and Assertive Communication in the morning with the support of Lucia and in the afternoon I co-facilitated the same course with a young student named Yohanna. The classes were receptive and I felt welcome immediately, which is good because I am basically coming in halfway through their 10 week session on David’s heels. The next day I co-facilitated two courses to two new classes at the USAC on sexual harassment. This was great since I was able to use some material from the White Ribbon Campaign manual and some from my old job at the Sexual Assault Crisis Agency. However, it was a difficult subject to broach since there really isn’t a culture of sexual harassment training in Guatemala like there is in the United States. Though the students said that sexual harassment is a daily reality, by the end of class we were able to recognize that just because it is common does not mean it is acceptable.

Thursday and Friday I spent preparing for Saturday, which would be our first day of a Film Project I created under the umbrella of MIA. I have been excited about this project for months and used Kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marinawood/the-revolutionary-filmmaking-project-guatemala?ref=activity) to fundraise for cameras for the students to use and MIA’s amazing lifelong volunteer Daniel Velasquez got some computers donated for them to edit on. I have been collecting reading material and workshops for what feels like forever, but the tedious parts for me are translating and brainstorming. Luckily I found a bilingual volunteer named Abner to help me and we burned the midnight oil finalizing the day’s plan for Saturday.

Weeks 4 and 5 with MIA, David Inczauskis

My time with MIA, Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas, is coming to a close, but the past two weeks have been the most exciting weeks yet.

Just yesterday, I went to the office of the Myrna Mack Foundation to conduct an interview with Helen Mack, the founder and director of the organization that is currently working with the Commission on the National Police Reform to reorganize the current system. She is the link between MIA and the Police Academy and plans to help MIA put its programs into the curriculum at the Academy. This step is essential in the fight against gender-based violence and justice of such crimes because an educated police force that will have participated in MIA’s courses will understand the importance of properly collecting evidence and dealing with the affected families after a violent, gender-based crime.

The courses in USAC, USAC-Chiquimula, and Pedro Pablo Valdez are coming along really well; in fact, last Tuesday in Chiquimula the participants were asked to change the lyrics of two popular Latin American songs; instead of simply reading the lyrics, they decided to sing them! The activity in the all-boys school consisted of self-preservation, the idea that all human beings have the right to live without violence and without threats. In the USAC, students were asked to conduct and interview with a person that has influenced their lives, so I am looking forward to listening to the analysis of these interviews next Thursday.
I currently find myself in Chiquimula getting ready for a trip with the group to the Sweet River and Saint Phillip’s Castle. Both are local historical sites. I will continue with my investigation on Monday with visits to some local organizations that work with gender-related topics, and I will say goodbye to the Chiquimula group on Tuesday after their second-to-last course with MIA.

It is sad that I will have to end my stay here with MIA next Sunday, but the organization and its work have had a huge impact on my life.

Week 3 with MIA, Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas, David JW Inczauskis

Unfortunately, the first half of my stay here with MIA has come to a close. Fortunately, we have had an active and successful week in Guatemala City. Last Wednesday we began the courses in the political science and EFPEM departments of the University of San Carlos, and about 40 participants showed up between the two groups. On Thursday, the three courses in engineering, social work, and student health continued with the sharing of many personal stories and opinions concerning the way that we can break gender stereotyping in Guatemala and around the world. Some of the comments provoked interesting discussions that opened me up to different perspectives—perspectives that touched on the main reasons why violence continues to negatively affect the lives of men, women, and children in the capital.

On Friday morning I walked over to Congress to speak to Congresswoman Zury Ríos Montt, a legislator who often supports laws that work to level the playing field between men and women. Our goal was to present to her an effective law from my home state of Illinois that obliges teachers to include rape prevention education in the public and private school systems. Although the representative was not present, I was fortunate enough to run into her later that day at the event of an organization with which MIA closely works—Sobrevivientes. During the event, the congresswoman and I set up an appointment for next Tuesday so that we can sit down and chat about the steps we need to take to make turn this proposal into law.

On Sunday, I ran a 13.1 mile race in Antigua Guatemala, which has little to do with MIA but was a great opportunity to spend some time with a few of the friends that I have made.

Monday was a day jam-packed with meetings, travel, and workshops. I woke up at 6 and headed over to see the British Ambassador to Guatemala. She is an integral part of MIA and one of the reasons why MIA was able to sign a pact with the University of San Carlos to solidify our presence on campus. She and I spoke about her relationship with MIA and discussed possible future sources of funding for the organization. Later, Luis, Regina, and I took a bus to Pedro Pablo Valdez, an all-boys school in Zone 8. The workshop consisted of recognizing popular Guatemalan gender stereotypes. Despite the rambunctiousness of the young men, they were able to identify the stereotypes and the two main objectives of MIA by the end of the class periods.

On Tuesday I continued the workshop in Chiquimula. The four-hour long session produced much dialogue between the participants, and their dramatic renditions of aggressive, passive, and assertive communication skills were rather comical. I look forward to receiving their comments about Guatemala’s Law against feminicide and other forms of violence against women next week. My goal with the participants in Chiquimula is to work with them—considering their experience on the subject—in order to rewrite this law—a law that is not very applicable given its wording and simplicity.

Thanks much for reading, and I look forward to sharing my experiences again next week!

Blog Entry 7/12/2011, David Inczauskis

My second week with MIA has been full of emotional ups and downs. On Thursday the 7th of July, we began “Hombres contra feminicidio” courses at the University of San Carlos in the Engineering Department. About 10 participants showed up, and we were overjoyed because engineering is typically a field with many males but little interest. We continued with the following two courses in Social Work—a class of about 20 participants—and Student Health—a class of about 10. In all of the classes, the participants engaged in provocative discussions and contributed interesting and innovative thoughts and opinions. In fact, the discussions in all of the courses were so intense that we had to reschedule the showing of the video Assassin’s Paradise for next week.

After a long day of training sessions, Yohanna—another one of MIA’s delightful volunteers—and I went to TrovaJazz to listen to some of the most inspirational and motivating music of Latin America. The songs and the environment were particularly relaxing, but shocking and disturbing news disrupted the peace when one of the most famous and devoted trova singers, the Argentine Facundo Cabral, was murdered on Saturday morning on his way to the Guatemalan international airport after a concert here in Guatemala. Nevertheless, the citizens of Guatemala showed their solidarity during a sad but spirited rally in the central square of Zone 1. The speeches touched the hearts of everyone present, and we all hoped that the tears that fell had not fallen in vain and that the Guatemalan government would once and for all take specific steps to end the violence that harasses the daily lives of millions around the country.

On a brighter note, I spent last night—Monday the 11th—and today in Chiquimula, an eastern Guatemalan province that borders both Honduras and El Salvador. It was hot and humid, but the mucky weather did not prevent us from making the most out of the 4 hour long training session. We completed both activities 1 and 2 with the group. The movie Assassin’s Paradise was moving and graphic, so it captured the attention of the majority of the participants. When I had to shut it off, everyone complained.

Basically, the week has been loaded with activities, and I already feel that I am beginning to delve into some deep and heart-felt topics with the participants in USAC and in Chiquimula. We can only hope that MIA continues on its path towards success now that it has officially received NGO status here in Guatemala!

Best, as always,
David JW Inczauskis

Week 1 in Guatemala

My first week of volunteering with MIA, Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas, has been unforgettable!

I left Huehuetenango on Wednesday morning to arrive here in the city around 10 AM, and Lucia and I immediately started getting to work. She showed me around Zona 1 and explained the activities that we would be doing together over the course of the next couple of days. On Thursday, I went to San Carlos University to meet with the professors, doctors, and licensed workers who have created links with MIA to allow us to give courses inside the university about what men and women can do to redefine gender roles and to combat the high levels of feminicide and gender violence here in Guatemala.

During the long Military Day weekend, I met with a few of MIA’s “ambassadors” and was able to interview some of the people that give MIA the opportunity to fortify its programs through their active support. I found out that while MIA only relies on the backing of only a few altruistic, generous donors and unpaid, skilled volunteers, its programs touch the lives of many young men and women who hope to change the course of Guatemala’s violent history.

Today, Monday the 4th of July, I met Yohanna del Aguila, and we went to visit the central office of the Mirna Mack Foundation to establish a relationship between said foundation, the reformers of the Police Academy, and MIA. In addition, we ventured over to USAC again to follow up with the work that I did last Thursday. Both trips were great successes.

This week, we will be beginning the next semester of courses under the “Men against feminicide” campaign at the university, and I will take my first trip over to INCA—an all-girls school—and Pedro Pablo Valdez—an all-boys school in Zona 8. Since I will be co-facilitating these workshops and courses, we have also spent many hours preparing and organizing the lesson plans.

Overall, I have learned that MIA, Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas, is an outstanding non-governmental organization that works tirelessly to accomplish its goals. I am glad and honored to be a volunteer and member of the organization, and I sincerely hope that the organization benefits from my time here in Guatemala. Despite the fact that I have only been here in Guatemala City for 5 days, I already know that the full-experience will remain a part of who I am forever.

I look forward to writing about the upcoming week because we will be engaging in a plethora of exciting workshops and training sessions. Thanks for reading and look out for further posts!

Best,
David JW Inczauskis

Volunteer MIA