Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Marijose Vilá

This summer, Wheaton Fellow Marijose Vila ’13 got to experience a different side of her native Guatemala and make a difference in the lives of women there.

Uplifting work: “I worked with an NGO called Safe Passage in Guatemala City. Safe Passage works with families that depend on the city dumpster to make a living. Safe Passage officials are trying to provide a brighter future for the families through education. I worked with the mothers in the literacy program, and I also helped them out with Creamos, which is their jewelry business. Many of the moms worked in the dump for hours collecting materials—such as plastic and metals—that they could sell. Fortunately, all of the moms who participate in Creamos and the literacy program have been able to stop working in the dump.”

Looking inside out: “I have learned so much from this experience. The most valuable thing that these mothers have taught me is to always smile despite the obstacles in your life. In one way or another, all these mothers have suffered a lot, and it is incredible how happy and friendly they are despite the fact that many things in their lives might not be working well. They are the definition of what a hard working and passionate woman is. It has been an honor to get to know them, and every time I come back home I know that I have to go visit them again. I have learned that it is important for me to get to know other people with different backgrounds and points of view from my own culture. It has given me a new perspective of the place that I call home. Even though I have lived here for 11 years, this job has given me the opportunity to get to know a side of Guatemala that I didn’t know before volunteering.”

Treasured triumphs: “My biggest challenge was getting to know the mothers on a personal level and getting them to know and trust me. My biggest triumph was being able to provide them with incentive to continue studying and creating more jewelry…. I loved looking at the jewelry and recognizing each mom in every piece, their personalities and their stories.”