La Alianza Ayuda: The Fight to End Sexual Abuse of Girls in Guatemala

As a mother of two children ages 7 and 9, there are times in life that my heart breaks when I hear about tragic injustices being done to children. This is one of them.

Last week I was contacted by a new powerful campaign called “La Alianza Ayuda” spearheaded by LatinWorks and La Alianza, the Central American branch of US-based Covenant House to raise awareness about the unspeakable: The rampant sexual abuse that is plaguing young girls across Guatemala. Tragically, the issue of sexual abuse committed against girls in Guatemala has become one of the most serious social issues in the country as thousands of adolescent children are sexually abused by relatives.

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Child Labor, Marriage, Education and Survival Global Issues Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises SOCIAL GOOD Women and Girls
Los Glaciares National Park

My Top Five Wild Hikes

I just finished reading Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” a dark, raw and fiercely humorous book on how one woman finds herself during a three-month long trek through the wild Pacific Crest Trail. The book is powerful, emotional, honest and inspiring, and Strayed uses her brilliant memoir to take a hard look at self-discovery, heeling and change.

Of course when times are tough, we can’t always pick up our bags and leave town. Yet, I often find that there is no better way to escape and reflect upon life than to go on a hike, and the more remote and wild, the better. I have been fortunate to have done many wonderful adventurous hikes over the years.  Although every hike I’ve done has been special and has brought me to a new place, there are a select few that have truly inspired me and are unforgettable.

Here is a list of the top five wild hikes that are bound to get your mind thinking.

Adventure Travel Argentina Chile Guatemala Iceland Nepal TRAVEL RESOURCES Trekking/Hiking

Rooftops

This week’s photo challenge happens to be a favorite of mine: Pattern. I adore the patterns of the brilliant rusty orange-colored tiled rooftop found in homes throughout the world. Two places in particular have my favorite styles: Southern France and Antigua, Guatemala. Here is a sample of some of the dynamic patterned rooftops I’ve captured throughout my travels.

Antigua, Guatemala

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Inspiration

“It is impossible to live without failing at something – unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default”. – J.K. Rowling

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This week has been a bit hairy so I thought I’d post some of my favorite photos of mountains I’ve hiked as they always calm my soul. Photos above from France, Nepal and Guatemala. This fall, I will be adding Bolivia to my list of great hikes. 

Stay tuned…

Adventure Travel France Guatemala Nepal TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking

Being Half the Sky

“Women hold up half the sky” – Chinese proverb 

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Exactly a year ago today I was in Xela, Guatemala on a week long volunteer and spanish immersion trip when I heard the noise off in the distance. It sounded like a parade. I asked my teacher Lilian if she knew what on earth was going on and she replied with a smile, “It’s International Women’s Day!” and asked if I’d like to go see the festivities. I had never heard of International Women’s Day before yet it sounded spectacular. I packed up my school work and Lilian and me were off in a flash to the main square.

There I watched in awe and joy how a community could come together as one and celebrate the rights and beauty of women. It was so incredibly touching that I rushed home and instantly wrote a post on the experience titled “El dia de la mujer in Xela, Guatemala“. Even a year later, the memory of that day will forever be engrained in my heart. It was beautiful so heartbreaking yet also so full of hope.

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Violence against women is an enormous problem in Guatemala and sometimes women are victims of abuse and even murder. Lillian told me that this was the first time she remembered having so many men participate in International Women’s Day and was hopeful that it would lead to change.

Global Issues Guatemala SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL BY REGION Women and Girls

Becoming a global volunteer

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” – Mother Teresa

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Two lovely Garifuna girls in Roatan, Honduras.

Four years ago, I was finally at the point in my life in which I was able to set a new goal for myself. I made the decision that I would spend one week a year abroad as a global volunteer, giving back to a host community. After years of traveling around the world, I realized how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to see places that most people will never see. Furthermore, I understood how much we truly have in the western world compared to to everyone else who are not so fortunate. Spending time in developing countries opened my eyes even more and I became even more thankful for the fact that I had a more than adequate roof over my head, plenty of food on the table, a loving family, the ability to stay at home with my children and pursue my dreams. All in all, I realized that I had a really great life and that millions of people around the world were just struggling to survive.

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Central America Costa Rica Guatemala Honduras Morocco SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL BY REGION Volunteering Abroad

International Volunteer Day: December 5

“There is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up”

– Bernard Meltzer

Today is International Volunteer Day. However, in my book every day should be a day to volunteer. I am a strong advocate for giving back and believe strongly that everyone who is able should help others in need.

Volunteering does not have to be complicated. In fact, there are little things you can do right in your own backyard to help make the world a better place. For instance, every community has a school which needs volunteers to help out. I volunteer often at my children’s school on fun events and also on day to day tasks such as helping kids learn to read, write and do arithmetic. With the graying population, there is also a lot of need assisting seniors either at care centers, hospitals or just in every day life. With the economy in decline, many people need help just trying to survive. There are many places you can volunteer to give back to the poor such as helping at a food shelf, a donation center or a job/skill retraining center. The list of opportunities to give back and volunteer are endless. All you need is a little bit of time.

“If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you’ll end up not doing nothing for nobody.” ~ Malcom Bane

For today’s post, I would like to showcase a few memories of my favorite volunteer experiences over the last few years. With my next volunteer trip approaching in exactly one month (I leave for Honduras on January 5th) I am looking forward to having another opportunity to give back and see the world through new eyes.

SOCIAL GOOD Volunteering Abroad

The Magic of Hidden Places

Often when I travel, I am drawn to the unexpected surprises of places hidden beneath the non-attentive eye. From the mysterious hutongs of Beijing to the labyrinthine of a souq in Morocco, there is always a surprising hidden place to explore.

Perhaps these hidden places open a window into the unknown about the foreign culture you are visiting. Yet they always seem to leave me questioning, thinking and guessing about what it is really like behind these hidden windows of life.

The secret paths within a souq. Rabat, Morocco.

The whitewashed and baby blue walls in a Moroccan kasbah.

Inside the deep alleyways of the traditional Chinese hutongs. Beijing, China.

Another look at a Chinese Hutong.

Peering deep inside a hutong and wondering who lives there? How many homes are tucked away inside?

A hutong without a name or address.

Inside an ancient Chinese Water Village with numerous mysterious alleyways.

Many Chinese Water villages are threaded in waterways like this one that wind around the village and flow out to sea.

The open-air entryway of a home or cafe in Uruguay.

An open-air room of women making fresh torillas out of a building in Guatemala.

An alleyway in Guatemala where a Mayan women hones her craft.

Peeking inside the reddish brown wooden doors of a teahouse kitchen in rural Nepal.

Looking outside a “hotel” window in Himalayan Nepal at the donkey train passageway where modern day trucking is at its best.

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The green of Guatemala

“Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises.”

-Pedro Calderon de la Barca

It is hard to visit Guatemala and not become completely entranced by her greenery. The color green can be found in every place you look- from the verdant terraced farmlands, to the lush fertile peaks of the volcanoes. After a long, cold colorless winter arriving in Green Guatemala almost hurts your eyes and reminds me of the constant rebirth and cycle of life.

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The color of Advocacy in Guatemala

A Word in Your Ear, a fantastic travel blog that I adore, started a fun travel and photography challenge called “A Word of the Day”. Basically she lets her dictionary open to a word and voila. That is the challenge. Her recent challenge is “colorful” similar to a recent photo challenge I did.

I adore colors, especially on a gray, dreary day like today. They brighten my mood and make me smile.

These photos were taken back in April in Xela, Guatemala on the International Women’s Day. The entire town was involved in a grand celebration and a huge, colorful parade honoring women and advocating for women’s rights. In a country in which domestic violence against women is a significant, unspoken problem, it was wonderful to witness so many people coming together to share their voice and fight for women’s rights.

Here are some of my favorite colorful pictures from the event.

Global Issues Guatemala SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL BY REGION TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY Women and Girls

The texture of Guatemala

Its been five months and I still can’t stop obsessing over Guatemala. Lovely, picturesque Antigua obviously captivated my soul and has held it hostage. I can’t seem to break free from reminiscing about the past. You see, Guatemala is a land of a million colors and with color comes texture.

Texture can be found in nearly everything – from the cobblestone streets, to the peeling paint off of Antigua’s colorful buildings. Texture can even be found in the most unusual places too. In the lines and breaks along the tiled rooftops. Along the half-destroyed ruins of the churches and fountains. It is almost as if the earthquakes were intended to make Antigua truly a spectacular, textured place.

Follow me through the cobblestone streets of Antigua and see for yourself if you agree. I hope to see the lovely texture of Guatemala again soon.

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The Power of Purple during Semana Santa

For centuries, the color purple has played a significant role in the Christian religion during Holy Week surrounding Easter. The color purple along with red, black, white and gold, has an important symbolic meaning as the color of royalty and suffering. It’s significance is not a coincidence given the expense and difficulty in creating the color purple in early times. Furthermore, the color has often symbolized the suffering of Jesus Christ during the crucifixion.

I had the pleasure of witnessing the power of purple during a recent visit to Guatemala a week before Semana Santa (“Holy Week”).

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