Please introduce yourself?
My name is Emma, and I’ve just spent some time in Guatemala with Nicodemus and I now have returned to the UK and I’m living in the leafy paradise that is Oxfordshire.
How did you end up in Guatemala?
Bit of a mad story actually…I kept having a dream about two little boys in Guatemala that I felt I needed to help in some way – but I wasn’t certain how, who or what! Simultaneously, a number of people randomly kept putting Guatemalan coffee in my hand, suggesting documentaries I should see and handing me brochures on the country I started to think there was something in this. After turning up early to church (for once) a friend asked about planning my upcoming trip and I explained that I kept hearing about Guatemala and felt that I needed to investigate this further. She replied that there was an open evening with Nicodemus the next night which she was going to, and that I should go with her. I went and about 3 minutes into the presentation, I had that uncomfortable burning feeling that I would be on the plane pretty soon after!
When I was learning Spanish out in Lake Atitlan, I lived with the 2 little boys in my dream, but I didn’t even realise until my last day!
What were the immediate needs you noticed in Guatemala?
Love and support. At the Education Centre it was obvious, that children needed and valued basic food and medicinal care. They needed a good quality of education but most importantly, they needed a hug, or someone to listen to them or play a game with them and take an interest. They also needed hope more than anything: that education was the path to a better future, and encouragement in their ideas to pursue what they were interested in.
You lived and helped at the Girls Home (MST) what were your experiences of rescue and restoration in this place for the girls?
The girls from the home vs. others I met of a similar age and circumstance were markedly different. The MST girls had a deep rooted confidence and a hope for a brighter future, led predominantly by their faith. They were thankful to be there and keen to help others 10 times out of 10. The home is a safe environment, and the girls safety is the top priority. I felt that the teachers have a great sense of humour, which is vital to building a positive home and environment for the girls to thrive, it was a really fun place to be. Everyone pitched in and helped and had a great time doing it.
How does Nicodemus Youth Leadership Programme bridge the gap between MST Girls Home and the outside world?
This was the main area of concern for me whilst at the home as the difference is so great between the home life they have at MST and the outside world. Nicodemus is great at mentoring adults once they’re out working in the world, coming up with ideas and solutions to get the girls into further education or a job depending on their situation. What I loved was that it wasn’t a one size fits all solution, and each girl is treated like an individual.
How is the Education Centre a place of rescue and restoration?
It’s safe and the EC provides food for the children every day. Without this support many of the children would go without food on a regular basis, and they wouldn’t have any access to education. It’s likely that they would be put to work on the rubbish dump or worse. The teachers are always full of boundless energy and go out of their way to make the children feel supported with their learning no matter what their stage of development. This is a safe environment for the children to learn everything from basic language and arithmetic to computer studies later on, English, sports, Bible stories and so much more. It also hosts a clinic on a regular basis so that local families who can’t otherwise get access to medical care can be seen and treated.
How did you see the church and young people working together in Guatemala?
The church that the girls went to was really great at aiming talks, worship and even a Q & A session with their congregation to target issues that young people face every day. This is absolutely key in helping to coach and love the girls where they are at and also prepare them for the future; when they need to be more independent.
We simply believe in young people, how is the partnership of Nicodemus with projects in Guatemala encouraging this?
I loved watching Nicodemus work together and co-operate with other charities in Guatemala. The support for people like the DBO team, Time of Rescue, Sigo Vivo, EC and MST was fantastic. Jonny (International Director) and Kim (Regional Ambassador) were amazing ambassadors of the charity always willing to pitch in and help whether that was organize, or just show up and get stuck into an already existing event. This was allowing local people to have an afternoon/evening of fun away from the harsh realities of living in extremely difficult situations. They caught up with really keen individuals afterwards and helped them to get more plugged in to the different programs and mentorships to encourage them going forward.
Now that you are home, are there any experiences you had in Guatemala that inspired you to help marginalised young people in your community?
Absolutely I started a sustainable jewellery business for the Girls Home, which they just loved. With materials given from a number of sources we were able to start teaching the girls basic jewellery techniques and this became a wonderful way of getting them thinking about business skills – everything from techniques, market research to branding, using media to promote themselves, setting up a fashion shoot, selling skills, chatting to customers – the whole lot! With some of the money raised we painted the prayer room, we did paintings for their bedrooms and they even put some of it towards going on a holiday with a church camp. So yes, suffice to say I am definitely inspired, and looking to launch a programme with Young Adults in Banbury looking at developing their business and sales skills and giving them more confidence in their existing abilities.
How do you think the church could meet the needs of marginalised Young People in the UK?
It’s so hard to pin point what one particular church can do to significantly impact a group of young people in the UK, and so many churches do so much already! However, I think giving young people space to be seen and to get involved with things is brilliant – and not something specific to Guatemalan young people either. I think this is absolutely foundational in letting young people be heard, and in giving them a chance to sound board how they can develop and be part of helping other people. This is such a valuable – and often under used – power that the church has at its disposal.
We believe young people qualified by experience can help support and encourage others like themselves in their community.
Relationship in Guatemala is intrinsic to that societies make up. Everything seems to work by who you know not what you know. Therefore, the power of testimony is incredible in this society and has a big difference as so many people look at someone talking, relate to their situation and then think, but if you got out of your situation, surely I can too.
Many moments of gratitude for the time that I was given to be in this place. For seeing miracles, and for seeing how the whole journey flowed from start to finish, which I would never have been on had I not followed my gut “faith” instinct and gone for it. Also, the friends I made on this journey which were certainly as precious as the experience itself. For provision when we/I went without, and for renewed endurance and patience in a country where it’s pretty relaxed!