The Verner team returned from Guatemala two weeks ago. Now, back in the snow and pine trees of home, I continue to reflect on my experience there. So many people, so many encounters, and so many things to think about, but what keeps coming up for me are the ideas of context, resilience, curiosity, balance, and admiration.
Context: I noticed that the people at Safe Passage, as a first step in our work together, invited us to visit and simply … see. We walked through the neighborhoods and areas where the members of the community live and work. I was so grateful for the opportunity just to look and listen, and to gain understanding about the community from their experiences and stories. It was a great reminder that building any real connections needs this type of sharing and openness.
Resilience: It is easy to focus on the adverse conditions of poverty, and certainly this community has more than their share. What stood out to me, however, was the incredible strength, resilience, and ingenuity of the families served by Safe Passage. As I met the educators and volunteers working with the children of the community, I saw how they – like all of us in this field – love children and work to be their best so the families get the educational opportunities they deserve.
Curiosity: As the Verner team formed connections with our Safe Passage counterparts, I stayed curious about what we could offer and how we could best partner. Yes, we brought our expertise, experience, and ideas to share, but I wanted to know what early childhood education means to this community and what approaches they have developed. The Safe Passage educators were curious to know our perspective on quality education and care, and how our ideas could inform their practice. And we both were curious to see how sharing ideas in this context could create something unique and meaningful to expand their programs and their work with children and families.
Balance: I noticed how, for me, balance popped up as a theme of working in a context of limited resources. Safe Passage offers programs for families and staff such as education, job training, and social work, and provides basic necessities like food. They work in a place with limited resources, but they do so with love and the understanding that everyone deserves the opportunity to build a life for themselves and their families. Verner has a similar mission and programming. We have in common that we both must navigate the balancing act of identifying what is needed, setting high standards and goals, and acknowledging and appreciating what we actually have and what we can do.
Admiration: Watching people dive into work with passion always makes me feel happy and hopeful. My Verner colleagues worked tirelessly each day and fully embodied the Verner mission. They helped each other, were flexible, and met each new setting and person with kindness and authentic care. And, like my Verner colleagues, the people of Safe Passages have incredible passion and devotion to their work, to the families, children, and the community they serve.
I am grateful for these experiences and for the opportunity to work alongside our dedicated Verner team and to start new friendships with amazing people.