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Guatemala Volunteer Project (Part Two) September 21, 2010

I visited Safe Passage (Camino Seguro) in May 2010. It is a non-profit organization working in Guatemala City to bring hope, education, and opportunity to the children and families living in extreme poverty around the City’s garbage dump. “Our program includes approximately 550 children, ranging in age from 1 to 21 years, coming from nearly 300 families in the surrounding neighborhoods”.

Hanley Denning, originally from Boston, went to Guatemala in August of 1997 to learn Spanish. “Upon arriving in Guatemala, Hanley began volunteering with children and adults living in small towns near Antigua, Guatemala. One year extended into two and just as Hanley was preparing to return to the United States in 1999, a good friend named Regina Palacios urged her, as a favor, to accompany her on a visit to the slums adjacent to the Guatemala City garbage dump. That visit changed Hanley’s life – and the lives of thousands in Guatemala and around the world.

Ever since graduating from Bowdoin College in 1992, Hanley had worked tirelessly on behalf of at-risk children. The reality facing children at the Guatemala City garbage dump was unlike anything she had ever seen. She knew she had to do something.

The very same week Hanley visited the dump, she sold her computer and her car and, using some money she had in savings, opened the doors of Safe Passage by enrolling 40 of Guatemala’s poorest children in school. These children couldn’t afford the books, school supplies, and enrollment fees required by the public school. This initial group received tutoring, a healthy snack, and the care and attention they so desperately needed. Another 70 children participated in a drop-in program when they weren’t working in the dump.

Over the next eight years, Hanley’s original program grew. The educational reinforcement program found a new home in a safe and beautiful building further removed from the garbage dump, and an early childhood center and adult literacy program were established, thanks to the commitment and ambition of staff, community members, volunteers, and international supporters. On January 18, 2007, Hanley was killed in a tragic automobile accident in Guatemala. However, through her many admirers and dedicated Safe Passage staff and volunteers, her vision continues today, stronger than ever”.

Hanley’s story reminds us of the power of one person’s vision to make a difference. The children in Safe Passage’s care remind us that there is much to hope for.

Safe Passage is currently accepting applications for the Volunteer Program Coordinator and Adult Literacy and Empowerment Coordinator positions in Guatemala. Qualified applicants are encouraged to apply at You can also visit the Program when you are in Guatemala.

Join thousands of Safe Passage supporters for an international series of races for friendship, hope, and solidarity.

       Registration details for the Boston Esperanza 5K are below:

The Boston Friends of Safe Passage aim to “Race and Raise” $15,000, providing 30 scholarships for Safe Passage students to continue and complete their high school education. “Meet” one of these students by clicking here.

When: Saturday, September 25th
            8:15 AM Timed Race
            8:30 AM Fun Run and Walk

Where: Fresh Pond in Cambridge, MA (map)

$10 for 18 & Under
$20 for all others
Registrants will receive an Esperanza 5K T-shirt (while supplies last).

Register online or Donate online 
Even if you’re out of town or over-booked on 9/25: You can still join the global Safe Passage community by running in the first-ever VIRTUAL 5K! Learn more here or register.


2 Responses to “Guatemala Volunteer Project (Part Two)”

  1. Lacy Says:

    Wow – what an inspirational story Hanley has, and what an INCREDIBLE idea to bring people together for a virtual 5k. Love it! Thanks so much for sharing.

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