Two Foothill juniors stepped out of their comfort zone this summer to help Guatemalan orphans with supplies gathered from the generous support of local residents.
Ellen Wilson and Casey Mensinger spent a full week at the Hogar Miguel Magone orphanage for boys in the rural town of Mixco, Gautemala.
“It was a really good learning experience,” Casey said of the trip. “You hear about how poor other countries are, but you don’t really know until you actually go there. Seeing how lucky we are to have what we have made a big impact on me.”
The trip to Guatemala was the crowning touch of the girls’ months-long effort to achieve the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award Girl Scouts can earn. Planning started last summer, and the project got its official start in May with a Latin American awareness event, Chicos Latinos. The community event featured several fun and educational booths for people to learn about various Latin American countries.
“We wanted to do something for another country, and we thought Latin America would be a good place to start,” Ellen said.
The girls latched onto the idea of delivering donations to Guatemala in person after seeing a profile of another volunteer who had visited the Mixco orphanage. The girls collected more than 500 T-shirts, dozens of socks, shoes, hats and shorts and calculators for the children in the orphanage and nearby town. They also donated 100 reversible sling bags the girls made with sewing help from Ellen’s mom.
The girls used the money they raised to buy an industrial-sized pressure cooker when an orphanage worker explained how helpful such an item would be.
“They eat a lot of beans and rice, and it takes a lot of time to cook that much food,” Ellen explained. “If they have the pressure cooker, they can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with the boys.”
During the weeklong trip in August, the girls distributed their donations and spend a back-breaking day sorting hundreds of other donations in a large storage building. They helped clean and paint the inside of a building, worked in the kitchen, taught some English classes and spent quality time with the 54 boys at the orphanage.
The visit “impacted how I see my life after seeing how little they have, but they still enjoy life,” Ellen said. “It made me realize how fortunate we are. Some of the boys don’t get to go to school, or they only see their families once a month. We have so many people who support us.”
The girls will write about their experiences, both local and in Guatemala, in a detailed report that they will submit in hopes of achieving the prestigious Gold Award.
The girls urge other students to get involved, whether locally or far away.
“Anything that anyone can do really helps,” Casey said. “After visiting with the kids at the orphanage, they were so happy just to have someone to hang out with them. Even just one person can make a big difference because they know you care and you want to help.”
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Top: Ellen Wilson and Casey Mensinger pose with boys from an orphanage in Guatemala
Bottom: Casey Mensinger (left) and Ellen Wilson help serve breakfast as the orphanage