Social Entrepreneur Corps project in Guatemala 2014

Maria Barlow from the University of Birmingham describes her time in Guatemala on the U21 SEC 2014.

It is almost impossible to choose one part of the programme as my favourite because as a whole my time in Guatemala really opened my eyes to many new experiences and challenges, from which I learnt an enormous amount!

However I would say the opportunity to get hands-on experience with a developmental organisation in a developing country was somewhat of a dream come true! I learnt not only a huge amount about developmental work, and the challenges faced but also about Social entrepreneurship and MicroConsignment, which gave me a completely different perspective on the ways in which developmental issues can be tackled.

Furthermore through this experience I had the opportunity to work with local entrepreneurs, giving eye examinations and promoting water filters and also local organisations such as Proyecto Santo Tomas, which works with young people in schools and the local community. With this organisation I had the opportunity to produce a short documentary with some secondary school students.

Throughout my stay in Guatemala, we kept hearing about the current struggle with the Latin American “child migrant crisis” and so I was really interested to work with local children and hear what they thought about their country and their futures. Working with these children was one of the most inspiring parts of the month; their positivity and determination shone through and touched me deeply and this project in particular is something that I would love to continue with in the future. In addition the opportunity to stay with local homestay families was a deeply humbling experience, where I really gained an intense appreciation for Guatemalan and local Mayan culture. 

I think experience of working in an international development organisation, and the skills I have developed from this position such as communication and innovation and entrepreneurship skills will greatly benefit me when applying for future positions in any sector, but especially for working in International Development.

In addition, having direct experience of having worked in challenging developing country conditions shows I have adaptability and flexibility in working in challenging conditions and furthermore increased global and social consciousness of some of the problems faced in developing countries and different ways we can tackle poverty issues. Through this experience I have had the opportunity to develop my cultural awareness of living and working in another culture, which is essential for International Development work. By working in a different culture, this also shows that I have developed my language skills in having to communicate in a different language. This will be a huge advantage in my professional development as excellent communication skills, and language skills are fundamental to working in the International Development sector.

Overall, through this experience I had the opportunity to directly serve communities and the organisation, which was really a wonderful experience.