Guatemala pt. 1 / by David Benthal

    Our flight to Guatemala was scheduled for Saturday, January 7th but the incoming snow storm left us stranded in Brooklyn for the night. After a few delays, some cancelations, and a few angry phone calls to Delta, we finally got a flight leaving JFK at 5am.

    So, our first day in Guatemala was actually spent in the Panama City Airport. Panama looked lovely from my seat in the cafeteria, the airport Caesar salad got 5/10 stars and the WiFi got 3. In Panama City we promptly missed our connecting flight. The next one was seven hours later. 

    40 hours after leaving my house in Long Island we finally made it to San Antonio, Guatemala. 

    The road to the village is a long dark car ride into a low valley that, as Rachel put it, will make you feel like you’re on a very slow, poorly maintained roller coaster. 

    We finally got to the home where we were staying, took a cold shower (the only available), and went to bed. 

    The next morning we were met by excited children who, even after my three years visiting, are still confused by my poor use of Spanish. Our mission for the day was to photograph each student in our program to create profiles for donors to view and sponsor them. Until now Programa Sueños has relied on donations raised at our fundraisers or private donations made throughout the year. Our current goal is to have a donor base supporting the kids with small monthly donations. 

    This is my fourth trip to Guatemala working with Programa Sueños. At the time of the first trip in 2014 I was very new to photography, I had never been out of the country, and had no idea what to expect from this tiny village in Guatemala. It was a complete culture shock but I saw the need for education and inspiration that these children had and I jumped in. 

    Fast forward to 2017 and I still don’t know what I’m doing. But today I saw our kids excited about learning. I saw them playing in the marching band they formed using instruments we bought and learning from a teacher that we hired. Not only is the band very good, but the kids are inspired, they’re thinking about their futures; they’re dreaming. 

And I learned how to heat water over a wood fire in substitution for a shower.