Christopher Powell ’17 has just returned home from a summer spent helping orphaned and displaced children in Guatemala through an internship with Tree 4 Hope, a U.S.-based non-profit. Powell was one of a number of students this year who received Levitt Public Service Internship Awards to fund their unpaid or minimally paid summer internships focusing on public service.
This was not Powell’s first experience with Tree 4 Hope, or with work in Guatemala. “I learned about Tree 4 Hope through my Adirondack Adventure leader, Charley Allegar ’14, when he asked me to come on one of Tree 4 Hope’s service trips in Guatemala over this past winter break,” he explained. During that trip, Powell met the owners of the T4H foundation, the Crist family, and upon expressing his enthusiasm for the program, was informed that they were currently searching for a summer intern who would be able to work full time on-location in Guatemala.
As a T4H intern, Powell’s primary work this summer consisted of working with Tree 4 Hope’s main partner, Hogar Miguel Magone (HMM), an orphanage focusing on displaced children. Through their partnership, Tree 4 Hope funds food for the over 300 children supported by HMM. Powell chiefly focused on continuing Tree 4 Hope’s sponsorship program, through which Tree 4 Hope hosts sponsors who agree to fund a given child’s fruits, vegetables and meats on a monthly basis, an average 7$/month per-child.
To do this, Powell was responsible for creating promotional material for each child, as well as leading two of the organization’s service trips, like the one that he himself had attended in January. “This meant organizing hotels, meals, and anything else the trips needed while we were staying in Antigua,” he said. When other tasks weren’t commanding his time, Powell worked on one of Tree 4 Hope’s newer aspirations: providing meals for children fighting Cancer at the UNOP Oncological Hospital in Guatemala City. “These three tasks ate up the majority of my time in Guatemala, but at nights, I would be in charge of posting for Tree 4 Hope's group on Facebook about what the groups were doing, and about the many children who were still in need of sponsorships,” he added.
Though to Powell the travel, professional experience and learning opportunities were all great benefits to his work this summer, he said that the opportunity to work directly with the orphans at HMM was the greatest reward. “I've loved my time in Guatemala because of the children at the orphanage,” he claimed. “I made great relationships with them over the course of my two weeks with them in January, and it was those relationships that drove me to return this summer. This work is really rewarding because of them, and how much they express their gratitude to everyone that works with them.”
Beyond helping the orphans, Powell said he learned from them, including obtaining new practical Spanish skills, as well as gaining lessons in gratitude, acceptance and patience. “I also learned how to make friends fast,” he said. “At the orphanage obviously this applied, but while the teams I led at the orphanage weren't in Guatemala I stayed in a hostel dorm room, and met people from all over the world, which was an experience all its own.”
Though Powell says that Tree 4 Hope is an amazing organization even solely on the back of its work with Hogar Miguel, the non-profit is also is currently expanding its mission. “Their next venture is to start a Girls' school outside of Antigua,” explained Powell, “as many girls in Guatemala are the first in their families to be pulled out of school, because school is not free or required.” “This organization is doing amazing things in Antigua,” he concluded, “and I wish them well.”