Elizabeth Benjamin '09 Spent Summer with Safe Passage

Elizabeth Benjamin graduated last spring with a degree in anthropology and Hispanic studies. While at Hamilton, she was a member of the national champion women's lacrosse team. This past summer, Elizabeth had the opportunity to combine her academic and extra-curricular interests by working with Safe Passage (Camino Seguro). Safe Passage is an organization based in Guatemala City, Guatemala that is devoted to assisting the poorest members of the community. Elizabeth spent two months with the organization as a classroom assistant, working with 5th and 2nd grade students and sharing her love of lacrosse. 

According to Elizabeth, "Safe Passage (www.safepassage.org) provides the poorest at-risk families who live off of the Guatemala City Garbage Dump with the mechanisms necessary to receive an education.  An entire community (better described as a shantytown) is built around the dump because these people use it as their primary tool for survival.  That is, they scavenge the dump in order to find  clothing, sometimes food, items to recycle for a miniscule profit, and material to build houses.  Safe Passage's objective is to promote good health, self-confidence, and create opportunity through education."

As a classroom assistant, Elizabeth
 helped students with their homework, created and played games to reinforce classroom lessons with them, and helped with the personal hygiene skills of younger students. Elizabeth also spent time playing sports with the children and helping out with the lacrosse program, including the "Festival de Lacrosse" they held. She says, "The experience was incomparable! I fell in love with my children--although they came from the poorest living conditions, they were usually in high spirits, demonstrating their admirable resilience to their situations.  The hardest part of my entire two months there was leaving them!"

Elizabeth says that the entire experience was extremely rewarding and is even sponsoring one of the boys from her 2nd grade class. She is currently employed as an intern with the Council of Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), a liberal think-tank based in Washington, D.C. that promotes the common interests of Latin America and the United States. She also hopes to return to Guatemala City at some point to volunteer with Safe Passage again.
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