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By Cathleen O’Grady
Safe Passage is an educational program with a difference: In addition to providing resources for children, it recognizes the essential work of helping parents to lift themselves out of poverty, to the benefit of the entire family.
Known in Spanish as “Camino Seguro,” Foundation Beyond Belief’s Q1 2014 Education beneficiary runs an adult literacy program targeted at assisting adults in Guatemala City’s garbage dump region. Its CONALFA-accredited program is currently helping nearly 70 parents and grandparents to obtain a sixth-grade diploma, providing positive role modelling for children and creating improved employment opportunities, helping to stabilize families living in poverty.
Meanwhile, the Social Entrepreneurship Program provides business and leadership training to mothers enrolled in the adult literacy program. CREAMOS, an initiative of this program, now employs more than 28 women making jewelry, who between them have more than 125 dependents. All of these women have stopped working on the dump and have increased their income working for CREAMOS. A Safe Passage sewing company employs a further 20 mothers, who are learning a different project every week, equipping them with skills that may improve their opportunities long into the future. Finally, Safe Passage’s newest entrepreneurship project, Wipe, sees mothers employed creating recycled towels.
Irina, a single mother of five, approached Safe Passage for help with covering the cost of her children’s education. She was unable to help her children with their homework, and after hearing about the adult literacy program, enrolled in the classes. Only two years later, and she had reached seventh grade, becoming the first president of CREAMOS.
“Without Camino Seguro my children couldn’t study and I wouldn’t know what I know now,” says Irina. “I cannot—or don’t want to—imagine how my life would be without Camino Seguro. Now, my children have so many opportunities for their future. My life changed completely, all our lives here did!”
Irina explains that her community is filled with single mothers, and that Safe Passage is making a tangible difference to all of their lives. “We get these big food bags once a month, help with life skills and confidence, and medicine. With the selling of our jewelry I can earn money, which helps me a lot and makes me very proud.”
Esther is 81 years old and is enrolled in Safe Passage’s adult literacy program, learning to read and write for the first time in her life: “I like very much to come here and to chat with all the other women—and calculating! The teachers are very good. Now I’m able to communicate more with my grandchildren because I’m more intelligent. This makes me very happy. I will soon be able to read the newspaper.”