Since 2001, Hallmark has been increasingly involved in the lives of people in Guatemala. We’ve always believed that people in healthy community are able to both give and receive, regardless of their age.
In the early years, Team Members and Residents engaged with an orphanage and daycare for children and the elderly, an AIDS Hospice, a school for street children, and a senior’s home. Our oldest traveler has been 91, and we’ve had several in their late eighties. Yes, people told us we were crazy, but Archie, at 87, said it was the best trip of his life, and he was a pretty good grandpa at the orphanage.
Another of our Residents, Don, made hundreds and hundreds of wooden toys over the years. Some he brought on his three trips to Guatemala, delivering them to excited children, and others he sold at local craft fairs, then sent the proceeds along for toothbrushes, shoes, and other essentials for Guatemalan kids.
Most of our Residents, of course, are unable to travel, but many contribute by knitting blankets. The knitting club at Hallmark on the Park produces dozens and dozens of blankets each year, which we deliver into the hands of special folks in Guatemala…and then we bring back photos for the knitters. Sometimes, we FaceTime in person...click below to see Jean from Canada "virtually" meeting Lorenza from Guatemala.
Many other blankets arrive at a seniors’ home in Guatemala called Casa Maria, and we take the residents for a bus trip and ice cream party each year. Click below to watch the video:
We started to learn Spanish (painfully), met Guatemalans who were helping their own people, and learned how to follow their leadership and support their efforts. We’ve helped build homes, helped with medical needs and clinics, and helped construct a community centre in a rural village. Hallmark helped found our partner organization Guatemala Conexions, which now backs the dreams and projects of some very special self-employed Guatemalans, who give of their own time, changing their country and communities:
Conexions partner Massimo owns a jewelry shop for tourists, and uses his profits to help many rural people with scholarships, nutrition, community development, and clean water:
Conexions partners Candelaria and Gregorio own and operate a Spanish school for foreigners, but volunteer countless hours coaching and developing a group of very special teenagers, who then "pay it forward" to develop the children who follow in their footsteps. This is a video from 2012, explaining the vision for the pioneering group:
Canadians and Americans have helped with funds for high school scholarships, since public high school is cost-prohibitive for most Guatemalans. The program also adds leadership development, English, and computer training, including the two-month English House immersion program in Guatemala, hosted and taught by Canadians from Conexions. Those first students have gone on to win full-ride university scholarships in the USA, business analyst positions with an American technology company in Guatemala, and summer scholarships to English camp in California.
Conexions partners Dr. Francisco and Carina donate much of their medical time to patients who can’t afford care, often in rural clinics or house calls:
To learn more about what Guatemala Conexions does, please visit the website below: