Students Perform to Raise Donations for Guatemalan Charity

Story posted March 07, 2012

Students sang, played guitar and recited original poetry last Saturday afternoon at a downtown cafe to raise money for a Guatemalan charity founded by the late Hanley Denning '92.

The students' goal is to raise $2,500 for Safe Passage, a nonprofit that provides education, social services and meals to children and families living in extreme poverty next to the Guatemala City dump, according to Maya Little '15. Little helped organize the four-hour fundraiser at The Little Dog Coffee Shop by soliciting musicians and spoken-word performers from across the campus.

Nine Bowdoin students, including Little, will also travel to Guatemala next week to volunteer with Safe Passage and teach classes in English, art and math to the approximately 550 children the organization serves, Little says. This trip is part of Bowdoin's Alternative Spring Break program.

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Veronica Verdin '15.

Other Bowdoin students will disperse across the country to participate in Alternative Spring Break programs in Arizona, West Virgina, Washington D.C., New Mexico, Georgia, New Orleans and New Jersey. They will do such work as volunteer with refugees, assist in a Native American community, help out in soup kitchens and homeless shelters, and rehabilitate housing for low-income families in former coal mining country.

Alternative Spring Break trips, organized through the McKeen Center for the Common Good, provide opportunities for students to engage in intensive public service, usually in a community they would otherwise have little contact with, while increasing their understanding of significant social and environmental problems. The trips are led by student leaders who design the entire program and are responsible for all aspects of the trip, including recruiting participants, planning logistics and coordinating with the host site.

Students have been traveling to Guatemala since 2003 to help Safe Passage, which Denning founded after traveling to Guatemala in 1997 to learn Spanish. Denning was compelled to help after visiting the slums adjacent to the city dump and encountering children scavenging a living from the toxic debris. Denning was killed in a car accident in 2007 in Guatemala, but despite this tragedy, Safe Passage continues to grow.

Little said she applied to join the Safe Passage ASB trip because of her own gratitude. "All the opportunities I've had I wouldn't have had if someone hadn't given them to me," she said.

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