Henry, pictured far right.
Henry started his journey with Common Hope as an affiliated student at nine or ten years old. Years later, after graduating from high school and starting his career, he became the Youth Development Coordinator at New Hope. A genuinely kind person, Henry's passion for working with youth is readily apparent to those who meet him. He is an example of the great difference the youth program can make, thanks to your support.
Henry says that before graduating from high school, it was a bit hard to have a clear vision for his life. “I imagined myself with a simple job, such as selling things at a store. I didn’t have big expectations,” he says. But he says he did have strong remodels, in New Hope Director Renato Westby and Country Director Tamalyn Gutierrez. “I wanted to be just like them,” Henry says. “With everything that I learned from them and Common Hope, I started to have the desire to help others.”
Henry also says he had great opportunities to explore his interests with Common Hope. As a Common Hope student, he took advantage of every opportunity that came his way, including engaging with the volunteer teams that came to Guatemala. They brought artistic activities and sports, and also volunteered to teach English classes—so he always went to these activities after school. He also had the opportunity in 2010 to intern with Tamalyn Gutierrez, Common Hope’s Country Director. He helped by filing documents, organizing her schedule, and planning graduation for Antigua and New Hope. The internship was a great learning experience, Henry says, especially learning to managing challenges with working with others, from the communication to the collaboration with many different people.
After graduation, Henry started working in Guatemala City, doing publicity for a business, writing emails and creating special flyers and promotions. It was a very small, entry-level job, he says, with a terrible salary and a massive commute—two hours both ways. Plus, it was all about “selling selling selling,” Henry says. “I felt that it wasn’t a good fit for me, and that it wasn’t putting my skills to their best use.” After a time, Henry decided to resign, and within a couple of weeks, Tamalyn and current New Hope Director Mynor Lemus contacted him about working with young people in New Hope. The new role has been such a welcome change for Henry, and a great fit.
It seems that Henry has allowed his own challenges in discerning a career path to inform his work with the youth program. He has made some changes to the program since his arrival, including more focused attention for students who are about to graduate. Youth program staff are prepping students with classes and immersion in the work force so they are able to arrive at a job interview prepared, and so that they will have the interpersonal skills they need to succeed. The program staff also works to prep youth with the tools and skills they need to go out and find a job—using the Internet, responding to postings, etc.
Henry also focuses a fair amount of time for the youth program on sports and physical activity, so students are healthier and happier in everything they do. In addition, he is encouraging more reading activities for youth—“just because of the simple fact that if a young person can read, he or she automatically knows much more than a young person who cannot.” And finally, the program is dedicating more time to more diverse extracurricular skills—such as skateboarding, dancing, and street art. “We’re doing this so we can focus on the many different talents our youth have,” Henry says. He hopes that through these varied activities, youth will have more skills and inspiration to contribute to their communities and schools.
On why he was attracted to working for Common Hope, Henry says, “I always had thought that you can make positive changes with young students, if you just spend some time with them.” And why young people? “I really enjoy working with young students,” Henry says. “There are a lot of people who think that youth are just a problem—but really, they’re a solution.”
Henry says a key challenge he sees for the youth he works with is adapting and understanding a new world, outside of the New Hope community. “In New Hope School, things are run very differently than in the mainstream public school system. The outside world, especially in Guatemala City, is much more accelerated and moves at an extremely fast pace. In New Hope, we try to give the students the opportunity to experience success, in many different ways. Within their own spaces that they feel comfortable in, students find success.”
Henry says that youth are more vulnerable to falling into bad situations when they are young, but when they are in a safe environment, with healthy activities, they are going to have more opportunities for their jobs and futures as they grow up.
But Henry also encourages youth to accept and embrace challenge. He advises students that “in any moment or situation, one should always look at things as a challenge to be overcome. It’s important to recognize that they are challenges so that you can learn from your mistakes.”
The youth at New Hope are very fortunate to have Henry's wisdom, enthusiasm, and vision. They are also very fortunate for the support of donors like you that makes Henry's work possible. Thank you!
Henry helps a student in the leadership program.
The youth group (Henry in back row, yellow shirt).