Dear Sally,
 I do not very well recall our conversation before my travels here but the four cups of coffee and artisan sandwiches consumed during our words exchanged may have been sufficient enough to regard the conversation as ‘memorable’—even though I despise the term.  What I do recall from that morning (besides the circularity of each graduating high school class), was a comment you said, directed towards me in regards to my ‘blogging’ in Guatemala:

 “Amongst everything Sean, tell us the truth—I want to hear what
you’re feeling”

 As hard as I try, I cannot capture the ‘truth’ of the Pena Blanca community through any type of word or image, but
I can admit now (after 5 weeks spent here), that my dreams of late are no longer filled with food, but rather the struggles beyond that of my own—the stories of the families in comparison, make our rice and beans seem like luxury. How can I complain about the amount I’m eating, when my neighbors have less than half the amount for twice as many people? By becoming so close to this community all I want is to help them in some immediate way—I want to give them $20 cause it could do so much here...but no—what is tough is that this is not a sustainable solution for them yet my conscious wants the problem to change immediately. How can I leave here without giving something back to these people who are struggling now? One family wants to take a microfinance loan but cant...cause they're so poor, no one wants to be in a group with them. Where do they start? How can I simply return home with these problems, left unsolved, in my head? The problems of disparity of wealth and opportunity is something we must all deal with at times (I realize this) but nevertheless it’s very difficult knowing that I can return to living as I was before. What can I do at home that will not just give empty cash to families here and instead offer them something that will support their goals, opportunities and own self-empowerment? Because of this, I must remind myself that indeed giving money and clothes will help them now, but it is not the solution to combat poverty. Instead, I hope the stories and crafting of a documentary will impact others, myself included, to take actions, whether they be big or small, often or infrequent, to help others, where help is deserved.

 As for my struggles, do not worry; my thoughts of hunger or tiredness are nothing in comparison to the families here and their children. In regards to ‘truth’, I have done my best to recite honestly, the complicated structure of schematics in the disparity of wealth and the struggles of one’s musings. Even though tomorrow is a new and the next is as well, my struggle today, lies in imagining our departure from here: At first it was so heavily colored with food and celebration upon succeeding off ‘living on a dollar’, but now the picture seems too complicated, un-colorable for the lines fall off the page. I don’t let this disappoint me though—there are still deep impressions of ink and color beginning to bleed through. Oh, if only I could color the entire page, connect the lines of indifference and un-complementary colors, only then maybe will a solution to the drawing be uncovered. For now, I hope the fibers on the page remain engraved so, a moment; no matter how far or whenever it presents itself, retains some coloring of
this encounter to mine.   

I do hope we can sit over coffee again and discuss our adventures in greater detail.


 p.s. Give Charlie my best and relay the message that his backpack (though now slightly more beaten) remains intact.

7/20/2010 02:29:14 pm

Hello Sean
I can only imagine what you are seeing and feeling. Im not sure that we always have it better, since it is relative.


The people you are living amongst are powerful people in spite of their hardships. Our material wealth in many ways is just a veneer of comfort. My guess is they see you as you are or would like to be, that is a caring soul. You cant offer much more than that. Say hello to my backpack. I cant wait to hear its tales.

Your amigo Charlie

Haley Priebe
7/28/2010 01:29:22 pm

Hey Sean,

Your desire to help and torn feelings over immediate needs versus long-term sustainability highlight the crux of the current tension between charity and business, or even social business. (In fact, this tension exists within the concept of sustainability.)

Unfortunately, I am not sure I can assuage your torn feelings; however, your friend Charlie seems to offer some good input. I guess you can also ask yourself what opportunities, supports, or blessings you would desire most, if you were impoverished.

I also found your comment about group exclusion of the poorest community members interesting. Although I can imagine that your experience is sort of bittersweet, I am so jealous of all the subtleties you guys are becoming acquainted with. This type of knowledge - I think - is one of the most crucial ingredients in effective microfinance and social business. Do you get the sense that such examples are taken into account by microfinance institutions, or do they to consider such cases outliers, or externalities?

Sorry, I've totally rambled, but your note got me thinking. Hope you're still enjoying bean and rice. Seems like you're all becoming quite the cooks - an unexpected outcome!


Julia González
5/3/2011 09:42:37 am

I’m a journalist from “Expressions” magazine of American Express. I’m actually writing an article about the most important TED conferencies in the last years. I would like to ask you, if you can send me some pictures in high resolution, specially from you, Chris and Zach, in the Guatemala’s jungle. My e-mail is jgonzalez@drevistaspremium.com

Thank you in advance,

Best regards,


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