by Maisey Bradley, Ione Gallagher, Gabrielle Weiss and Cameron Callanan

For the past six years, Teenagers Inc. has served as a nonprofit organization located in the Northwest section of the city. We strive to bring young people together from all over Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs for recreation/service activities.

Out of all of the service activities we offer, our trip to Guatemala trip continues to be one of our favorites. We will be partnering with Nuestro Ahijados (God’s Child Project) in Antigua, Guatemala, about one hour outside of the capital, Guatemala City. God’s Child Project is a nonprofit organization working to help children and families in Guatemala. Its mission is to “break the bitter chains of poverty through education and formation.”

Throughout the years, we have done a lot of great work in Guatemala. While there, we meet every morning at the Dreamer Center (The God’s Child Project’s Headquarters), where the hundreds of children who go to school there are ecstatic to see us. They love the affection that they get from us and especially love any gifts that we bring them. We have found that some of their favorite things are gum and bracelets.

Three days out of the trip are spent building houses for impoverished families in the area. The remainder of the time is spent completing other service works like vegetable drives, working with the homeless at the local shelter by serving a hot meal to the people that come in for the night. While the service and house building is difficult, the reward of seeing the people of Guatemala smile at us in gratitude lets us know we did a good job and that they appreciate our efforts.

When we return, we are always so excited to tell our friends all about our trip in hopes of inspiring them to come with us. This year it worked! We have about eight new people coming with us. When we asked them what they are most excited about pertaining to our trip, they replied, “This will be our first year traveling with Teenagers Inc. and volunteering with the God’s Child Project in Antigua, Guatemala.

“We are looking forward to helping out those in need and learning all about the culture of the Guatemalans and how they differ from us, as well as making long-lasting connections with those going on the trip and those who we will meet down in Guatemala. Many other teenagers from our school and community have gone on the trip and recommended we go as well. Every person who has previously been on the trip has come back with nothing but appreciation of the time spent there. We are looking forward to coming back from Guatemala and seeing life in a completely new way.”

Being a member of Teenagers Inc. and signing up to go on this trip means you learn everything from fund-raising skills to networking skills. Through events, personal donations and other fund-raisers, we have asked our community to support us and keep the kids in our community afloat with projects, and service opportunities. There are so many ways to get involved with Teenagers Inc., and it has all been really fun!

Because of our strong ties with Guatemala, we received word that Casa Jackson Center for Malnourished Infants was flooded, forcing its residents to evacuate. The damage is extensive and God’s Child Project is looking to relocate to a new building, which is unfortunately their only option at this time. We feel that our trip is timely, and hearing this news makes us even more eager to go and help our friends in Guatemala.

There’s still time to help us get down there – in the last weeks of our program we are kicking off a new fund-raising program called “Adopt a Suitcase.” With a $40 donation, you can “adopt a suitcase” filled with necessary medical and school supplies that are in high demand among our friends in Guatemala.

By participating, you are allowing children to have new school supplies for their upcoming school year and ensuring that each family is able to safely remain in the community. “Adopt a Suitcase” is an opportunity for you to help dreams come true for the grateful people of Guatemala.

For more information about our programs and how to make a donation, please visit our website at www.teensincphilly.org or email the director: teenagersinc.director@gmail.com

About our writers: Maisey Bradley is a Teenagers Inc. alumna and a freshman at West Chester University. This is Maisey’s second trip to Guatemala through Teenagers Inc. Ione Gallagher is also an alumna of the program and a freshman at Drexel University. This is her second time going to Guatemala as well. Cameron Callanan is a Junior at Springfield Township High School, and this is her first time going, and Gabrielle Weiss is also a Junior at Springfield Township High School, and this is her first time as well.