A remarkable group of young women from Northwest Philadelphia who have become virtual angels to children of street vendors in far-off Guatemala are holding a quilt raffle in conjunction with Mother's Day.
A remarkable group of young women from Northwest Philadelphia who have become virtual angels to children of street vendors in far-off Guatemala are holding a quilt raffle in conjunction with Mother's Day to raise funds for the children. The quilt will be on display at the High Point Cafes in Mt. Airy on April 24 and May 1.
The organization behind this effort is Sueños (dreams), which was founded by Katie Korsyn, 30, who is still its executive director. The West Oak Lane native graduated from Masterman High School in 2009 and moved to Guatemala permanently after graduating from George Washington University (GWU) in 2013.
“I came to Guatemala for the first time in 2010 as a college student to work on my Spanish and fell in love with (the city of) Antigua,” she said last week. “I later moved here in 2013, and the early work of Sueños started in 2014. I was motivated through my education to learn about other cultures, especially Latin America, and eventually to study international development.”
As a child, Katie attended Abington Friends School, where she learned Spanish at a young age, enabling her to be completely bilingual as an adult. At AFS she did a project on Guatemala in fourth grade that was her first connection to the Central American country.
At Masterman, Katie had Mt. Airy resident Amy Cohen as a teacher for two subjects and was inspired by Cohen's story of working with the Peace Corps in Africa. In high school Katie joined a club she led called BuildOn, where some of her peers were taking trips to Latin America and Africa to do volunteer projects. These experiences led her to study International Affairs and Development and Spanish at GWU.
Once living in Guatemala, she became a teacher, worked with a variety of institutions on education projects and started Sueños in 2014 informally, but “with the tremendous help of Amy and other supporters in Philadelphia, we were founded legally in 2018 in both Guatemala and the U.S. Amy has been the key supporter behind our work from the beginning.”
Sueños currently provides community-centered education through a bilingual school for 28 children whose impoverished families work as street vendors in Antigua, mostly indigenous people who previously had no access to quality education, especially during the pandemic.
Typical of the parents whose children benefit from Sueños is Cristina, a mother of six girls who works in a park with her family selling ice cream, scarves and textiles. The youngest girls sell candy or gum to tourists. Their oldest daughter dropped out of school last year after experiences with racism. Cristina, who was never able to go to school herself, says her children love Sueños.
“When the children are home,” she says in Spanish, “they pretend they are at Sueños, singing, dancing and playing games from the class.”
Sonia Reardon, 22, a Germantown Friends School alumna who grew up in East Mt. Airy, spent six weeks in Guatemala in the summer of 2017. She learned about Sueños through Amy Cohen, a longtime family friend. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania last year, she became the organization's board secretary.
“When my friend, Hannah McDonald, and I volunteered with Katie in the summer of 2017 … rain or shine, we would gather the children in the central park in Antigua and operate the class. I kept in touch with Katie until Amy decided to help get Sueños legally transitioned to a 501c3 non-profit.
“It's been amazing to watch how Katie has evolved the organization and how many more services and programs they've been able to share with the families ... Sueños has given me a great sense of meaning and purpose, and I am so excited to remain involved as Sueños continues to grow and develop.”
Another young woman, Kiara Jacoby, 23, of West Mt. Airy, learned about Sueños in 2018 when she worked at the Arcadia University Community & Civic Engagement Center. Her supervisor connected her with Katie Korsyn. Kiara, who has a Master's degree from Arcadia, also spent six weeks in Guatemala as a volunteer with the non-profit. “As an International Studies major with a minor in Spanish and previous experience in Central America, it was a perfect fit,” she said. “I started as an intern for Sueños, falling in love with their mission and culture, and I still stand by that four years later as a part of the Friends of Sueños Board (run by Amy Cohen).”
For more information about the quilt raffle, visit suenosgt.org or follow suenosgt on Instagram or Facebook.