It was about six in the afternoon, and we were driving back to the city after a full day with our first Wakami Travelers group of 2020. It was early February, and it was beautiful here in Guatemala. We’d had a very busy day. We started with a Dream Workshop, and then a big surprise happened. We had driven out to the villages to visit the women who are part of Wakami, our artisans who craft the bracelets and jewelry we sell. Normally, these visits go a certain way – the women share how they craft the bracelets, and talk a bit about their lives. But this day was different.
The women asked if they could say more – and they started talking about the war. This is the first time they’ve ever asked to talk about this, and I was very surprised. If you don’t know, Guatemala had a very long, very costly civil war. The war itself was almost 40 years long, and the effects of the war have gone far beyond those years. The women started sharing with the group about the horror stories of the war – what they went through, how it impacted them, and I have to tell you, we were all crying.
I was a translator, and there were times when it got hard to translate through my tears. The women were not asking for anything; they just wanted to share their stories and their hopes that their stories would have meaning to others from other parts of the world.
As we went on to the garden, where we planted trees and herbs, we could not shake the feeling that we had a new purpose, and what the women had shared brought even more meaning to what we were doing. We worked with the Circle of Friends and the Girls Club, and, when we were done planting, we went back the Wakami Center, sat in a circle, and reflected on the powerful day we had just experienced.
Initially, when we had the first group of Wakami Travelers a few years ago, I had thought it would be a way for us to showcase Guatemala, dreams, and the people with the world. But I think more and more that the Wakami Traveler program is a place where connections are made, and a safe space for people to really be their authentic selves and share with others what is dear to their hearts.
It is beautiful see that, even if it’s for a moment, a day, or a week, that there are no countries, no haves and have-nots, no boundaries, no barriers. It’s just people sharing dreams from their heart.
When we got back, we all found it hard to put into words what had happened that day. So much raw emotion, so much caring, so much love had been shared – amidst the chaos of like fifty kids running around and all of their energy around us. Not only did the Wakami women open their hearts, the travelers did, too. They were able to share without trying to pretend, without trying to be somebody, without having to keep up any appearances. Just real. Just true. Just authentic.
And everyone realized, at the end, that our dreams are very similar. Home. Happy families. Healthy bodies. The trees and gardens that we plant together symbolize the dreams we all dream.