The dump is Central Americas largest land fill. The size of several football fields, the dump is in a deep ravine filled with everything from household trash to medical waste from Guatemala Citys two million residents. It oozes with toxic chemicals and methane gas. Vultures circle overhead creating a surreal scene of unimaginable poverty.
Last April, a number of local artists visited a virtual dump constructed at Higher Grounds Trading Company in Traverse City and viewed, Recycled Life, a documentary chronicling the lives of thousands of people who make their living scavenging at the dump.
Inspired by what they saw, Glenn Wolff, Melodee Rupert, Bill Allen, Delbert Michel, Janet Reed, Elizabeth Price, Ryan Greiner, Jessica Leggett, Tom Krueger, and Sherry Correl created original artwork for an auction at the third annual Fiesta of the Great Lakes Friends of Safe Passage to benefit the children of Guatemala.
The auction will also feature two tickets to see Madonna presenting her new film I Am Because We Are at the Traverse Film Festival, cooking classes with Chef Guilliuame Hazael-Massieux of LaBecasse Restaurant, as well as handcrafted Guatemalan goods, and much more.
All proceeds from the artwork and other sales at the Fiesta will support programs that provide over 500 children, preschool through high school. Donations help the kids attend school, obtain stable jobs, be self-sufficient, and lead their families out of poverty in a dignified way.
Safe Passage was founded in 1999 by Hanley Denning, a young educator from the U.S. who traveled to Guatemala to learn Spanish. She witnessed the devastating poverty endured by families at the garbage dump and started a drop-in program for the children. Her initial efforts with 40 children rapidly expanded and she was soon raising funds to build new facilities and involving hundreds of volunteers from all over the world.
After Hanley visited Traverse City in 2005, two local residents, Paul Sutherland and Sharon Workman, joined the Safe Passage Board of Directors and organized Great Lakes Friends to actively support the non-profit organizations work here in Michigan. Since then, several local groups have traveled to Guatemala to visit and volunteer, including members of the Traverse City Rotary, Leelanau School, Northwestern Michigan College, and others.
Tragically, on January 18, 2007, Hanley Denning was killed in a car accident in Guatemala.
In the wake of this unimaginable loss, thousands of people stepped forward to ensure Hanleys dream lived on, said board chair Sharon Workman. Today Safe Passage is stronger than ever.
Now under the leadership of executive director Barbara Nijhuis, who will be a special guest at this years Fiesta, Safe Passage draws volunteers and donors from 29 nations and has become internationally recognized for its use of education as a tool for combating poverty.
Fiesta 2008, A World United for the Children of Safe Passage, is set for July 16, 5:30 to 8 p.m., at the Hagerty Center in TC. Admission is $30 at the door. To make reservations, call (231) 590-6072 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Safe Passage visit www.safepassage.org.