Nothing happens in a hurry in Guatemala. It took me three months, the entire first half of my IE3 internship to reach a point where I was happy and productive. But the lessons I got in those three months, in bureaucracy and business in tough environments, have been indispensable.
To understand the challenges of running a nonprofit in Latin America, there is really no substitute for going there and working as an intern. My understanding of social enterprise has been permanently altered.
I came to pilot a program for IE3 at an NGO that provides classes in language and technology. Little did I know I would be entering at a time of gross change and upheaval within the organization. During my time there they lost a fifty-thousand-dollar government grant due to corruption and about half the staff was laid off. They had to roll back an entire area of operations, their storefront, in order to stay afloat.
As a web developer, my role was to help leverage the web as a source of income. I was immediately tasked with completing a half-cooked project written for a system I was unfamiliar with and which was completely undocumented. Add to that power outages, lapses in internet access, and floods, and it’s not hard to see the degree of challenged I faced.
Having worked under such conditions, I truly feel I can work anywhere. From my coworkers I have learned many things; how to work around technological obstacles, how to navigate corruption and office politics, and even the life skills of patience and tolerance.
I will certainly not come home the same person I was when I departed for Guatemala.
You can read more about my time in Guatemala on my Guatemala blog: