For the past few years, Camino Seguro has been running a 5k race in the States every year. It is our big yearlyfundraiser. This year, it became a global event, with races also held in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Guatemala. In the U.S., 10 races took place in eight states. A large number of people also did a “virtual 5k” and ran the race in their local communities without an official event.
This was the first year that the race was run in Guatemala, and it was quite an event. The Safe Passage Public Relations staff spent months organizing every detail. Tickets were sold for a month before the event, but we made a big push in the final two weeks. Several events were held in Antigua to fundraise and sell tickets, with fantastic results.
Safe Passage has also been working hard to establish a strong relationship with Transactel, one of the call centers in Guatemala City. Transactel agreed to have us come in to sell tickets during their staff lunch hour. For each shift, two volunteers accompanied a group of students to visit the (impressive) Transactel lunch room. I was lucky enough to be asked to go.
The Transactel building is gorgeous. I’d been there before for a meeting, and felt more like I was in an office building in San Francisco than in the middle of Guatemala City. The lunchroom is also quite impressive. It is open-air (with a tent top to protect diners from the elements) and affords a gorgeous view of the city. Next to the lunchroom is a mini soccer field, and around the perimeter are fooseball tables, flat screen TVs and even a Wii.
The look of shock and excitement on the student’s faces when they got up to the lunchroom was amazing. As their jaws dropped in awe, I commented, “If you keep working hard, you can get a job somewhere like this, too.” I think it’s a fantastic incentive for the students to actually see office buildings like this. Not only do they learn about what options are out there, they also can start to imagine what it would be like being there. All of the extra perks that come with a job like Transactel are an attractive pull to staying in school and doing well. But, the girls were definitely a bit timid surrounded by such a starkly different world.
We gave the girls a few minutes to explore and warm up. Then, we huddled together to practice our pitches and make a game plan. Finally, we took the giant leap and approached our first target customers. Mac, the other volunteer and I, took the lead on the first couple of conversations to give the students a model to follow. Then, we pushed them to approach the Transactel employees on their own.
After about a half hour, one of the girls came over to me to get more tickets. She’d sold her stack. I asked her, “This is really fun, isn’t it?” and she heartily nodded in agreement. “You can talk to people all the time and get paid for it. There are careers in fields called ‘sales’ and ‘public relations’,” I told her. Her face came alive. “I can do this for a living?!” she exclaimed. I confirmed, suggesting that she talk to our Public Relations Coordinator, who steered all of the organization of the 5k race. With that, she was off, fast as the lightning flickering in the distance, to refine her skills. She was unstoppable the rest of the day, and was absolutely fearless in approaching Transactel staff to talk about Camino Seguro and the race. For her, selling tickets was the golden ticket that opened up a world of possibility and gave her a goal to be passionate about achieving.
To me, this story is a powerful illustration of the powerful effects of giving youth a challenge to rise to. It was absolutely magical watching this group of girls in the project talk to a group of professionals. The girls had to be very well spoken, and they rose to the challenge like a dream. I was so proud of both their articulateness and their persistence. They had their pitch well-rehearsed, and had a response ready for any reaction they might receive. They did an excellent job, and it was clear what a difference it made for the Transactel employees to speak directly with the students as opposed to hearing from staff or volunteers. The students were the key ingredient to the success of the Carrera de Esperanza, and they carried out the job with precision and pride. They, in a word, rocked! This was, by far, one of my favorite experiences in the project so far.
This week I saw peace in striving for a challenge.