Hannah Sklar, BSW Social Work '10

Hannah Sklar, BSW '10, is a CHHS Distinguished Alumnus.

CHHS Alumni are creating positive change to enhance the lives of children and adults throughout the country and around the globe.

A GMU Patriot Helping Those in Need in Guatamela

Hannah Sklar, BSW ‘10

Going to George Mason was an incredible time in my life socially and academically. I knew that leaving my life in Northern Virginia was going to be tough, and coming and working for Safe Passage has allowed me to not only use the skills I learned in my undergrad but also get some of the most raw, hands-on experience I could have ever imagined.

I work with the mothers of an organization name Safe Passage. We have about 60 active mothers in the program. One area of our program I focus on is adult literacy. Here, we work with women from 15-75 years old who are working towards graduating "primaria" which is equivalent to 6th grade in the states. There is no set class and the learning at this level is all individual. The program is structured in a way that allows the women to come in on their own time, allowing them to work and take care of their children. We also offer "Basicos"- which is equivalent to middle school. This is a more structured type of learning where the women have lectures on a radio three times a week and come in once a week to turn in homework and review any questions.

Another part of my job is assisting in the Entrepreneurship program. One part is the recycled jewelry company named "CREAMOS" which means, “we believe and we create," in English. This is a group of 25 women who make jewelry out of recycled materials. In order to participate in this company, the women must be actively studying adult literacy. This is a social business and through CREAMOS, the women can make up to three times what they would be making working in the dump, where most of them used to work. I am also involved in our new sewing initiative, which hopes to someday become its own business and "boom" just as CREAMOS has done.

Since I have been here I have taken certain initiatives. With my background in groups, I have developed a support group for women who have suffered domestic violence- an issue which is sadly more common than not down here. Additionally this past weekend, I organized a vision clinic. Since I have started working at Safe Passage I came to realize that vision was a challenge for majority of our women. Although many organizations have come down and given our women glasses, they have either been the wrong prescriptions, or just referred them to an optometrist- a luxury for only the upper class down here. I wrote to a number of vision organizations and after 4 months of emails back and forth I finally found a group of students who were going to be in Guatemala and were willing to give our women vision tests. After this event, over 60 people from the community of Zone 3 left with glasses.

Additionally, I teach computer classes two to three times a week. Here I combine literacy with basic computer skills since for most of our women, this is the first time they are using a computer. My favorite part of the week has to be on Wednesdays: Yoga and Aerobics class. I teach the women Aerobics for a half hour and yoga for an hour. Watching the women become so confident and happy from doing exercise is a one of the many parts of my job I feel so lucky to take part in.

As you can see, the Adult Literacy program is one which has an incredible amount of activity and potential. Although I love the actual work I am doing down here, the relationships are what really made me fall in love with Safe Passage. The trust I have built with many of the women has been more profound and fulfilling than I could have ever imagined. The building where we are stationed is the only "safe haven" for many of our women. For many, coming to the project is the happiest part of their day. It is a place where they know they can speak and laugh freely; the only time they take for just themselves.