I liked World Vision right away, but it wasn't love at first sight. I mean, initially, I thought WV was kinda fat and a little self-absorbed, but I was intrigued by the obvious love for humanity and drive for community development (And c'mon, there's nothing sexier than a dude who loves kids!). So, when WV asked me out, I didn't really hesitate to say yes.
Our first date turned out to be a whole week together in Guatemala!
Normally, I wouldn't rush into this kind of relationship, but I felt like our connection online had developed as far as it could – it was time for us to meet in real life. So I packed my bags, kissed my husband goodbye, and hopped a plane to rendezvous with World Vision.
It was intense.
We spent the week traversing the gorgeous winding hills outside of Antigua in a bouncy white van that could turn even the most steely guts into a vomit fiesta. I got to meet World Vision's Guatemalan family, friends, employees, and beneficiaries. I was treated to a party with a piñata, a traditional luncheon, and a concert. And, the whole time, I was carefully weighing all the things I saw and heard, trying to decide if we could have a future together.
As the end of the week loomed in front of us, I began to dread the inevitable; It would soon be time to DTR. And now that I'm back home and have had a couple of days to process everything I took in, I think today is the day. It's time to have the talk. Time to put it all out there. *sigh* It's time to Define The Relationship.
Ugh! This is so uncomfortable.
Because, here's the thing; I like you, World Vision. Just not all of you. ... :|
There are things that I really loved about our time together, and things that, well? I didn't love. I want to be gentle here, but I also want to be honest, so please know that writing this is giving me pit stains because I care.
First of all, you have a great heart.
I love what you're about. I love deep and wide community development. I love healthy, holistic neighborhood enrichment. And I think the music program you showed off this week is very sweet, but not very... necessary. I would have been far more interested in seeing some of the life-saving WV work I've heard about (clean water/ irrigation/ education/medical care), rather than a bunch of really cute kids playing instruments in tall grass. Or dirt. And don't get me wrong -- I love music, I really do. But I dunno... maybe not as much as you?
I think your accent is hot.
I was really impressed that, as we walked through the national and local offices, I didn't see one single gringo working for you. Not one. Every word of English that came from a World Vision employee was wrapped up in a rich Spanish accent. I absolutely believe that humanitarian work should be local led and local driven in local language, so to hear the sweet sound of Spanish (and only spanish!) ringing through your halls and doorways was downright sexy to me.
You're too controlling.
You brought me to Guatemala because you wanted me to see what you do, and then it seemed like you worked very hard to control the narrative. The picture I had by the end of our trip felt one dimensional and contrived. I would have loved a more diverse picture of World Vision in Guatemala. I would have loved a bigger scope, even if it meant a harder trip or longer days. Even if it meant drawing my own conclusions, instead of being given what often felt like a story that had already been written. Y'know?
I don't like your friends.
Ok, that's not true. I don't like some of your friends. Or, one of them. Ok? I don't like one of your friends. And, actually, it's not that I don't like him (he was really a very nice, funny, pleasant guy), it's that I don't like being lied to by him. It made me a little bit ragey when our World Vision translator manipulated and changed stories to suit his agenda. I seriously have no tolerance for messing with the truth in missions. That is gross behavior. My Spanish isn't always awesome - but I did live in Costa Rica for 5 years - and I know that some details of stories, as told to us by WV beneficiaries, were skipped or falsified by our translator to change the flavor of the story, and to reflect better on World Vision. It's a huge conflict of interest for a translator to be an employee of the organization they're translating for. If I could change anything about you, WV, it would be that. ...Sooo not ok.
That said, I love your kids!
I only got to meet a handful of World Vision Guatemala's 80,000 registered kids. But those I hung out with were delightful! It's endearing to know that some of the children we met are healthy and happy today because of 35 bucks a month from a far away friend. The kids seemed stoked to tell us about their “sponsors” and bragged about receiving letters and Christmas cards. It was really sweet. Concern for kids who aren't yet sponsored was alleviated by WV's explanation of how the financial aspect of sponsorship works: Sponsorship dollars are pooled to provide for the overall needs of a community – not necessarily an individual child – so every child in the area (even those who haven't been sponsored directly) benefits from that $35. I'm cool with that.
Also? Your Mom is super cool.
I've said it before, but of all the things you showed me this week, the Guide Mothers program was my absolute favorite. Empowering Moms to empower other Moms is, hands down, the best way to eradicate malnutrition, eliminate food-borne illness, and increase sanitary conditions to create homes where kids can flourish. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT!!!
Overall, I just...
I don't feel like you showed me the real you, World Vision.
When I got on a plane, I thought I was going to see three different communities in three stages of development. I thought you would show me how your work saves lives and creates sustainable agriculture, and how you equip underprivileged Guatemalans, ultimately, to live apart from you.
I thought I was going to fall in love.
But, the truth is, I'm still kind of wondering who you are, exactly. I can't and won't condemn your work, because I only saw one community. And I'm not sold on the idea of funding a music school, but some of my companions found a lot of value in it.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is...
I still like you, World Vision. But I don't think I'm in love with you...
...I hope we can still be friends.
Seriously. For real. I know everybody says that, but I really mean it.
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Can I just say? I have so much respect for Matthew Brennan who kept us organized, on track, and logistically on schedule for (the months leading up to and) the week of the trip! And mad (brotherly Christian) love for Matthew Paul Turner who was gracious enough to include me in this trip in the first place. I trust these men and their good opinion of World Vision and I would encourage anyone with questions about World Vision to seek one of them out. They're both great guys!
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Ugh. My armpits feel like the rain forest. What can I say? Honesty is sweaty business.