Get a firsthand glimpse of daily life at Safe Passage and see some of the projects we’ve supported in the video above.

The words “garbage dump” and “neighborhood” should never be synonymous—yet such is the case in Guatemala City, where the area known as the basurero (Spanish for “dump”) is as dangerous as it is poverty-stricken. For the thousands of people whose economic situation forces them to live here, trash picking in the dump might earn enough money to stave off starvation. But in a place where pollution makes it harmful just to breathe or drink the water, it comes at a heavy cost.

As part of a global effort to provide clean drinking water in the communities where we travel, Grand Circle Foundation has partnered with Safe Passage, a local nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of the people who live and work in the basurero—and we’ve donated more than $57,000 since 2014. When we first asked Safe Passage how best we could support them, they told us of a particular challenge they faced with their kindergarten site, which educates and feeds 95 students.

As with most of the property in the basurero, the school was built on a former landfill. Contaminated soil is a given here, particularly during the rainy season, which has been known to flood the school with filthy “black water.” While exploring solutions to the flooding, Safe Passage discovered that neighbors had tapped into the system that removed contaminants from the soil, which contributed to the backups and blockages. The unexpected costs that arose from this discovery were too much for the organization to bear—yet a solution was crucial. The Foundation supported the installation of new water lines at the Safe Passage kindergarten, as well as additional construction to prevent blockages that might cause flooding.

Families already living on the edge of poverty have been especially hard hit during the pandemic. Safe Passage suspended its operations due to government regulations regarding COVID-19—which had a significant economic impact on the students and their families. And while Safe Passage had concerns that their out-of-work participants would once again resort to scavenging the garbage dump to earn an income, even this was impossible because the dump was also shut down. To make matters worse, prices of food and household items drastically increased.

A Grand Circle Foundation grant, funded by donations from our generous travelers, helped to provide nutritious food for these families during this incredibly unstable time. Every two weeks, Safe Passage distributed gift cards to the 425 families supported by the organization, which are used to purchase groceries at the local market. Our contact at Safe Passage assured us that the families only purchased specially selected items to feed their families, chosen to guarantee proper nutrition. To prepare for the students’ return to the classroom, we also added a new water well to the property to ensure enough resources to maintain proper hygiene and handwashing.

On behalf of Safe Passage and Grand Circle Foundation, we thank all of the generous travelers who helped make these projects possible.