UCDF Welcomes New Board Members
UPAVIM Community Development Foundation (UCDF) is excited to welcome new members to our Board of Directors.
I served as a volunteer at UPAVIM for six months in 1998, and then again for three months in 1999. (My wife, Christina Kelly, who was my girlfriend at the time, joined me for the second period of being a volunteer). My time working with the women of UPAVIM and getting to know a number of families in La Esperanza left a deep impression on me. On the one hand, the living conditions in the community were a clear indication of social suffering and injustice. Jobs were relatively few and those that existed were of a poor quality. With scarce economic resources, residents negotiated a harsh environment of insecurity, crime, and injustice. They struggled everyday to support their families and build lives of dignity.
On the other hand, however, those who lived in La Esperanza, and particularly the women of UPAVIM, built communities based on impressive forms of solidarity and support. The children of La Esperanza were also full of infectious and joyful energy. When Christina and I rented a house in La Esperanza during our stay, many kids would knock on our door after we had returned from our work at UPAVIM in the reforzamiento program. They would invite us outside where we would play and laugh in the pasaje until dark. If much about urban poverty in Guatemala City was unconscionably harsh and unfair, it was also a world defined by hope, joy, and inspiration.
Since leaving UPAVIM, I went on to receive a PhD in anthropology and history from the University of Michigan. I am now an associate professor of history and global urban studies at Michigan State University. My work still focuses on urban poverty in Latin America, and I have sought to relate in my writings and teaching not only the structural forms of violence and oppression that the urban poor confront, but also the kinds of solidarity and human warmth that they have built.
I currently live in East Lansing with Christina and our one-and-a-half year old daughter, Ana. Most of my time researching and working in Latin America now takes place in Santiago, Chile, but I am quite pleased to retain my connection to Guatemala by serving on UPAVIM’s board. The women of UPAVIM were perhaps some of the best teachers I have ever had, and I hope that my contributions to the board can help UPAVIM continue to build on its important and inspiring work.
My name is Deborah Jane Osborn and I am 25 years old. I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and went to Trinity University in San Antonio, TX. I graduated from Trinity with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Spanish. I was lucky enough to get a great job in a biochemistry research lab that I loved and also study abroad for one semester in the beautiful Dominican Republic. I worked for the same biochemistry research lab for 2 years. After completing and publishing my project in the Journal of Biological Inorganic Chemistry, my grant was up and I would either have to reapply for a position in the same lab or apply to a new lab. I had just graduated from Trinity and instead of accepting a position in a new lab I decided to do something new. After completing my one semester study abroad program in Santo Domingo, I was left with a desire to see more and do more. Upon graduation, I began looking for jobs at various non-profits across Latin America.
I ended up taking a job at UPAVIM. I was wholly unprepared for what I was getting myself into, which made the experience that much more enriching! In my time at UPAVIM I worked as a teacher in the school focusing on math and science for grades 4-6. I also began to help with volunteer coordinating, collaborated with the blog/newsletter, hosted various fundraising events/craft fairs while visiting my family in the U.S. and managed the English Program fundraising and budget. Being able to work for the strong and resilient women of La Esperanza has been the privilege of a lifetime.
After working just over 2 years in Guatemala, it was time to move back to the U.S. I have been working in the Unaccompanied Minors Program at Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services in El Paso, Texas since January 2016. I now work to help children, fleeing violence and poverty primarily from Guatemala and other Central American countries, stay legally in the United States. After seeing first hand some of the insurmountable hardships that cause families in Central America to migrate, I am glad to be able to contribute what little I can to these children’s ability to fight for a better future. Although their lives in the United States will certainly not be easy, a new beginning can make a lot of difference.
I am very excited about the opportunity to continue supporting and working for the exceptional women and families of La Esperanza. I hope to further their goals and missions in any way that I can.
Thank you for considering me to be a part of your team!