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Welcoming our New Volunteer Callie New: Opening Thoughts


Hello from Xela! My name is Callie New and I am the most recent volunteer with Semilla Nueva. I am a recent graduate from Southern Oregon University where I majored in International Studies while studying Spanish language and Latin America history and politics. I decided to volunteer with Semilla Nueva because I have an interest in sustainability and development. 

Sustainable development is an intriguing subject as it has the potential to address threatening global issues that have developed in recent years. With increasing climate and population changes, our generation must be active in fostering societal adaptation in order to adjust to whatever the future may bring. I am interested in working with food security issues, by learning methods that meet our growing population’s needs as well as endure potential natural disasters.

I am attracted to Semilla Nueva’s model of development because it works to tackle the pressing issues that the people of Guatemala are dealing with, while working for the future through community empowerment. Currently, Guatemala is the most malnourished country in the Western hemisphere and has deeply struggled in the last year after hurricane Agatha wiped out 29% of the country’s corn production. Semilla Nueva has an excellent approach; their model is to work with the people by fostering community involvement in agricultural improvement in rural communities. Beyond wanting to help Semilla Nueva use sustainable methods to raise crop yields and incomes, my hope is that we can help farmers work toward a sustainable livelihood with the foresight that the future of the people and environment will be healthy.

My time in Guatemala will be spent in Xacana where I will be an enduring presence and representative of Semilla Nueva within the community. By living in Xacana, I hope to develop genuine and trusting relationships with community members. This will benefit both the community and Semilla Nueva’s work. Successful development transpires when there is empowerment within the community, which can only be brought to life when trust and confidence is established and collaboration occurs between the people and organization.

During my months with Semilla Nueva I will be involved with the following tasks:

  • I will work with the children on the already established school garden and hold lessons teaching various elements of sustainable agriculture.Teaching farming techniques that move away from environmentally degrading practices to the children will have lasting effects for the community since the vast majority of Xacana’s population is under the age of 14.
  • The previous volunteers have been working with the promotor Ender with worm composting. Local farmers and other community leaders have shown an interest in composting, so I will help with constructing their own system to be used in homes that will recycle organic waste and help rebuild healthy soils. The enthusiasm shown for this project gives hope that the farming practices we are promoting have the potential to rapidly scale throughout the community, and with farmers leading the way!
  • I am also looking forward to helping Semilla Nueva hold a conference with Ender to spread their knowledge and experience with the organic fertilizer plot they planted in Xacana. Part of my responsibility will be to create enthusiasm for the conference and spread the word throughout the community, hoping to gain attention and interest from local farmers.


I am excited to be working with an NGO that is so present and active in the daily life of the people. My goal is to put my energy, creativity, and passion into all of the projects, while absorbing as much of the culture, language, and knowledge at hand. The upcoming months will certainly be a learning experience as I begin to merge into Guatemala and the work of Semilla Nueva.


Panorama of Xela, where Semilla Nueva’s head office is located.
Callie New graduated with a BA in International Studies with a minor in Spanish from Southern Oregon University. She has been volunteering with Semilla Nueva since August 2010, and the Semilla Nueva team is delighted to have her as part of the team!


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