Trip Report: Learning and Loving in Guatemala

By Bethany Winkel, WAR, Int’l Staff Writer

No one had ever made Maria feel special. Never before had she been offered a gift with no strings attached. Yet here she was, enjoying a sumptuous banquet with the other women from her safehouse, being served and pampered without having to do anything in return. She hardly knew what to do with herself!

At the next table, Anna knew exactly what to do: close her eyes, relax, and soak it all in. She didn’t get much opportunity to do that anymore. Most of her days and nights were spent nurturing others, breathing life into the wounded. In a world where she was always serving and rarely being served, this day of learning and refreshment had truly been a blessing. The conference held earlier that day had been invaluable, full of eye-opening insights and practical knowledge she could take back to the community center where she worked with at-risk families. As if that were not enough, the event was topped off by this lovely banquet, where, for once, she could rest, eat her fill, and enjoy being an honored guest.

Maria and Anna were just two of the many faces at the Women of Hope Banquet, a highlight of Women At Risk, International’s recent Professional Circle Tour to Guatemala. After hosting a productive day of training workshops, WAR, Int’l staff and volunteers were now pulling out all the stops to provide an enjoyable, relaxing evening for both conference attendees and women from their programs. Although the training conference may have been the “main event” of the tour, this opportunity to love, honor, and pour into these precious individuals was no less important or significant.

The welcoming atmosphere of the banquet that night reflected the hearts and commitment behind the Guatemala Circle Tour. For this endeavor, a variation on WAR, Int’l’s biennial Circle Tour in Thailand, several WAR, Int’l staff members and board members were joined by professionals in various fields to conduct workshops and clinics for the benefit of our partners. Yet the trip was as much about ministering to people as it was about conducting seminars and clinics. WAR, Int’l’s passion to nurture and encourage those we serve was borne out in each aspect of the Tour:

  • The training conference,

    attended by 154 staff members from twelve partnering programs in eight Latin American countries. The conference included several workshops, taught by professionals, on such diverse topics as writing business plans, interviewing trauma victims, and recognizing the effects of stress on children born to at-risk and rescued moms. Of the latter workshop, WAR, Int’l President Becky McDonald noted that it was “like watching 154 lightbulbs go on.” Yet just as important as the training was the encouragement our partners received, not only by listening to speakers but also by simply being there and enjoying time spent together with others who are doing the same kinds of work. Valuable relationships were formed as partners bonded over shared passions and experiences, formed networking connections, and began to establish rapport with one another.


  • On-site medical clinics

    for two partnering organizations. In addition to supplying needed medications, WAR, Int’l and our partners brought in two doctors, a nurse, a dental hygienist, and a medical translator! Other Tour participants came along to the clinics to help with various tasks, play with kids, and share smiles and stories with those waiting to be seen by the doctors. Some patients brought smiles to our team, like the charming little boy with a Lego stuck in his ear. Others carried unspeakably tragic stories that evoked tears. These clinics were places to address not just physical scars but also emotional wounds, as our team engaged, listened, wept, and prayed. Joining in were local pastors who came to pray and lead worship in the waiting areas, lending a sweet “family” atmosphere to each clinic.


  • A visit to a new partnering orphanage,

    where the team enjoyed touring the facilities and getting acquainted with staff. Team members also relished the opportunity to hold babies, oblige eager teenagers by posing for selfies, and best of all, serve up popsicles to excited and eager children of all ages.


  • Training in jewelry-making and design,

    helping our partners to increase their sustainability. Like many of our partnering organizations, our Guatemalan partners rely on jewelry-making and sales to both sustain their work and provide vocational training for those in their care. In a hotel room and on a safehouse porch, WAR, Int’l staff and volunteers taught women new jewelry-making techniques and designs to help them improve their skills and grow their businesses. As our American team and Guatemalan partners pored over designs, sorted beads, and created samples, they chatted, laughed, and shared stories. In those moments, much more than beautiful jewelry was being created; bonds between hearts were formed as well.

The Guatemala Circle Tour is a reflection of WAR, Int’l’s heart for the wounded and at-risk. We are not just concerned with projects and programs and products; our primary passion is for the people behind them. Of course, we are engaged in funding and training our partners around the world. But more than that, we seek to mentor, encourage, and support every life we engage. On the surface, the Guatemala trip was about training workshops, medical clinics, and practical help. Underneath, it was about coming alongside our hard-working partners and the men, women, and children they serve, to love on them and encourage their hearts and minds. This is what we do, and this is who we are. This is our calling. We invite all who believe in our mission to join with us in changing lives, uplifting hearts, and creating circles of protection around men, women, and children in Guatemala and across the globe.

Brunch with Becky


A candid conversation with mothers & daughters on sexuality and self-image. Join us for a time of learning how to break down social stereotypes in a healthy way, while spending quality time with the special girls in your life. Stay longer shop our WAR Chest Boutique or enjoy a Latte from our Tea Trade Cafe for the ultimate day of mother-daughter bonding.

Registration is Closed

*Intended for ages 12 and older




How to turn #MyFreedomDay into #MillionsFreedomDay


What does freedom mean to you? Does it mean having the power to think and speak freely? The opportunity to get an education?  The ability to hold a job? Having a roof over your head? Or maybe, having free time to surf the web and read articles about what freedom means to you?

Currently, there are anywhere from 27 to 30 million men, women, and children that do not have freedom. Instead of going to school, working a paid job, or having a safe place to come home to, these people are forced into slave labor. Common examples of modern day slave labor include mining, manufacturing, agricultural labor, fishing, child marriage, and prostitution. And, the worst thing about modern day slavery is that most of us contribute to their oppression without even realizing it.

However, On Tuesday, March 14th the movement #MyFreedomDay is an opportunity to turn that around. CNN and Youth Underground are partnering together to form a student-led global fight for freedom. To spread awareness of modern day slavery, they are asking you to get involved on social media.

Here are some easy ways to become a part of the movement:

  1. Study Up.

  2. Reading this article is a great start! Be sure to check out the links provided on this page to get an in-depth understanding of what we’re up against and what we’ve accomplished.

    Here at WAR Int’l, we focus on ending cycles of poverty and informing people about the reality of human trafficking and slave labor. Through our worldwide safehouses, vocational training, education programs, microenterprises, medical aid, orphanages, and emergency intervention, we help prevent trafficking and slave labor even before it happens.

    We encourage you to sign up for our email updates or follow us on social media. To read stories of freedom and redemption, or to see how we have impacted women around the world, visit our webpage.

  3. Speak Up.

  4. Every time you access social media, you have a voice. Now is a time to use your voice to fight for those who have been silenced. On #MyFreedomDay, post a photo or video with the hashtag #MyFreedomDay on any social media and define what freedom means to you.

    At WAR, Int’l, we want to encourage you to continue to speak up for human rights year round. Sharing articles and facts are efficient ways in keeping your friends and families informed, as well. Spreading awareness is the first step in fighting human trafficking and slave labor.

  5. Sign Up.

  6. If you are interested in taking further steps to combat human trafficking in your community, we encourage you to not only speak up, but sign up. Volunteer at local organizations such as WAR, Int’l or visit the National Human Trafficking Hotline to see a map of organizations across the U.S.

    If you’re local, or can travel to West Michigan for a Saturday, click this link to register for our next Civilian First Responder conference that will be held on March 25th at Thornapple Covenant Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here we will discuss the lures used by traffickers, how to respond to crisis situations in a healthy way, what makes a community susceptible to trafficking and more.

  7. Stock Up.

  8. Another great way in fighting slavery is by putting your money where your mouth is. Out of the 30 million slaves, nearly half of them are exploited by economic activity. Most of our favorite products such as chocolate, coffee, electronics, clothing, and diamonds are produced mainly by slave labor.

    By being conscious buyers, not only do we reduce our slavery footprint and support people who are at risk of being trafficked, but we also stop the demand for slave labor altogether. Always look for Fairtrade labels and shop at our store where we believe in “Beyond Fair Trade” to not only ensure that our products are ethically made, but also provide a positive human connection from producer to consumer.

Your typical, everyday actions affect modern day slavery. Each time you walk into a grocery store, shop for a pair of jeans, or log in to your social media accounts, you have the power to make a difference. This Tuesday, make the choice to be a part of the #MyFreedomDay movement, and then continue to make daily choices that help give freedom to millions of slaves. By speaking up about human trafficking, signing up at local organizations that fight slave labor, and stocking up on only ethically made products, we can fight slavery together.

Be Bold for a Change

Across the globe, March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day. This celebration of women can serve as a great reminder to appreciate the women in your life and all they have done for you. However, International Women’s Day is not just about appreciating what women have done. It is, and always has been, a day for women to come together to make life better for one another.

This sense of solidarity and need for change is what inspired the first Women’s Day. It began in 1908 with suffragettes marching on the streets of New York City, protesting for equal rights, and the following year, National Women’s Day was declared in the United States. It gained international recognition in 1910, with women from over seventeen countries agreeing to observe a day to emphasize the fight for equal rights. In 1975, March 8 was officially designated by The United Nations as International Women’s Day. Organizers have selected yearly themes since 1996, ranging from ending hunger for rural women to ending violence against women.

The theme for 2017 is about making a change in the world. This year’s slogan, “Be Bold for Change,” encourages us to do something in the name of women around the world—especially something we might not usually do. The International Women’s Day website suggests actions such as calling out instances when women are excluded, reinforcing and supporting women’s triumphs, and encouraging women to further their education.

At Women At Risk, International, we are working to support and empower women every day of the year. Our partnering safehouses, both international and here in the United States, rescue and restore at-risk and wounded women by giving them a safe place to heal while providing counseling, education, and skill training. Our vocational training and microenterprise partners give at-risk women the opportunity to make their own living, empowering them to safely support themselves and avoid exploitation. Educational and outreach programs in the United States and abroad give women who want to better their situation the power to do so.

This March 8, consider what you can do to help women around the world. Find a way to be bold for change—perhaps through supporting or volunteering with WAR, Int’l. We wish all women around the world a very happy International Women’s Day!