A Volunteer's Experience Part 1 - Meet Colleen K

New Timer on The Build
Going into the Helping Hands Grateful Hearts trip to Guatemala to construct homes in just 3 days, I had a huge mixture of emotion. Tons of excitement around finally being able to see this beautiful country I’d heard so much about and finally meeting the incredible Techo crew I’d heard even more about. But I was also nervous. Although I was fluent in Spanish, I was nervous about whether or not I really knew enough to converse with the Techo crew during the build. More than that, I was nervous about the build itself. I’d never put up a tent, let alone build a house! I’m also a fairly flaca young lady who hits the gym to zone out on the treadmill, not to become the next Arnold Schwartzenager. Would I even be able to dig a hole for the pilotes or hammer the clavos into the wood? 
Turns out, none of my fears came to fruition and none of that even mattered. Every member of Helping Hands Grateful Hearts and the Techo crew was so warm, patient, and supportive during not only the build, but every moment we spent together during the tourism portions of the trip. With their unending and genuine support, I ended up doing things I never thought I’d be able to do. One of my favorite moments was when I first went up on the roof to work on the support beams. I’m not terrified of heights, but I’m definitely not comfortable being more than 4 ft off the ground. Sofie Fernández, my build leader, and Diego Matta, one of Techo’s regional managers, spent the few moments it took me to get up there motivating me to try this new experience and calming my nerves the higher I climbed. Once I got up onto what was then the skeleton of a roof, I began hammering nails into the support beams of the roof. However, my lanky arms weren’t very successful at getting the nail all the way in. Instead of taking the hammer from me and getting the job done a little faster, Diego sat by my side and patiently encouraged me to keep trying, coached me on strategies that would help, and never stopped telling me how well I was doing, even if it was taking me much longer than if he would’ve taken over. Eventually, I got the nail fully hammered into the beam and felt awesome having done something that I was so close to giving up on. It was so empowering to have someone believe in me more than I believed in myself at that moment. 
That was only one instance of many when a Techo crew member encouraged me and lifted my self doubts. Every member of Techo, especially my site leader Sofie, held the same attitude and belief that Diego did: I’m here for you, you are fully capable and competent, the only limitation is your mind. It was so much fun not only getting cheered on as I sawed through large planks of wood, but also cheering on others as they dug holes for the pilotes, broke down huge boulders, and lifted up walls. I loved this environment of empowerment! It was so infectious and the aspect of the trip that makes me want to return for every build that I can!

Meet the Johnson Family and Their Passion For Giving Back

Welcome to our Helping Hands Grateful Hearts Blog!  We are the Johnson Family, pictured above from left to right - Cam Johnson, Vice President, Kevin Johnson, Secretary, Susan Johnson, President and Kait Johnson, Vice President.  Giving back is a way of life...Learn a little bit more about us below.

Cam Johnson
From an early age, my parents stressed the importance of making myself available to assist the world around us. Despite having been raised in Rhode Island, the smallest state in the United States, that never stopped me from having far reaching dreams of making sure that I will leave the world a better place than what I was born into. From my first mission trip when I was 15, I knew I had found my method of changing the world. Since then, I have continued pursuing my dream of bettering the world. 

Kevin Johnson
Since I was young, I’ve always felt a desire to help others to be the best that they could, whether that be in the moment or for the long haul. I’m not completely sure of all the reasons why this brings me satisfaction, but for certain my experiences with “helping others” has always resulted in mutual benefit. Mutual in that by sharing whatever I can – skills, knowledge, experience, resources, time, attention, encouragement and love…I always feel as if I get back more in return. Some of my best friendships and most powerful interactions have come in these moments, and I am blessed to be afforded those opportunities through Helping Hands, Grateful Hearts.
I am a professional with a 34 –year career with multinationals, including Siemens, Bayer, Ciba, Corning, Chiron and Morton Thiokol. The majority of my career has been as a Director in the healthcare industry.

Susan Johnson
I have been involved in community service for over 40 years. Our family made a commitment and a priority giving back to those in need around the world. Serving hasn’t impacted my life, serving is my life. It is part of my DNA. It’s what makes me get up every morning and tackle my to do list. 
Giving back, no matter how great or how small, has a positive impact on someone else. Something as easy as a smile, might brighten someone else’s day. Knowing that if you work at it, build it, share it and have it be a part of your life and family, it means more lives can be impacted. You not only help those who may need a hand up but you and your family become role models who inspire others to serve or give back. That motivates me to do more. That’s impact!

Kaitlin Johnson
Serving others has always been a priority. I grew up understanding that helping those in need should be a natural extension of every person´s responsibility. For years, I have been involved in community service in my hometown and in other countries. Every experience has left me with new friendships, heartwarming memories and a profound sense of purpose to continue to do good for others.