On a December trip to San Antonio, Guatemala, Jazmin Carrillo and several friends took a group of students from Programa Suenos to a theater.
Never before had the children, some as old as 13, witnessed a live performance.
“You should have seen their faces,” Ms. Carrillo said in a recent interview, the glee in her voice enough to convey just how special the experience was for the students.
Programa Suenos, now in its fourth year, is a non-profit organization Ms. Carrillo, a 28-year-old Riverhead High School graduate, founded to provide educational opportunities to youth in her native country.
With a focus on music education, the group has donated more than 50 instruments for students to create a marching band, and 30 more violins for an orchestra. The students, some as young as 7 years old, are receiving lessons from a music teacher four times a week.
“I’m creating my dream orchestra,” Ms. Carillo said with a laugh. “The students are extremely driven and they want to learn.
It’s pretty incredible what they are already doing in a short amount of time.”
Want to help out?
Programa Suenos will host its Fourth Annual Summer Fundraiser at Bedell Cellars on Thursday, July 6, at 6 p.m. Food will be provided by Bay Breeze Inn, First and South, Lombardi’s Love Lane Market, Love Lane Kitchen, Lucharitos, North Fork Table and Inn, Stirling Sake and more. Bedell Cellars will offer a cash bar and music will be provided by Points East. Tickets are $50 per person. Buy tickets at bit.ly/suenosfundraiser2017
The event is sponsored by northforker.com.
The same can be said for Ms. Carrillo and her organization, which began when she was selling bracelets out of Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck, where she worked as a manager in 2013.
Today, she is a political science student at Baruch College in New York City, while also working for the Guatemalan Consulate. In her job, which she started toward the end of 2016, she assists the embassy with public relations and helps Guatemalan nationals obtain proper documentation in the U.S., among other responsibilities.
At age 14, Ms. Carrillo immigrated to the states with her family in search of a better life. Through Programa Suenos she returns to her former country to impart some of the educational opportunities she had here on the North Fork.
The idea of exposing students to music education came from witnessing firsthand the lack of programs available to Guatemalan youths.
“The only thing these kids have access to is soccer,” she said.
On last year’s trip, Ms. Carrillo was joined by several program volunteers and board members. Local publicist Rachel Bosworth, who donates marketing work for the group, joined her friend on the journey.
“As cliché as it sounds, it really was life changing,” Ms. Bosworth said this week. “When you have everything and meet someone who has nothing, and that person is still so happy with simple things such as a new notebook, it really puts things into perspective.”
Ms. Bosworth recalled how taken the students were with her iPhone. They had no idea what an emoji or a selfie was, she said.
Ms. Carrillo said she noticed how motivated her friend was after returning home to the North Fork and that it’s helped lift her own spirits. She admits that trying to balance work, school and the demands of running a non-profit leave her drained and even depressed when she sees just how slow change comes to her former country.
“I asked myself ‘Why am I doing this to myself,’” she said. “I even said, ‘I’m gonna stop, I don’t have the time.’ But then somehow I get that energy again. It just feels like it’s my mission to keep getting back to it.”
Her mother, she said, is a motivating factor, always reminding her that she was meant to give back in this way. Ms. Bosworth said going on the trip for the first time last year, she could easily see the good work the program does.
“Education gives these kids a chance at a future outside of the village,” she said. “Or for people like my friend Jazmin, the opportunity to one day go back home and make a difference for future generations.”
Top caption: Ms. Carrillo donates supplies to a student in December. (Credit: David Benthal)