Making a difference
Tessa de Goede is a 27-year-old Dutch woman who came to Guatemala three years ago. After doing volunteer work in several countries she found out that helping children with cleft lips was the work that touched her the most. “It’s just a feeling I have inside when I see a baby with a cleft lip. I just need to help.” In La Antigua she started working in the hospital as a volunteer. Seven days a week she helped the nurses and took care of the babies. She realized that, if she really wanted to make a difference and help the babies with cleft lips, she had to win the trust of the nurses and doctors. For them, of course, she was in the beginning just a “volunteer.” But time passed by and Tessa kept working and showing her willingness. After a year of volunteering in the hospital she knew a lot of people, found out how things worked and saw the difference she could make. Just a year after she stepped into the hospital she started her own foundation: T.E.S.S. Unlimited.
From one thing to another
With her foundation she raised money and paid for surgery of babies with cleft lips. She also found out that a lot of children can’t get surgery because they are underfed, as the deformity makes it difficult for them to breast-feed. And so she started the milk project: giving milk to underfed children to help them gain weight. Meanwhile, she started giving English lessons at a primary school in Santa Catarina and asking volunteers for their help.
Centro Educativo T.E.S.S.
Nowadays T.E.S.S. Unlimited is helping people in the fields of cleft lips and education and is offering volunteers the opportunity to add value to people’s lives. By opening her own education center in San Gaspar (a little village 10 minutes from Antigua), Tessa is able to provide education five days a week. “The classes have a maximum of 12 children, so we really can add quality,” Tessa explains. Guatemalan teachers help children with lessons and homework four days a week. Volunteers from several countries take care of English classes, and on Wednesdays they come up with fun ideas for creative projects, such as making candles, creating fruit smoothies and singing songs.
For the adults there are three special programs at the moment: English, sex education and tae-bo. “It’s amazing to see how volunteers come up with their own ideas and are getting people involved,” Tessa says. She is happy with all the help she is getting. Even though she already has achieved a lot in a short amount of time, she still has dreams for the future. “One day I hope to have my own cleft-lip center, specializing in the help and surgery of children with cleft lips.” Tessa is a shining example of one person making a huge difference!