TRAVERSE CITY — Amanda Herman is only 10, but she understands how lucky she is to have clean, dry shelter, running water and enough food to eat.
They’re basic comforts families who live near the Guatemala City garbage dump have never known, said the Glen Lake Community Schools fifth-grader.
“That plastic we use for a fire escape,” she said, gesturing to the outside of her family’s home in Cedar. “Their houses are made of things like that, and tin, and wood scraps.”
Amanda learned about conditions in the slum two years ago when her Spanish teacher gave a presentation about the region and the people who scavenge for their livelihood at the city dump.
“I looked over and I saw that Amanda was tearing up,” said Glen Lake elementary and middle school Spanish teacher Ellen Piña. Piña traveled to Guatemala with a local group called Great Lakes Friends of Safe Passage. “She was very touched by it. She wanted to know right away, ‘What can we do about this situation?’ She’s pretty laid back, but she’s very sensitive to what’s going on, sensitive to other people.”
After learning about Safe Passage, which creates educational programs to help break the generational cycles of poverty experienced by families living near the dump, Amanda decided to raise money for the group by putting her sewing skills to work. Using donated fabric and a $100 sewing machine — a 2010 Christmas present destined to make clothes for her Barbie — she creates cloth bags, purse tissue holders, pillowcases and rice bags.
She then sells her creations at various craft shows.
So far she’s raised $2,500 through the project, which included giving away teeth whitening kits in the bags to contributors of $100 or more to Safe Passage. The kits were donated by Suttons Bay dentist Thor Mikesell, whose practice is managed by Amanda’s mother, Becky Herman.