An Interview with Mike Keller: Manager of the Chuicutama Drainage Project

Background: Mike first came to AMA and the communities of the Guatemalan highlands during autumn of 2012 as a service volunteer. Upon understanding the impact of AMA, Mike took inspiration from it and decided to return for a three-month internship. It was during these first three months that Mike fell in love with the people of Guatemala and the work of AMA. Mike’s three month internship turned into 14 as Mike worked as the manager of several AMA infrastructure projects such as the new Community Center as well as the drainage project in Chuicutama. Under the supervision of Mike, the two projects made great headway and are almost finished.Mike comes back to AMA this week to handle the next step in the Chuicutama drainage project. The goal of the project is to install a septic system for the 120 people living within the community. Mike will be in charge of the project from July eleventh to July fifteenth. During that time he will be managing local workers as well as a group of volunteers from Alder’s Gate church, who, like Mike, have many years working on this project. The goal of the week is to place pipes in two streets. After that only two more streets remain and AMA hopes that the project will be fully completed by December. This project has been in progress for three years. The following is a short interview with Mike while we await the excitement that this week will bring.

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Q. What made you return to AMA after your first service learning trip?

A. For me, the first trip that I took here was something exciting and new. The ability to help people with something tangible is very gratifying and I enjoyed it a lot. I knew immediately that I would have more positive impact here than in the U.S., so when Ben presented me with the opportunity to return, I seized it. There was a need that I could fill in a place where the people are always appreciative. For me it wasn’t a difficult decision.

Q. Exactly what is it that you find valuable in AMA’s work?

A. The reality that we are working on projects that have a direct and immediate impact on the people here. There are a bunch of NGOs here that say that they are improving the lives of the indigenous people here, but exactly where is that change? They can’t show it to me. But the change and the improvement that AMA works in is real. Here we can see the change, participate in the change, and even hear stories of the people who have been positively affected by what we are doing. It’s a rare thing to be able to find an organization like this, and a pleasure to be able to work in something as powerful as this.

Q. How do you feel when you know that there is a group of people with a need, and you are in a position to work with them to effectively fill that need?

A. It’s a great feeling. I love to work with the people here because here we are working toward the wellbeing of everyone, not to earn a dollar. I have the pleasure to work together with a lot of men from this community that are committed to the project and working for generous reasons. At the end of the day, I always feel satisfied when I am working here.

Q. Do you think that you will continue to work with AMA in the future? Why?

A. Of course. I hope that I will be able to keep working with AMA for a long time. When I’m working with AMA I feel like I’m a part of something special. There isn’t any other NGO that accomplishes its mission like AMA does. Whenever there is a position that I can fill I will certainly return to AMA.

AMALaura Catania