She’s still a teen, but Courtney Quigley has already found her mission: to help poverty stricken families who live in the garbage dump of Guatemala City.
It is a challenging place to visit and to work in as Courtney describes.
“You are thrown into a situation where you are completely surrounded by garbage. It is nauseating; there are mangy dogs, dead rats, dead dogs, drunk men,” she said.
“There is nothing here that is hopeful, but when you shake hands, hug, and talk to people, they are so full of hope, so full of faith,” Courtney said. “No one should live that way, and yet, they find hope and faith. It is so inspiring.
“These people deserve anything I can give them, no matter how much it hurts to hear their stories or see the pain in their faces," said Courtney, a junior at Barrington High School.
Kids Around the World Trip Sparks Love of Guatemala
Courtney first fell in love with Guatemala when she was nine and her family took a mission trip to build playgrounds with Kids Around the World, a faith-based organization dedicated to helping children and families who have been affected by war, poverty, illness, and natural disasters.
“I fell in love with the people there. There was something special about them that I connected with,” Courtney said.
Her family went on other mission trips to Ecuador, New Orleans, but Courtney kept asking them to return to Guatemala.
Finally in 2011, she got her wish, when her family returned to Guatemala with Potter’s House, an organization dedicated to changing the lives of the 11,000 people who live in the garbage dump of Guatemala City.
Hope Lives for Those Living in a Garbage Dump
“The garbage dump is about 40 acres filled with trash. People are competing with vultures and dogs for anything they can sell or eat. Then you come back to Potter House and it’s full of kids eating lunch who are so joyful, playing like any other kids. The kids are running into your arms that you never met before and they are so full of hope and resilience you cant help but be drawn to them and extremely uplifted by their spirits,” Courtney said.
When her family returned from the trip, Courtney started talking to her parents about how she could return to Guatemala. Courtney’s parents are Jim and Jennifer Quigley. She has an older brother, JD, a twin sister, Ashley, and a younger sister, Chloe. They are members of Willow Creek Community Church.
Courtney applied and got accepted for a month-long internship in Guatemala. While her parents were concerned about her leaving for that long and going on her own, they decide to let her go.
“They saw it was going to change me and help me grow as a person; they didn’t want me to miss an opportunity like that,” she said.
“The whole month of July was the most beautiful month of my life,” Courtney said.
It was a challenging month as well. Courtney said she was homesick at first and then later got sick, possibly e-coli.
She said she got through difficult times due to communication and prayers back home and through her own faith.
“God has so much more love than I could have and he’s had to watch these people struggle for thee generations. I was here a month. If he can love unconditionally, I can try,” she said.
A Mission to Build a House for Family
While Courtney was in Guatemala, she decided to sponsor a child and was told she could pick a child to sponsor. It was a difficult decision, but she chose nine-year-old Monica Morales.
Courtney went to visit Monica’s family and found seven people living in a 9 by 10 shack, including Monica’s 15-year-old sister who was pregnant.
“Rats are a huge threat to children. They can get as big as a small cat and they bite children at night . . . I knew Monica’s sister was going to have a baby and there was no way I was going to let that baby grow up and struggle through what Monica, her sisters and brothers had to go through,” Courtney said.
When Courtney returned from her internship, she talked to her family about getting a house for Monica’s family through Potters House. The cost of a house is $6,500.
Courtney, her sisters and friends are hosting Hope’s in Style, a fundraising fashion show on Feb. 24, at the Garlands to raise money for a home for the Morales family.
Courtney is eager to return again to Guatemala. She says her dream is to run an orphanage in the countryside of Guatemala. Courtney has not yet determined which college path would be best for her to fulfill her dream.
“There is not a place I would be happier than living in Guatemala and serving. I am fully ready to dedicate everything I have to serve these people,” she said.