My experience in Mexico

I will never forget my first summer in Chiquilá—the summer we started the Institute.

Unbeknownst to me, two of the girls in our Institute were bitter enemies. By the third week, the tension within our group was palpable, and hours before our theatrical performance the veiled cordiality broke down completely.

I attempted to navigate the girls’ situation—learning then that one of our students had felt rejected by the other girls in our group. And while we did end up performing together, the hostility lingered. 

Fast forward to our final week. On one of our final evenings, we sat together as a group and spent time sharing, encouraging each other, and opening up about our summer experience. In the final moments of the evening, both girls stood up, apologized to each other, and embraced.

They mutually confessed that they felt like sisters, not merely friends, after everything that they had learned together over the summer.

This story is at the heart of what I believe is the underlying joy of our work at Hands Offering Hope. 

And it is a story that you can join today. Support Young Women

Authentic relationships are the catalyst for transformation—not just for ourselves but for entire communities. It is within the framework of friendship that we allow ourselves to open up to others, listen to different perspectives, and feel the most known.

The Hands Offering Hope Women’s Collective is designed to weave together new friendships between women who come from very different walks of life and different sides of the globe.

I am thrilled we are taking this next step as an organization to break down the multi-dimensional barriers that block our female students from developing the self-confidence to pursue their dreams.

And I am so excited to invite you to be a part of it by creating space for female students to join our Women’s Summit this summer. 

For the great things ahead, 

Rachel Gawlak
Institute Co-Founder
Director, Hands Offering Hope Women’s Collective

The sound of her laugh

When Alondra laughs, you can’t help but laugh along with her.

She is a natural-born leader, a comedian, and an influencer among her peers. She is strong and smart, and she exudes joy.

But like so many of our students, her journey has been complicated and hard.

She, like every one of us, has faced her share of challenges—but the joy remains. The smile remains. Her contagious laugh refuses to be held back by struggle.

One of my favorite things about the Institute is that it creates a space where students like Alondra can experience the freedom to discover who they want to be. They can learn and grow in a safe place where they are encouraged to discover their purpose and pursue their dreams.

It’s a safe place that you help us create.

Your support enables us to give students like Alondra the opportunity to live into their joy. To learn from amazing teachers from around the world. To laugh, and to become strong leaders.

On behalf of Alondra and all of our hilarious, smiling students, thank you!

With gratitude,




Meet Mikey

When I first met Mikey, he was shy and soft-spoken. His smile lit up the room, but he didn’t command attention like some of his friends in his Institute cohort. That first year, two summers ago, he worked tirelessly—building his confidence and leadership as he focused on each week of class with our guest teachers.

Fast-forward a year and Mikey joined our Fellows program, returning to Chiquila for a second summer of education and growth. This time, he and his classmates had an even more rigorous schedule, spending weeks developing not only skills, but vision.

Because, ultimately, that’s what Hands Offering Hope is all about. Big vision. Big dreams.

Mikey, A Student at Hands Offering Hope, presents in front of his peers.

Mikey, a student in the Chiquila Fellows Program, presents in front of his peers and international leaders.

Health week is about more than health. Entrepreneurship week is about more than entrepreneurship. When our students learn to interview, they are actually building confidence. And when they complete a summer with us, our greatest hope is that they would be unleashed to chase after previously unimaginable goals.

So in August, when Mikey stood up, with confidence and enthusiasm, in front of a room full of international leaders, I could not have been more proud. He shared his professional goal of pursuing holistic medicine—but in the process, he shared his heart.

Mikey received the top prize in our 2018 Fellows competition, receiving a scholarship to help him move his dreams to action. And I believe fully that he is at the very beginning of a journey that will change his world, his family, and everyone around him.

You made it possible for Mikey to join the Institute two years ago. Your giving supported him as he participated in the Fellows program last summer. And your generosity will make this same transformation possible for more amazing students in the future.

Thank you for partnering with us!


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304 Main Avenue, #231, Norwalk, CT 06851 • • Tel:(203) 807-5249 • EIN: 45-3798076 • Hands Offering Hope Foundation, Inc. is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. All donations are tax deductible in full or in part. • ©2017