“I want to inspire more young people.” – Emilio

Emilio has a sweet smile and a quiet disposition. He’s kind-hearted and soft-spoken, but he’ll be the first to tell you that he has big plans for his future.

“You don’t need to be a boss to be a leader,” he says. “The leader is the person who helps his team.” 

And helping his team? That is exactly what Emilio plans to do.

Emilio completed the first year of the Institute last year and hopes to be a Michael Lotito Fellow in a few short months. During the school year, Emilio serves his community by teaching classes to young children with special needs. His favorite week of the summer was when the students learned and performed a dance routine. He dreams of becoming a physical therapist.

When asked about his experiences at the Institute, Emilio shared, “I learned to help others, to be a better friend, to be in relationship with others.”

Emilio is going to be a strong, creative leader in his community. And you can help him achieve his goals. 

“It’s so great to be a part of something,” he said.

Today, I invite you to be a part of something, too. Make a gift now to support these incredible students. 

Seguimos Adelante,


Meet Iliana, one of our incredible students

Iliana’s birthday is August 10.

For the past two years, she has celebrated her big day amidst a busy schedule of classes and activities at the Institute. And they have been some of her favorite birthdays ever.

When reflecting on the past two summers, she said, “I didn’t think I could have a birthday outside of my house. I didn’t know that people would celebrate me. But at the Institute, it’s like you are at home. Everyone cares for you, and your circumstances don’t matter. They show us so much love.”

Iliana was part of the Institute in 2017 and returned for the Fellows program in 2018. She serves as the advisor for the Chiquila leadership club, and she started a club for younger children in her community. She dreams of starting a foundation to serve those suffering from drug and alcohol abuse; she dreams of transforming her community.

Her future is full of opportunities because generous people like you made it possible for Iliana to learn, grow, and feel celebrated.

In her words, “Before, I didn’t think I could do anything. I couldn’t get out of my comfort zone. But we are breaking paradigms and beliefs here. We are setting goals. I never imagined I would be a part of something like this.” 

Now, Iliana is confident, joyful, and full of purpose. And she is just getting started.

For the great things to come,


A BIG Birthday Announcement

Hello friends!

Today is my birthday (yay!) and I get to make a really huge announcement!

Five years ago, a group of us saw the beauty and power in the youth of this incredible community in Mexico. We built a program to show these students their massive potential, then gave them the tools to do the same for others.

Today, I am especially grateful for all of you who have stood with us. My heart is overwhelmed with joy. And this is just the beginning.

The plan was always to raise up world-changers and then give them the opportunity to lead.

And now we are doing just that.

Friends, please join me in giving a huge welcome and celebration to our brand new Institute Co-Directors: Sabryna Valerio and Alejandro Ventura!

Sabryna and Alejandro were both students at the Institute. They are brilliant and creative, hard-working and big-hearted. They love our students, understand our program, and share the same life experiences as the young leaders we are trying to reach.

They have served in key mentoring and leadership roles with us for the past few summers, and this past weekend, they planned our first-ever Winter Conference. They are the perfect pair to step into the Co-Director positions.

This is a dream realized. This is the future of the Institute.

And I can think of no better gift than for each of you to join me in investing in this future.

Will you give me the best birthday present of all time and help me show Sabryna and Alejandro that we are standing with them as they step into their new roles?

I’m excited and grateful for what’s ahead. This is a new season for the Institute, and I have a feeling it’s going to be better than ever.

For the great things to come,


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