By Angelica Cancinos | June 17, 2022

International Samaritan’s Director in Guatemala

No todas las tormentas vienen para perturbar tu vida.
Algunas llegan para limpiarte el camino.
Not all storms come to disturb your life.
Some come to clear your path.

This phrase perfectly captures the life of Marvin, age 28.  Marvin started in the Paso a Paso program in 2008 as part of Guatemala’s first-ever cohort of scholars.  He was 14 at the time.  When he joined, Marvin was several years behind academically.  The local public school couldn’t accept him due to his age, so he had to be placed in a program where most of his learning took place at home.  Independent learning wasn’t ideal for Marvin:  he came from a dysfunctional and overcrowded home with eight people, including Marvin and his five brothers, crammed under one small roof.  Safety was always an issue because two of Marvin’s brothers were in gangs.  It only got worse when, in the first year of the program, Marvin’s mother told him that she could not take care of him anymore.  This was devastating to Marvin, and from that point on, he relied on the Paso program for his most basic needs.

After Marvin’s mother left, his brothers stepped in.  They banded together to shield him from gang involvement so that he could study.  When gangs began to threaten him because of who his family was, his brothers would wait for him every day at the neighborhood bus stop to make sure that he got to and from school safely.  When the gangs began killing others in the community, including some of Marvin’s friends from his neighborhood, his brothers helped Marvin get new clothes, change his appearance, and even find him new routes to get home from school in an attempt to keep him safe and let him learn in peace.  Finally, though, the gang violence became too much. Marvin’s brothers insisted that he get away, and he moved into a small apartment purchased for him by the Paso program.  Those first years of his education were harrowing, isolating, and lonely.  Marvin struggled emotionally as he worried for the family that he had to leave behind.

Despite all this, Marvin remained a dedicated, responsible, and diligent student through all his years in the program.  His grades never slipped despite his trauma.  He graduated high school with honors and a concentration in computer science, got a job, married another scholar from the Paso program (pictured above), had two small children of his own, and has now returned to school to get a law degree.  Marvin is proud to be well on his way to becoming one of the Paso program’s first lawyers!

So, while Marvin had an incredibly turbulent upbringing, he now lives with more tranquility and fulfillment than he’d ever even imagined when he was younger.  He is a happy husband, father, and professional, which he is certain never would have happened if he didn’t leave the neighborhood that he grew up in.  As his parting words, Marvin shares this:

“Look at yourself as God sees you and remember that you are capable of achieving what you set out to do.  Sometimes change is necessary in your environment or your way of thinking to allow for broader, better changes in your life.”

Angelica Cancinos

Program Director (Guatemala)

Angelica has a bachelor’s degree in Pedagogy and is finishing her thesis for a master’s degree in Theology.  She started our Paso a Paso scholarship program in 2008, which has since been replicated across four countries.  Angelica is a grateful daughter, a loving wife, a devoted friend, and a lover of books and nature.