Hanley G. Denning ’92 died on January 18, 2007, when the car in which she was a passenger was struck by a bus on a mountain road outside Guatemala City, Guatemala.
Born on March 9, 1970, in Philadelphia, PA, she prepared for college at Greely High School in Cumberland Center. An outstanding track athlete at Bowdoin, she graduated cum laude in 1992. She did outreach work with homeless people in Brunswick for Shoreline Community Mental Health in Brunswick. She received a master’s degree in early childhood education from Wheelock College in Boston and worked as a teacher for the Foundation for Children with AIDS in Roxbury, MA. She then worked as the lead pre- kindergarten teacher in Project Pass (a Head Start program) at Glenwood Elementary School in Chapel Hill, NC. She first saw the Guatemala City dump in 1999 while studying Spanish in Guatemala so that she might better communicate with some of the students in her classes in North Carolina. She decided to pass up the opportunity for graduate study in social work at the University of North Carolina and sell her car and her computer to found Safe Passage, a non-profit organization that began as a drop-in center for hungry children in a small chapel at the dump. Through her passion and persistence, the programs expanded, and the organization grew to include an early childhood center, extracurricular activities such as art classes and athletics, tutoring programs, and funds to purchase school uniforms and supplies. Through Safe Passage, over 600 students are receiving an education that will help them to escape the poverty of the city dump. Many Guatemalans knew her as “El Angel del Basurero” – “The Angel of the Garbage Dump.” Hundreds of volunteers from the United States and other countries have participated in Safe Passage programs, including Bowdoin students. Hanley received the 2002 Common Good Award from the College for her work. A short documentary film about her work with the children of the Guatemala City dump, “Recycled Life”, was nominated for a 2007 Oscar Award by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She is survived by her parents, Michael and Marina Denning of Yarmouth; and three brothers, Seth Denning of Washington, DC, Jordan Denning of New York City, and Lucas Denning of Yarmouth.