I was both excited and nervous to participate in a service trip with 9 college-aged students.
I had never traveled to Central America, did not know how to speak Spanish, and did not know what to expect. But, I was excited to see and experience a new culture and to learn more about myself and those I was traveling with.
I arrived in Guatemala late on Friday evening. That weekend, I was struck by the complexities of the country. It’s majestic beauty was complicated by its history of colonization and civil war.
Throughout the weekend, our group prepared to begin building two homes for two Guatemalan families on Monday.
Throughout my time in San Miguel, Milpas Altas, I had the pleasure of working with Victor, an incredibly skilled, efficient, and patient mason, who reminded me of the value of hard work, kindness, and perseverance.
Throughout the day spent constructing, my relationship developed both with Victor and the family we served. I dug holes, mixed cement, and laid cement blocks. Yet, building the home was secondary to the relationships established throughout the days spent on the family’s land. I laughed, remained curious, and ventured outside of my comfortable world to learn more about the lives of those we met. They were as lovely as my physical surroundings.
Although at first, my life seemed different than those I was serving. However, I realized the common goal of striving for happiness, love, and health profoundly connected us.
I am proud to say that I helped construct a safe, sturdy home for a family of four with much assistance from Victor, the family members, and the other volunteers. I am happy to say that I think about the family and Victor often and wonder about their lives and their well-being.
Volunteering in some ways is a selfish act. I gave my time and energy and arrived in Guatemala with the pure intention of helping to improve the livelihood of others. But in the end, I can safely say, that I likely gained more from this experience than I gave. I am not the same person because this experience helped to change my perspective and provided an opportunity for personal growth and reflection. It was a gift to volunteer, and one that I am very grateful for.