Abigail is a sophomore at Winchester High School. This February she participated in her first trip with STW to Guatemala. This is an article Abigail wrote for her school newspaper about her experience.
THE RED AND BLACK
“Yes we build schools…but that isn’t enough. To create a lasting change, you also have to train teachers, deeply engage parents, and stock libraries.” These words reflect the School the World spirit and were embraced by seven tee fifteen High School students who traveled to rural communities in the highlands of Guatemala over February vacation.
After applying to School the World at the beginning of the summer last year, students began to fundraise the 3,500 dollars need to pay for the trip as well as the many other expenses needed to fulfill the School the World mission. More than one third of the money raised by each student goes to the construction of the schools in Guatemala.
Students woke up early on the morning of February 15th eager to fly to Guatemala and begin construction. Upon arrival in the communities, Winchester students were stunned to see how excited all of the children were to see them. After days of painting and mixing cement, the students began to understand the impact they were having on the community along with the impact the community was having on them.
One of the main lessons the Winchester High School students learned is that school is a privilege, not a pain. Many of the children in the communities get pulled out of school early because they are needed to help at home, and none of the students expected an education past 6th grade. The lives of the community members are vastly different from those of the Winchester students. Each student had the ability to shadow members from the community for a morning to better understand what their lives are like at home.
When shadowing, most students learned to make tortillas, a seemingly simple task. Yet when the students realized all of the steps that went into it, they were in awe of the families’ ability to repeat the tedious task for every meal. Every step, from popping the kernels off of the dried corn, to soaking the kernels, to grinding the kernels into a fine mash was time consuming and difficult. The lack of modern technology led to a life where the only goal was to provide for their families. The women’s and daughters’ days were consumed by chores, while the fathers and sons spent their days in the fields farming.
Students heard stories of young girls fighting their parents when their parents tried to pull them out of school to do work after 3rd grade. It was incredible to the Winchester students how much an education meant to the members of the community, but how challenging it was for the community to carve out time for education. With School the World, communities make a contract with the organization to devote time to the school and to become self-reliant with maintaining the school for years to come, and School the World provides the support to make that possible.
The trip to Guatemala was eye opening for all of the students involved. Everyone came back to Massachusetts with a different mindset and with a better understanding of the importance of education and the difficulties of providing education to children around the world.