It has been over two weeks since I got home from Guatemala, but not a day goes by that I do not think about returning. My experience in Ximbaxcu with the other student volunteers from the USA positively changed my perception on how individuals live and see the world when they are living below the poverty line. This positive change has helped me to become a more socially aware citizen of the world.
With the support of my parents, I’ve been lucky enough to see other parts of the world and immerse myself in a new culture surround by unfamiliar faces. However, none of the people I met on previous trips can compare to the dedicated and hard working parents and students from the Guatemalan community I went to. They amazed me with their constant drive to make a change in their own lives and those of the other community members. Through my work with an improvised township outside of Johannesburg, I went into my School the World experience with a preconceived notion of the attitudes and living conditions of those in Ximbaxcu. Although I knew that these two communities are over eight thousand miles apart, I neglected to recognize just how different the lifestyles would be based on climate, cultural history, and the past and present political environment.
School the World did a fabulous job preparing me with cultural norms and history of the nation before I arrived so I would be aware of the differences between their lives and my own at home. Driving from Santa Cruz del Quiche to Ximbaxcu everyday provided the other students and I with the ability to see the range of living conditions that exist in Guatemala. The preschool, which we were rebuilding in another location, looked just how I had pictured it: a small wooden building carelessly put together with a dirt floor. Nonetheless, the kids came to school everyday with a smile on their faces knowing that we would be there to play with them and watch them learn. The little girls showed up in their favorite traditional dresses with their hair pulled back to show all the hand stitched details of the clothing. The children in Ximbaxcu wanted to show us parts of their lives that they value, but also it seemed to be the most glamorous parts of their lives.
There was only so much we could see on site, so when we got the opportunity to shadow a mother in her home and assist her with her daily routine, I was able to see a different side of the kids’ lives. The home I visited had a fenced in area in front filled with flowers. My host mom (I wish I could remember her name, but unfortunately I cannot) taught three other student volunteers and I how to shuck the corn and peel the kernels off, feed the pig and the chickens, and water and plant flowers. Our host mom was delighted to show us parts of her daily routine and took the time and effort to get to know us, even though we spoke little Spanish and she needed help from her two children to translate between her native language and Spanish. I could tell from the smile on her face and the enthusiasm in her voice that she was so grateful and thrilled to have us there to learn about her and her family. The tasks she completes everyday may seem simple compared to those in our everyday lives, but these are the things she needs to do in order to keep her family moving forward. She puts all of her energy into this work, and it was evident how dedicated she was to giving her kids the best they could have. My experience in this family's home was only one moment that demonstrated to me how hardworking and passionate the Guatemalan families are about what they have and how to make their lives better. Seeing my host mom’s motivation has encouraged me to have a more positive outlook on life and not form assumptions about how people feel or deal with their living conditions. Thank you School the World for providing me with this amazing opportunity and allowing me to spread my wings to see the world and better understand it.