We got involved a few years ago, as School the World offers a Service Learning Program for high school kids like us, to help with projects in Guatemala. While we have focused a lot on building of actual schools and other facilities, their mission goes well beyond that, including teacher training, supplying books and learning materials, securing financial commitment from local governments, deeply engaging parents, and more. Matt just completed his third “tour of duty” and Nick his second, but we thought we’d tell you about our last project this recent February, and what we liked best.
The Top Five Things About our School The World Trip To Guatemala
- Building The School:
Some years, the focus has been on building classrooms, other years it is on other facilities like playgrounds. This year in the community of Trinidad located in Chinique, Guatemala, we did both. The work is hard: waking up at 5:45 each morning, shoving cereal down our throats, then taking a long bumpy bus ride to the village to mix cement and paint. However, the work we did was all worth it. Knowing that you helped a struggling child or even parent sparked a warm feeling; and seeing a permanent lasting structure that the town will use for years and years to come is incredibly gratifying
“Shadowing” is when you go and meet one of the local villagers and they give you a tour of their house and their way of life. And WOW! Is it cool. It is so amazing to see and learn about the life of a kid or parent other than working on the school. The way they make food, the way they tend animals, and other difficult tasks are all so different from how we do things at home. Women and children have to walk 15 minutes each way to a nearby spring to get water. It usually takes 7-8 rounds to meet daily needs. That’s three or four hours out of the day just to get water. Shadowing helped me reflect on the privileges I have at home, and how I should be much more thankful, even for seemingly little things, like a faucet and running water!
- Teamwork within the Community
Lots of people in the community helped create and sustain the school we provided. Graduated kids and fathers laid bricks, dug holes, painted, and smoothed cement. They would take time out of their regular jobs or family work, just so they could help build the school. Although language barriers made it hard to have deep conversations, we still worked together. We would mix cement, and even carry the cement buckets together. What linked us was the same motive: to help build a school together.
- Familiar Faces
For me, Matt, finding out I would be returning to Trinidad for the second time was exciting. I instantly began mulling over old memories from two years earlier. I remembered the hillside, the steep walk up to the school, even the turns of the road we would take to get to the village, but most vividly I remembered the faces, the smiling faces of the children of Trinidad. Never have I ever seen a group of kids more excited to go to school, more thankful for any opportunity. I even got to see Maynor again, a young kid who I really connected with during my first trip (so much so that I actually took Maynor as my Confirmation name).
- New Cultures
One of the best parts about the Quiche region of Guatemala is the variety of cultures that exist in one small area. While in Quiche, we experienced both Guatemalan and Mayan culture. Having the opportunity to see two unique cultures mix is fascinating. The different customs, foods, and dress of the Mayan culture is completely different than anything you would ever experience in Hingham. The bright colors of the traditional clothing exemplify the distinct history of the Mayans. Being immersed in two different cultures in a one-week period is a life changing experience that will broaden anyone’s world view.
By Matt & Nick Chiappinelli, February 2017
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