During the last February break of our high school careers, we returned to Guatemala with 8 other Hingham students and 88 students from other parts of MA and CT.
This was my 2nd (Cole) and my 4th (Nick) trip with School the World and we couldn’t wait to be back! We thought that we’d get the same thing out of this year’s trip than those prior, but we actually returned home with so much more.
Our biggest takeaway from last year’s trip was that we both began to envision our problems differently and really put them into perspective.
Both of us were selected as trip leaders this year and this role definitely gave us a completely new experience than previous trips.
Being selected by School the World as trip leaders was a tremendous honor, and we both welcomed this leadership role with open arms.
This new position opened up a wide variety of opportunities, most of them revolving around interacting with the community members. Although we both spoke to the community members last year, we both felt that we were never really comfortable taking a leadership role and fully connecting with them. This year, we felt differently, as we were leading the other students during work time and working alongside community members; we both took a lead role in bridging the gap between the community workers and us, American high school students.
We found this job to be incredibly rewarding and by the end of the 2nd day, what had once been a project with two separate teams, speaking different languages, now began to resemble a team of hardworking, dedicated individuals striving for the same shared purpose: completing this school to give the children of San José Pachó the education that they deserve.
Throughout our communication with the community workers, we heard many incredible stories of brave men and women; many of whom have had to sacrifice most of life's luxuries for the betterment of their children. By talking to these people, we not only learned about what they endured on a daily basis, but also that they didn’t view their life experiences as “enduring” moments. They did not see their lives as a struggle, but as a blessing. While we saw living off of a mere two to three dollars a day as agony, they found themselves lucky enough to have any money at all.
By speaking with these people, we were introduced to their world, which was one full of gratitude, joy and optimism. It made us think about what we take for granted and what we complain about that should be seen as unnecessary. We are very grateful for these amazing new friends. Not only because they welcomed us into their lives, but also because they taught us so many valuable lessons in the seven days of knowing them.
These wise individuals taught us how to interact with others, remain humble and be grateful for what is given to us on a daily basis: to be thankful every day that we eat three meals, wear different clothes, come home to a heated house with lights and go to amazing schools.
As we conclude our spectacular trips to the beautiful country of Guatemala, we have taken away SO much, but if we had to consolidate it into one significant takeaway it would be that a world with people who help others is a better one. We are all one human race and we all deserve the same opportunities. As we leave for college in Fall of 2019 and venture into the real world, we will always keep this lesson in mind and keep our STW trips, and the people we have met throughout the years close to our hearts.
Nick Chiappinelli, Hingham High School ’19 & Cole Rabschnuk, Boston College High School ‘19