Kelsey Rondini, July 2018 World Changer, Needham High School
My trips with School the World have been two of the most powerful and transformative weeks of my life. In April 2017, I traveled to a part of the world I had never seen, was surrounded by a language I had never spoken, learned about a culture I had never experienced, and built powerful connections that I will never forget. Whether it was a lasting friendship with another high school volunteer or a shy wave from a second grade student, I met so many incredible people in Guatemala.
Written by: Beaujena Stoyancheva, Winchester High School
This past February break was my second Guatemalan service trip with School the World. Over the course of that week, in addition to my time spent one year prior, I learned more about the world–and myself– than I ever could have imagined.
Written by: Tatiana Agostino, Needham High School
I have always wanted to change the world in my own way, I just never anticipated that making a difference would be so much fun. This year, I spent my February school vacation with School the World, forever changing the lives of Guatemalan children. The way in which these kids who have nothing, opened their hearts to us over the course of our week long visit was truly remarkable, and the pure bliss they displayed was bittersweet.
I will never forget how I felt on the first day in the community. There were kids of all ages waving balloons around frantically above their heads with ear-to-ear grins spread across their faces in an effort to welcome us to their community. They were standing in two columns with an aisle covered with straw-like grass and rose petals between them. It was walking down hand in hand with a young Guatemalan boy that made me realize I was in the right place doing what I needed to be doing.
Over February vacation, School the World gave me the unforgettable opportunity to visit the community of Capuchinas in Guatemala. As we departed Logan International Airport in Boston on an early Saturday morning, I looked forward to painting classrooms and building a playground for the kids in Capuchinas. However, after spending just a week in Guatemala, I can say that I learned so much more than I ever would have imagined. This experience has opened my eyes to the heartbreaking reality of poverty and malnutrition in Guatemala. After seeing many families endure unimaginable living conditions and hardships, I have realized that there is a multitude of privileges in my life that I often take for granted.
Every day, I was amazed by the kindness, eagerness, and unity of the entire community. It was so powerful to see the dedication from the people of Capuchinas to improve their quality of education; from the littlest kids who were not even old enough to attend school to our veteran van drivers, everyone grabbed a paintbrush to paint the school.
Even prior to the completion of the new school, when the kids learned in makeshift classroom areas, such as a kitchen, the learning environment was just as engaging. As I watched the kids jump out of their seats with their hands raised and their faces lit up in excitement after answering the teacher’s question, I told myself that I would bring their passion and enthusiasm for learning back with me to the United States.
With each new year of service comes an excitement for new experiences and an eagerness to welcome new students to our mission, but it is also an opportunity to shine a light on the sustained engagement of our World Changers. An inspiration to all, these individuals have devoted their school vacations to giving back through School The World service trips for three or even four years, enriching their worldviews and illuminating their passion for learning. While other high schoolers are cramming for exams or catching up on their favorite TV show, our World Changers are reflecting on their service trips and brainstorming ways to intensify their impact on making education accessible to all. They are each able to pinpoint particularly poignant moments from past trips, illustrating the lasting impression their service has left in their hearts and motivating them to continue to incorporate this important work throughout their future endeavors.
Kate, Founder of School the World, happens to be my aunt. That doesn’t mean that my participation with School the World (STW) was built into my trajectory due to family ties. Although I was intrigued about School the World’s work at a young age through my discussions with Kate, in all honesty I wanted to travel to Costa Rica for Surf & Serve prior to even considering STW’s Service Learning Program in Guatemala. However, at the time, my aunts had recently traveled to Guatemala with Kate and quickly shot down the idea of Costa Rica, convincing me that the best way to leave the country for the first time would be with a group of friends and School the World.
Last fall, the 16 students of Washington Elementary School’s Student Council in Wyckoff, New Jersey had a decision to make. They were picking a charitable organization to fundraise for during the 2016-2017 school year. We were so lucky that they chose School the World!
At the 8th Annual Boston Fundraiser, we were lucky enough to have Tomas Sis, a 15-year-old boy from Guatemala, join us and tell us about how School the World changed his life. He traveled such a long way to share his story and from looking around the room, I could tell that he truly touched so many people.