Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Guatemala.


High School Volunteers build a family a home in Guatemala

Posted in Guatemala on April 3, 2018

Monday, April 2, 2018

Let me introduce myself. My name’s Nik. I’m a high school student from Northern Alberta, Canada. I joined this trip due to curiosity more than anything; the desire the see new places. So far, we’ve been in Guatemala for roughly 3 days, spending most of our time in Antigua participating in local Easter celebrations and touring the city. Today was quite different though. After our breakfast we rode a bus to San Miguel Dueñes. Now, if you know anything about Antigua, you know it’s a super touristy area with many attractions and street vendors marketed to tourists. San Miguel Dueñes is quite the opposite. I never saw a single tourist in the town. The biggest thing that struck me was the differences in not only Dueñes and Canada, but Dueñes and Antigua. Dueñes is very dilapidated, with people’s homes being the size of a single bedroom, or having unsanitary conditions. My descriptions definitely don’t do it justice, you really have to be there; imagine walking across the street to your bathroom, walking through people’s backyards to get to your own, or having to raise a whole family in a bedroom-sized home. The whole reason we’re here is because we’re building a home for a local family; a single mother and her three kids, aged 11 to 17. This home we’re building is no larger than my bedroom, and their washroom is no larger than my closet. While this sounds bad, it will be a major improvement than what they had before, as their new house is built from cement, and their old was built straight from sheet metal. If there’s one thing I’ll be taking away, it’s knowing how little everyone in the town actually had, as it really put things in perspective for me and made me appreciate what I have back home in Canada.
Nik, DWC High School Volunteer

Hola, My name is Ann. I too am a student from Northern Alberta, Canada; Nik and I are on this trip together, although our reasonings for joining are quite different. I love to participate in events and get involved in helping people, so knowing we would be building a home for a family, I was 100% in. I am also one to seek adventure and I saw this as an opportunity to be my next one. The trip so far has been eye opening in such amazing ways. First of all, I have never taken hot water for granted… trust me you shouldn’t. I can honestly say the things I have been a part of this past few days, I will never forget. The most memorable thing I could take away from today in particular, was when I had the chance to sit down in a school with a 5 year old girl and help her learn how to say hello in english. She had told me prior (in spanish I might add, not easy) that she really wanted to learn English but knew it would be hard for her to do so. This hit home for me because as a 5 year old my biggest worries were so far removed from her’s; my biggest worry was most likely who was going to play on the playground with me at snack time. It just baffled me how important her education was to her even at the age of 5, she was so eager to widen her understanding . Us, in Canada, often forget how lucky we are to even have the opportunity to go to school every day of the week. I am now going home with a new worldview, thanks to my experiences on this service trip.
Ann, DWC High School Volunteer



 

Volunteering in Guatemala_HighSchool_April2018Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Our experience in Guatemala has been one we will surely remember for the rest of our lives. Between discovering so much about the culture and religion here, and developing an understanding of the day-to-day life, this has been a truly enlightening experience. The cultural differences between life in Canada and life in Guatemala are drastic; the people here seem to be so rich in family and community values and are grateful for the things they have rather than yearning for the things that they don’t. In nearly everything here, symbolism and allegories can be identified. (Jade, in representing eternity, is highly valued here.) In Canada, we don’t seem to have these levels of attachment to objects, as we don’t correlate many with cultural and religious values. Religion in Guatemala is valued over all else. In Canada, we seem to value individual wants and needs above all else. The people here are willing to drop all other commitments to make time for their faith, which has been something beautiful and eye-opening to witness.

While there are many things about Guatemala we see as more positive than values we may hold at home, there are some issues we have become aware of that we never truly realized were even issues previously. For example, the preschool children here sometimes have to be the ones to ask for homes when their families have nothing. That is unheard of back home. When we were young children we were concerned about what our snacks would be, not if we had a place to call home. We were told the illiteracy rate in Guatemala was close to 65%, while in Canada we seem to place much higher value on education.

There seems to be no middle class here. Today we were building a home for an entire family that only consisted of one room, and not even a block from there the people seemed to be rich with obviously expensive items like iPhones and Gucci clothing. It has been extremely moving and devastating to see the living conditions here, but so heartwarming to see how hard the people here work to maintain family relationships.

An extremely moving instance where we first discovered how hard the people of Guatemala work, was when we began the project on Tuesday. We walked into the project site and there is not even enough room for 2 people to move around, let alone an entire family. The living quarters and cooking quarters are not even in the same building. The family must leave their home and walk over to the kitchen. Hard labor began the day when we had to build frames for the foundation of the house. Three Guatemalan workers helped teach us how to build these frames. We used long metal rods, then used metal wire to tie them to the metal loops. We made almost 20 of these and it took us the entire day. The work site was too small for all 14 of us to work at the same time, so we split the grade elevens and twelves into two groups. The grade elevens went over to the daycare where they painted a mural in one of the classrooms. They used Amy’s idea of a caterpillar with the alphabet to cover multiple walls, then added some butterflies as well. It looked absolutely beautiful and it will be there for a while. It was an amazing experience and we look forward to the future memories we will create.

Kael and Amanda, DWC High School Volunteers


Wednesday, April 4, 2018  High School students in Guatemala

This morning we woke up to a beautiful wake up call from Mrs. Price at 6:00 am. We got ready for the day and headed down to Fernando’s restaurant for breakfast. After we filled up on food we jumped on a bus and drove 40 minutes to San Miguel Dueñas to start our busy day. We had a little bit of downtime while we waited for the supplies to arrive, but as soon as they got there it was non-stop work. We started by hauling dirt, stones, and cinder blocks onto the site which required a lot of teamwork. Next we started mixing the cement with all of these supplies which was very difficult but rewarding. It felt really nice to give some of the local workers a break and an extra hand. There were many families around that were excited we were there and seemed thankful for our help. A mother of twin boys delivered us a bottle of coca cola to drink while we were on break and everyone was super appreciative. After working up a sweat in the heat we ate a delicious lunch provided by some ladies that work at Open Windows. We are so grateful to them for taking time out of their day to cook for our large group. We were all exhausted but very excited to head back to the work site after lunch to continue our jobs. We had to start another job, which consisted of bending metal rods. It was very interesting to see the tools that were used, which are very different from what we would have used at home. It took a lot of practice but once we got the hang of it we were able to finish our job faster. After a long day of working all of us filthy kids got back on the bus and went back to the hotel, but not before we stopped at the local grocery store to pick up some snacks. Once we got back to the hotel we washed up and got ready for a salsa lesson. We all ended up learning a lot and having a blast with the instructor. We got a real insight into Guatemala’s culture. We went back to the hotel to talk about our favorite parts of the day and now are sitting on the roof, watching the volcano erupt, and writing our blog. Although this day was tough and fast pace, we wouldn’t have it any other way and are extremely grateful for this opportunity.

 

Amy and Shaelyn, DWC High School Volunteers

 

Thursday, April 5, 2018High School Students in Guatemala

Everyone buckle up, it’s about to be a bumpy ride! This is the blog of your dreams. Our trip began last Friday when 14 students embarked on an incredible journey to the great Guatemala. Our goal was to provide service to a less fortune family in the small town of San Miguel Dueñas. Unfortunately, due to lack of time, we will not be able to complete our goal and will have to leave it for the next group. High School Students in GuatemalaAlthough our task is left uncompleted, we all have learned more about each other and ourselves. Whether it’s Logan’s comical prayers or just the bus ride back from the work site, the bonds we have formed will be everlasting just like the house we started building. We have not been on this journey alone; thankfully we have had assistance from the locals, specifically 5 Guatemalan construction workers. These gentlemen have taken the time to teach us skills not only in building but also in life. We thank these men for providing their time and abilities.High School Students in Guatemala

So far 4 people have fallen into the foundation of the house. One of these people has been our translator/advisor/onsite coordinator and we are very lucky she wasn’t injured in the fall. Another coordinator who works on and off site is our Guatemalan liaison Nilda. Although she doesn’t speak much English she is crucial in helping us understand what is needed, whether it is painting nurseries, teaching children, or helping us understand what the workers want. Our final coordinator is Teresa, who runs the daycare open windows where we work from. Teresa in our opinion seems to be one of the most respected woman in the city, every person who passes by her gives a quick hug followed by a 5 minute conversation about how things are going (Sometimes it takes her a little to long to get to the work site). Teresa is great at providing a good laugh whenever a break is being taken or a joke High School Students in Guatemalaneeds to be made. Without all these people we would not have been able to even attempt this project. We hope they enjoyed our presence just as much as we did theirs.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as we did experiencing it.

P.S. If my mother is reading this I made it and this means I’m gonna be more famous than you. –Rylee

Mackenzie, Danika, & Rylee, DWC High School Volunteers

 

Friday, April 6, 2018

High School Father Mecredi in GuatemalaWhat a time we had at the work site. Upon our initial introduction to our workspace, we all finally recognized just what lives these people have. Just in the opening walk way, there were two woman tirelessly making tortillas literally the entire time we were there. High School Father Mecredi in GuatemalaThat room didn’t have kind work conditions either; it was a furnace in there, filled with smoke. Past that, we saw the actual home within a plot of land.  All they had for walls were thin sheets of metal that shifted with every breeze. It was truly amazing that the three workers could or tried to accomplish, what we did with 14 kids, on their own. Our job mainly consisted of moving bricks, pails of sand High School Father Mecredi in Guatemalaand other materials to the worksite. We helped by moving 600 cinder block bricks to and from the work site over the course of three days. While building the house, we had hats, gloves, wet bandanas,

High School Father Mecredi in Guatemala

sunscreen, water and tons of little breaks. The workers, however, performed endless labor in the hot sun with no complaints and no water breaks, only leaving for lunch to arrive back to the worksite prior to us. We have nothing but respect for these young men who were very kind and patient with all of us, taking time to show everyone how to do tasks despite the language barrier; teaching us how to do the job and do it properly.

Evan, Simon, Logan, DWC High School Volunteers

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