Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Guatemala.

Student’s service trip to Guatemala

Posted in Guatemala on May 14, 2018

Day 1: Volunteer’s first day of discovery

Did you know that Antigua is built like a chess board with seven streets and seven avenues? We didn’t, until today. It was one of the many things that we learned on our first day in Guatemala.

The morning started with a great boost of energy from our wonderful breakfast. Everyone was raving about the coffee, made locally at Fernando’s (a great Mother’s Day gift!). From there, we walked through the cobblestone streets and colorful buildings, up a hill to a stunning view of Antigua. Tough the hike made us sweaty and tired, getting to look at the city from above was worth every huff and puff.

After getting back down and exploring more of the city, we had lunch at a Frida Kahlo themed restaurant, called Frida’s, where live music kept us entertained. Refreshed and ready to go, we started our guided walking tour. The city is rich with fascinating history that we got to discover cultural landmarks and various activities. The architecture highlighted the plethora of global influences in the past and how it is intertwined with the present. The unique symbolism seen in every direction was breathtaking in every sense of the word. The guide engaged us from the beginning by symbolizing life and death, contrasting the church in the east and the cemetery in the west, also relating to the rising and setting of the sun.

The rest of the tour consisted of chocolate tasting and learning about the rediscovery of jade stones in Guatemala. Today was a great day and a great way to begin our time here in Antigua. We’re looking forward to working at the Open Windows Foundation in our upcoming days.

Balmoral Hall School Volunteers

Day 2: A tour and a visit to the worksite

True or false: can you change your entire life’s purpose at the age of forty? True, as proven by Philip Wilson, the CEO of Ecofiltro who started his journey in social entrepreneurship after his fortieth birthday. Now, around the world, in hotels, schools, and houses, you are likely to find a clay water filter made in one of the 59 different factories. It was admirable to see how the employees were valued and how renewable energy powered the entire factory besides the kiln.

After our fascinating tour, we began our first day at the Open Windows Foundation, where we got the opportunity to meet Teresa, one of the founders of the entire foundation. We toured the school and were able to see the work that all the previous volunteers had accomplished, including one of our very own groups from Balmoral Hall School.

Our tour lead us to the work site where we would be building a house for a family of five. After our amazing lunch, we had begun our project. As it was our first day, it mainly consisted of heavy lifting. Our group having realized that there is strength in numbers, had created an assembly line. It was an extremely efficient process and resulted in a greater amount of work completed.

After all our hard work, we went back to the foundation where were rewarded by spending time with the children and learning from one another.

Balmoral Hall School Volunteers

Day 3: Seeing the product of collective hard work

Having arrived at the worksite, five members of our group were chosen to stay back at Open Windows to paint a mural in the computer lab. The image was of a brain half made of a circuit board and half made of a swirling design, which represented the interconnectivity of technology and creativity in the modern age. The contrast between the opposing sides as well as the details included by the artists truly help introduce a new innovative aspect to the room.

Meanwhile, the other group at the worksite learned how to hand mix cement in order to build the foundation of the house. We formed an assembly line to pass the buckets of cement up the mounds of soil. This process not only showed us the importance of working together but also how so much more can be done when collective hard work is put in. Although this one task had taken up our entire afternoon, it proves how progress is slow, but in the end, a difference has been made.

After a hard day of work, we returned to Antigua and went to the Rainbow Cafe. It had a variety of authentic food accompanied by live music. It provided a great atmosphere for us to absorb the culture and have fun with friends after a long day of work. Our wonderful evening was concluded with a rooftop reflection, in which we discussed how our perspective has shifted since coming to Guatemala. One of the highlights included the idea that all children have the capacity and drive to learn, but not all have the opportunity. We noticed a common theme within all of our answers. This was the contrast between our own privilege, in comparison to the reality the people in this community face every day.

Balmoral Hall School Volunteers

Day 4: A tough but rewarding day

Again, the group was split into two for the morning. Four of us stayed at the foundation, where we first used Face Time to talk to the grade 5 students at our school in Winnipeg about what we are doing on this service trip and what life is like for those living in Guatemala. Afterwards, we continued to paint the mural in the computer lab. While working on the painting, a teenager at the foundation came up to us, and using google translate, told us the mural was beautiful. Though this action was very minimal, it touched us in a significant way.

Meanwhile at the worksite, the main goal of the morning was to finish the foundation and prepare the floor for the concrete. With this done, we were rewarded with another great lunch, and then it was time to get back to work. The group split up again and part of the group headed back to the work site and spent the entire afternoon mixing and pouring cement. It was a real team effort and with rain threatening, we managed to get the floor poured.

One of the other group members had the opportunity to volunteer at the medical clinic in the afternoon. Every Wednesday and Thursday, a doctor is at Open Windows and sees patients from the local community.  Pixel was able to help measure the children’s weight and height to determined their health status, as well as package gummy vitamins for the children to take home.

The girls who stayed to finish the mural also had the chance to spend some time reading with the children in the library before the group from the work site returned for the day.

Today was certainly a day to remember. 🙂

Balmoral Hall School Volunteers

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