In the winter of the 2015-2016 school year, I had the opportunity to travel with BUCK-I-SERV to the city of Antigua, Guatemala with 10 other OSU students. BUCK-I-SERV partners with two non-profit organizations, HANDS and Constru Casa, to bring students in to build houses for families living in poverty in Guatemala. There are a few areas of consideration before a family can be approved for housing such as proof of income, willingness to work, current living conditions, and other various factors. On this particular trip, my peers and I constructed a home on the outskirts of Antigua for a single mother of two and three additional family members. In 36 hours, with help from three masons and the mother’s son, our group constructed over half of the house. We learned how to lay foundation, mix cement, and literally build a house from the ground up!
Immersing myself in the city of Antigua has allowed me to learn parts of the culture I never thought I would know. Living in the city gave me the opportunity to brush up on my Spanish skills. I learned several new Spanish words each day and by the time I came home I would find myself speaking Spanish with family and friends. I even go to Hebrew, a language I have been studying most of my life, class and struggle differentiating between the two. Not only did I learn some of the Spanish language on my trip, but I also learned a lot about the food from Guatemala. Each day our host mother, Elvira, would make us breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We would eat fresh fruit and delicious Guatemalan meals such as Tostadas and a group favorite, “chicken heaven.” I made an effort to learn about each dish and even came home with a few recipes! One heartbreaking thing I learned from being in Antigua was how different life can look outside of America. On the outskirts of Antigua, where my group and I volunteered, we passed homes made from bamboo posts and tin roofs. The water running to each home was not clean and we had to buy water from the grocery store to drink. In America, I take for granted having a roof over my head, access to clean water, and an overall safe environment. Traveling to Guatemala opened my eyes to the disparity between the United States and third world countries. Each time I reach for the faucet handle I can’t help but think of Guatemala.
Studying Arts Management and Hebrew has introduced me to the non-profit world and allowed me to dive into a culture outside of the United States. However, participating in this trip has allowed me to have firsthand experience with both of those topics. I have always known that I wanted to spend my life travelling and helping others, but this trip has truly solidified those feelings and helped me set a goal for the future. I have already scheduled another volunteer trip abroad and cannot wait to immerse myself in another culture while helping those less fortunate than myself.
This trip has had an incredible personal impact on me. My group and I worked each day from eight in the morning to four in the afternoon. Although the work was quite strenuous and required a great amount of physical labor, my group and I remained optimistic and gave it our all each and every day throughout the week. I remember one of my peers to be exceedingly motivated. This individual’s desire to work hard instantly rubbed off on to me and drove me to push myself every day. My group’s (seemingly) endless amount positivity and perseverance not only impacted my experience on the trip, but has made an extremely significant impact on my life today. I have come back to America with a more positive and motivated outlook on life. Instead of questioning myself and my surroundings, I have become more confident and motivated to succeed.
It is very difficult for me to pick my favorite part of this trip, but I would have to say that it was bonding with the people of Antigua. No matter where I was in the city, I could’ve been in the market, working on the house with the masons, or simply staying in with the host family, I always felt a part of the community. When going out to the markets or on the streets of Antigua, my peers and I felt like we were home. Everyone opened their shop doors to us and no one made us feel out place. When working with the masons, I would struggle a lot with the language barrier. However, instead of getting angry about not understanding each other, we would laugh together and use our bodies as a tool of expression. With my host family, Elvira and Enrique, I would stay in after dinner and help them clean up just to hear their stories. They taught me about love, loss, and how each person who stays in their house becomes a part of their family. I truly felt at home in Antigua. The people there are genuine and full of love and that was no doubt my favorite part.