1) Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.
My international service project in Guatemala was an opportunity provided by Buck-I-Serv. Through a nonprofit by the name of HANDS, we were connected with an organization that we worked in collaboration with to serve a less fortunate community in Guatemala. This project consisted of building houses with resistive roofs, kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms.
2) What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?
My assumptions and views of the world were drastically transformed by the experiences and people that I encountered. It was such a refreshing feeling to be among a community whose primary concerns had nothing to do with monetary values. Growing up in America, it is so easy to become swept off of your feet in a sense of forgetting what is really important. The American society revolves around and is completely unable to function without the constant flow of currency and it has gotten to the point where spending quality time with your family or sitting together at a table to eat a meal is almost abnormal. This community was definitely a reminder of what I truly value in my life; the things that cannot be replaced or bought.
3) What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?
The greatest part of this trip for me was the interactions that I had with the family that we were building a home for. Upon entering the country, I was very nervous about the language barrier because Guatemala is a spanish speaking country and I have not learned much Spanish, but this language barrier seemed to make the relationships I gained even more meaningful. I was unaware that the children in this country were being taught English in school and everyday the oldest child of the family would run home to show me what new English words he had learned. This family took so much pride in having Americans there to help them, I could only imagine how the young boy went to school and bragged of the work that we were doing.
In the personal statement of the proposal that I wrote for this trip, I said that “although I would be giving back and helping families in less fortunate situations, they would also be giving back to me” and this idea was definitely proven to be true. The young boy was not the only one who was extremely excited about being able to show off the new language he had learned. The parents’ face would light up as a huge smile spread across it when I or a trip mate attempted to say something to them in their spanish (even if it was brutally butchered) because it didn’t matter that we were saying things completely wrong. What mattered is that we wanted to make an effort to get to know them and to share that moment. These are moments that I will always remember and they are usually the first thing that I bring up when someone asks me what I gained from my trip.
Because Guatemala is a very poverty stricken country, there is, of course, little to no use of technology. The typical American child would have an anxiety attack at the idea of growing up with no television, cell phone, or computer, but I can remember a time before all of these things were prominent and this is what Guatemala reminds me of. The children of the family we built for did not park themselves in front of a screen for hours at a time, they barely even had any toys. For entertainment purposes, they would do things like sit in a circle together while singing or telling stories. There was actual structure to these families that included communication that ran deeper than text messages and social media. Not only did they not having any of the items that are considered to be so precious to the American society, but they were the happiest group of people that I have ever encountered in my entire life. They focused solely on the things that made them happy and it seemed as though they could not have been happier or healthier. This is when I begin to think deeper about the things that were “important” to me. The only things that deserve even half of the energy that I give are the things that cannot be replaced.
4) Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?
This transformation has and always will be important to me because I have developed a completely different outlook on life. I am working to spend less time trying to control things that are not important and that cannot be controlled. Life is entirely too short for me to leave this Earth saying that most of my life has revolved around the wrong things. A person is much more at peace when they only have time and energy to focus on the things that really count in the long run.