Service Learning Reflection – Brian Smudski


1. My project was to complete a week-long mission trip in Guatemala. While there, I worked in a team to build a chicken coop for a deserving family of the village just outside of Guatemala City. The chicken coop we supplied to this family was approximately 100 square feet and had 25 chickens come with it. While there, the team also visited the school in the village and an orphanage just outside of the city. In the school is where I ended up having the greatest transformational experience.


2. Before I went there, I thought I knew what to expect because I have gone to a third world country before. In 2005, I visited family in Colombia for a month. However, while in Guatemala, I went to an extremely underprivileged village and orphanage. The funds I received from STEP allowed me to go to Guatemala and experience the people of this great country.

On my mission trip, I not only helped build a chicken coop, but I also visited the school of the village to interact with the kids and play games with them. It was interesting to see how seriously the children took their schoolwork. I did not expect to see such an education in what I thought was an “underprivileged” village of a third world country. Seeing the children there be so grateful for their ability to get an education really impacted me. It helped me realize how grateful I should be for everything I am privileged to in my everyday life. Before my STEP experience, I assumed that the desire to acquire an education wasn’t the strongest in such an underprivileged third world village. My STEP experience helped me realize that even people thousands of miles away have a similar priority: an education.


3. One event that led to this change was the basketball team of this school. My team went to this school and assumed that we would play games with the children; however, when we got there, the boys of the basketball team were studying. They realized that they could not go play basketball with us until they finished their studies for the day. Once we helped them study, we were allowed to play basketball with them. These very young children had already learned to prioritize their schoolwork over extracurricular activities.

An interaction that led to this change was with the full time missionaries we stayed with on our trip. It was amazing to me that these people could give up their entire lives to serve others. While at the school, they repeatedly told the young children their how smart they were. I quickly realized the impact of simply telling the students how smart they are; it can help propel them through their studies. I enjoyed watching the students become encouraged and excited about learning.

Another interaction I experienced in Guatemala was with a little girl named Iris. One day, I had extra food from my lunch and decided to share the food with the children. After giving the children my food, Iris gave me her 4 marbles. I was not expecting anything from any of the children, and yet Iris was generous enough to give me her marbles. Later that week, I gave her my sun glasses in return for her marbles. It was fun to watch her parade around the village in her new sunglasses. This interaction helped me realize that not only do the children of Guatemala have the ability to learn and get an education, but I also have the ability to learn from the children of Guatemala. The generosity of Iris was incredible, and it’s an experience I’ll never forget.


4. Although the main component of my mission trip was to build a chicken coop, the children in the school had the greatest impact on me. This transformational experience has made me very grateful for my education. I have truly learned to appreciate my education and take it very seriously because not everybody has access to such a great education in the United States. This development matters because it will affect my education for the rest of my life. I will continue to learn throughout my entire career and personal life; realizing the importance of this education will propel me for the rest of my life. My future plans are to continue working at GE Aviation full time, and so having this desire to obtain an education will help propel me through anything I could experience there. In the future, I hope to share my newfound gratitude for my education. I believe that with more experience at GE Aviation, I may be a resource to a young intern. Hopefully I would be able to inspire him like I was inspired this summer. The people of Guatemala were truly grateful for their education, and taught me that I should be too – an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life.