Antigua, Guatemala – BuckIServ

My STEP Signature Project entailed traveling to Guatemala on a BuckIServ trip and partnering with two organizations called Constru Casa and HANDs. We stayed with a host family and each day traveled to a elementary school where we assisted workers in building a classroom. We did all hands on service with the construction and were allowed time to play with the children when they were at recess.

My eyes were opened to a completely new perspective of living while serving in Guatemala. At first I was wary of the environment and did not see myself adjusting well. By the end of the week, I wanted more time to explore the surrounding area and make connections with the host family, workers, children, and local people. A huge transformation took place. I was shown what hard work truly is, the beauty of minimalism, and a community of collectivism. The masons (construction workers) had a positive attitude and always showed their gratitude for little accomplishments even when they were completing back- breaking work. This taught me that attitude is everything in challenging situations and are always able to find something to be thankful for. The children at the school taught me that having materialistic things does not create happiness but the relationships and connections we make with others does. I felt a sense of collectivism within the community and a strong sense of caring for one another. While the American culture is very individualistic, it was refreshing and eye opening to watch others care for each other so deeply. Overall I think I gained a sense of gratitude for everything I have in my life, a desire to help those who are less fortunate than me, and an interest to learn about new cultures and create relationships with those who have a different view of the world than I do.

I think the relationships I made were the biggest reason for my change in perspective. The relationships with the masons, the host family, and the kids in the school were the relationships I learned the most from. The host family taught me what it meant to put someone else before you. The mother cooked every meal for us and made sure we were comfortable and had everything we needed. The masons had a huge impact on my outlook of hard work and how fortunate we are in the United States to be a developed nation. It also taught me patience and determination. The children also had a huge impact on me because even though most of the people on the trip did not speak the same language that did not seem to be a barrier at all. They simply wanted someone to pay attention to them and play with them.

Going into the trip I thought we would be working on a house. Instead of working on a house we worked on a classroom. I was thrilled to be working on a classroom because I know that in the future children will have somewhere to receive their education and a place they will always be taken care of. Building the classroom also changed the trip so much because of the relationships we were able to build with the children. It showed me that even though these children do not have the greatest facilities they want and are willing to learn.

An experience that I will remember forever is the last day of the service trip. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding days I have ever had. In the morning and throughout a good part of the afternoon we were at the service site finishing the roof on the classroom. It was very difficult even with a huge team of helpers. However, we worked as a team and were able to complete the roof all together with a huge sense of accomplishment. After that was finished we decided to take part in an excursion and climb a volcano. We were all extremely tired but decided the trip was worth it. Climbing the volcano was funny, exhausting, and so rewarding. I am someone who loves to challenge myself and this was a perfect way to do it. The climb challenged us physically and mentally but the view at the top was indescribable. Seeing natural beauty around me is something I have always valued and it really topped the trip off in a perfect way by showing me that I am a part of something bigger than myself and I am able to make a difference.

This transformation is valuable to my everyday life. It is valuable to how I will interact with those who come from different backgrounds from me and how to do it with patience and care. I am majoring in speech and hearing science and hope to one day become a speech language pathologist and work with kids who are minorities or below the poverty line. This trip taught me more of how they will see the world and how I can relate to them by taking their perspective in certain situations. It also taught me that creating a personal relationship with someone is important when you are working together to achieve a common goal. I will be able to use all these lessons in my personal and professional life in the future.