- For my STEP Signature Project I went to Antigua, Guatemala on a BuckISERV trip. While we were on the trip we spent four and a half days working with local masons to build an additional classroom at a local school.
- Before I went to Guatemala I didn’t have that much desire to travel and see the world. However after going to Guatemala I find myself far more interested in seeing the world, and seeing all the different ways people live throughout the world. My STEP project allowed me to grow and become far more accepting of different cultures. My STEP project also allowed me to become more of an extrovert. I spent a lot of my sophomore year by myself, because I lived in a single person dorm room, and was just generally not very outgoing. While doing service in Guatemala I got the chance to make 12 new great friends. I had no choice but to talk to the people I went to Guatemala with, and in doing so I realized they were all great people. Now that I am back in the United States and back at school I find myself being more outgoing and willing to talk to people I do not know. The trip helped me understand that I am a social person, and that I’m always going to enjoy life more when I am able to overcome my fear and apprehensions about approaching and meeting new people.
My STEP project also helped me understand there’s a difference between helping people and doing service. Helping people implies that they aren’t able to do the activities without your help. Whereas service is all about being there to support people. It’s about working with the community that you’re trying to impact and figuring out the best way for you to provide support to them. I think the difference between service and helping will stick with me for a long time. I want to make sure that when I am doing service in the future and not helping. This way I will be able to make sure my actions are only positive to the communities I am serving and there aren’t unintended negative consequences.
- I actually went to high school with one of the people I went on my trip with, and she was actually one of the student trip leaders for BuckiSERV, and it was great to be able to talk to her and feel more comfortable in our group settings because I already knew her. The first thing we did once we got to our host family’s house was as a group go into the town of Antigua. We were all hungry and thirsty from all the traveling we did and we went into café Condesa. Inside café Condesa we were able to start interacting as a group and talking about food and drinks that we wanted, and it was just a great unplanned ice breaker. Then that same night our host family made us dinner and we sat and talked as a group and were able to get more comfortable with each other. Dinners at our host family’s house were a highlight of the trip actually. Our host family was actually an older woman named Ampora (I’m not positive that spelling is correct), and then her one adult daughter lived with her, and she had two other daughters that came over while we were there. However Ampora and her daughters were great to us, they made us feel so welcome, and we were able to have genuine conversations about the differences between the way of life in Guatemala and the United States.
The conversations we had with Ampora and her daughters made a big impact on me. It was abundantly clear that Ampora and her daughters wanted the same things in life that we wanted. They wanted their family’s to be safe and happy. They wanted to find joy in life and help their community. The things people in Guatemala want out of life are the same as what we, in the United States, want there’s just a significant difference in our way of life. It was very impactful for my view of the world to go several thousand miles away to a country where I don’t speak the language and there’s very obvious differences in everyday life, but to see Guatemalans want the same thing as Americans. The work we did with the masons on the job site further enhanced my changing view of the world. The masons were for the most part young men doing back breaking work to provide for their children, but also because they wanted to help all Guatemalan children by building schools. It was also very noticeable how highly skilled the masons were. I was impressed with how much sophisticated work they were able to get done with rudimentary tools and hard work. The job site was also another way of bonding and becoming more comfortable with my fellow Buckeyes. Once you’ve spent a day sweating and working together it’s a lot easier to feel like you know someone. You’ve worked with them to accomplish a task and that joint knowledge of what you’ve accomplished is a great feeling.
The work we were initially told we were going to do was build a house, but when we showed up on the jobsite our first day we were at an elementary school. Which turned out to be a great surprise, because not only did we get to help build a classroom, but we also got to spend time playing kids at the school. I remember on our second to last day working at the school me and another woman on the trip with me got to play soccer with the kids and it was a great time. The kids were having fun and we were having fun, and it’s one of those moments that will stick with me for a long time.
That last story I want to bring up about why my trip was transformative happened on our first full day in Guatemala. It was a Sunday and we had the day to go see Guatemala, we didn’t have to do any service that day. On Sunday we drove about an hour and a half along terrifyingly narrow mountain roads to get to lake Atitlán. Lake Atitlán was great, but while we were there I had the first real chance to push myself. We went to three different villages/cities on the lake, and at our last one we had the chance to go to an overlook of the lake, that you were also allowed to jump off of. The overlook was approximately 30 feet high. Now is an important time to note that I am relatively scared of heights. The entire BuckiSERV group went back and people we jumping into the lake, and I really wanted to, but I was really scared about doing it. However I mustered the courage and I jumped, and it was an important part of the trip to me. I know it seems relatively insignificant, but it was a very important part of the trip for me. It was an indication to myself that I could be braver and I could be the guy that takes risks.
- The way I spent my summer when I got back from Guatemala speaks to why my STEP project was transformative. When I got back from Guatemala I was scheduled to work at a Boys and Girls Club of Columbus. It was only going to be a four week program where I spent about 3 hours a day with kids for four days a weeks. Which is not an insignificant amount of time, but I didn’t consider myself very good with kids, so I was nervous. It was almost time for me to start my job there when my boss called me and asked if I could fill in for a day at another club where I would be with kids for six hours for that one day. I said yes apprehensively, but was thinking it was just a day, it couldn’t be that bad. However I worked there for two days, and then was given the opportunity to have that position permanently (that position was six hours a day five days a week for eight weeks). I ultimately decided to take that position and push myself to develop new skills and try new things in life. I have absolutely no regrets about the time I spent there this summer, and have even been considering trying to get involved in some type of after school program now that school has started. The experience I had working with those kids this summer was fantastic and if I hadn’t been given the opportunity to do a STEP project I probably would have never taken that job.
My point is my STEP project has already helped influence my decision making. It has already helped me realize that I get a great deal of joy from serving other people. I enjoy knowing I am making a positive impact in people’s lives. I truly see my STEP project as a starting point for being the man I want to be as I continue to age; someone who is willing to take risks, someone who wants to serve the people in his life, someone who can connect with people.