Service Learning – Constru Casa
I went to Antigua, Guatemala to help build homes in San Miguel. We worked with Constru Casa, an organization that helps build homes for families who have a low income and live in bad houses. We worked with professional masons to build houses by cutting holes in blocks, and making cement.
I had very little experience outside of the United States. I didn’t really understand other cultures aside from learning about them in school. I quickly learned that the differences between learning about a culture and experiencing them are incredibly different. The culture shock made me realize how different the world really is compared to how I imagine it and see it in the news. The families I helped build the house with didn’t have much, but they were still happy and very grateful of the help. Seeing and helping these families made me comprehend just how privileged I am, but this experience made me want to do more for others and understand them and their culture.
One of the key experiences I had on the trip was trying the different foods in Guatemala. I was astounded that I liked most of the food I ate in Guatemala. I went there with the expectation that my dislike of peppers and tomatoes were going to hinder me. Unsurprisingly, many of the dishes I had in Guatemala contained peppers or tomatoes, but I was astounded that I still liked the dishes. The dishes were prepared in ways that didn’t overwhelm you with one certain flavor, but rather several subtle flavors. I realized that I just didn’t like how strong the flavors are in tomatoes and peppers. In essence, the food changed my previous thoughts on food, and made me think about the subtle differences between America and Guatemala.
Another key experience was building the house for a family. I was accustomed to hard work. I’ve dug in dirt, hammered nails into wood, used screwdrivers and other tasks. I’ve never worked with cement though. We used hatchets to cut holes in cement blocks and made cement using a wheel-barrow and a plow. These tasks were incredibly draining, and I couldn’t do them very well most of the time. My idea of building a house involves a lot of machinery, but building this house made me learn just how tough the masons were. They made all of the work look effortless, but I struggled every day. I couldn’t believe how hard and quickly they worked using their hands, shovels and hatchets. Their work ethic and toughness made me rethink how I need to approach duties in my own life especially when I feel lazy.
Another key experience I had was my interactions with the people there. Many of the people I met were very friendly. The couple whose house we stayed in were parental figures for me and the other volunteers. The families we helped were all kind and helpful. They really weren’t different from people in America. Although I’ve heard a lot of talk about people trying to divide others into groups, I learned that most people are very similar. Even though there are different cultures and attitudes, most people are still friendly and kind.
This development is important for my future plans because I will need to understand people with so many different backgrounds. As a pre-medicine student, I aspire to become a doctor. An important part of being a doctor is meeting and talking with many people. All people don’t have the same background and experiences. I will need to be able to acknowledge the cultural differences not only people from different countries, but also in America. The different environments and histories lead to different attitudes that I will have to appreciate and acknowledge. Most importantly, I will still have to remember that they are still people, and not very different from myself despite the different cultures.