GVI Program: Healthcare in Thailand

For my STEP Signature Project, I participated in a program hosted by GVI. This program allowed me to work on GVI’s healthcare project in Ban Nam Khem, Thailand for two weeks in May. Our main activities included aiding a center for children with disabilities, performing health checks in the village, and teaching children at a local kindergarten.

During my time in Thailand, I was not only able to learn a lot about other parts of the world, but also about myself. This program taught me how different lifestyles and cultures vary from one side of the world to another. Since I had always lived in the United States and hadn’t really traveled very far, I had never really thought about the differences between the country I live in and the many others around the world. I learned about the differences in our governments, societies, and lifestyles in general, and realized that no one culture was better than the other- they were just different from each other. This program made me want to explore more areas of the world so I could develop my understanding of other countries as well. By traveling to Thailand, I feel that I am much more understanding and knowledgeable of the different ways that people may conduct their lives. I also realized that no matter what I do in my life, I want to help those who are less fortunate than I. It was amazing to make an impact in the healthcare system within a small village, and helped me to see that even two short weeks of work can make a huge impact in the grand scheme of things. As long as I have the resources to make an impact in the future, I always want to strive to improve other peoples’ lives.

My view of the world changed for many reasons. By being able to see and experience Thailand, I was able to consider differences in cultures and why those differences may occur. While I was away, I traveled to a few different areas of Thailand, including Bangkok, Phuket, Ban Nam Khem, and some others. In each area, I was able to see how the citizens conducted their lives, and how they expected foreigners (me) to behave as well. While walking around the village, I noticed these small intricate houses built in many of the yards, and was able to learn that they were used to keep bad spirits away. It was small differences like the one just described that intrigued me. On our base, we had a program leader who was from the Thai village that we were making an impact on. By interacting with her, I was able to learn so much about Thai culture and the importance of knowing about the area you were in. Although I was only in the small village of Ban Nam Khem for two weeks, the interactions I had allowed me to learn so much and even feel accepted by many of the people who lived there. For example, we attended the village Zumba in order to conduct free health checks, but then after we were done we would join in on their Zumba. The woman who participated loved when we would come to join them, and it was amazing to see the combination of the people from this Thai village and then 7 Ohio State students. I feel much more cultured now that I have seen Thailand, and can’t wait to learn more about other areas of the world.

During our project, we were able to visit a center for disabled children in the village. When we would attend this center, our goal was to provide them with activities that would help to further socialize the children and improve upon the skills that they were working on. Attending the sessions at this center was definitely the highlight of the program for me. Our program leads had told us about how Thai disability culture was definitely not the best, and how some families are embarrassed by their children who may be disabled. This definitely gave me a new perspective on the world because it shows how one’s culture can affect the treatment of others around them. While at this center, the children and staff were so well behaved and respectful towards us. There were only two people on staff at the center, so it was nice to be able to relieve them for a few hours a day when we were able to run the activities. We would play different games, do relay races or crafts, and always say our hellos and goodbyes in a circle while sitting down. Even though we were there to help the kids grow, they helped us volunteers grow as well. Their positive attitudes and heartwarming acts will always be something that I’ll remember and try to incorporate into my life. When we left this center for the last time, all of the volunteers had such heavy hearts. We really felt like we were making an impact on these kid’s lives, and it was hard to know that after two weeks of getting to know them, we won’t be seeing them again. We took comfort in knowing that GVI would continue to look out for this center and prepare the children for their futures.

One of the most amazing aspects of my experience with GVI in Thailand was being able to meet volunteers and staff from around the world. Although there were a lot of Ohio State volunteers on base, I was also able to meet people from Australia, Canada, the UK, Brazil, and more. These people allowed me to notice not only the differences, but also the similarities between our lifestyles and cultures. I was able to speak with the volunteers about their experiences at home and also their experiences from when they had traveled. The staff would always spark up conversations about the importance of learning about the cultures of the countries that your visiting and how some things may be extremely different than what you would expect. I felt that by living with people from across the world, I was able to learn so much more about them and where they were from. For example, when eating meals together we would talk about common foods that we all ate, and it was interesting to see how many differences could be pointed out. Even a lot of the lingo and slang words that we all used differed so greatly. By living on base together, we were able to create such strong bonds that were formed throughout the program and that were based on a mutual learning of new cultures.

My experiences during the GVI Program in Thailand have led me to several realizations about my future and myself in general. After meeting with the disabled children for two weeks while in the village, I know that I want to work with children who are medically vulnerable/disabled throughout my life. I noticed that after all of the work I did while in Thailand, nothing impacted me in the same way that those children did. I want to be able to bring this passion into whatever company or organization I end up working for. For example, I am currently interning at TD Bank and because of my trip to Thailand I am proposing a community project that aids disabled children in the area. Also, this program made me realize that I want to see so much more of the world. My eyes were opened to so many more cultures and lifestyles while in Thailand, and that was just in one country. Whether it be for work or leisure, world travel is definitely included in my future goals. This program also has made me consider taking some time after I graduate to give back to the world in some type of capacity. Through talking to the staff, I realized how many different initiatives there are that I could be a part of and that would also allow me to travel the world. Whether I decide to or not, this program definitely opened my eyes to the many possibilities and routes there are post-graduation. This program is one I will think about frequently and look back upon as one of my most meaningful experiences, and I am so grateful I was able to participate in it through STEP.

Buck-I-Serv: Constru Casa in Guatemala, May 2019

Signature Project Description

My STEP Signature Project entailed a service trip through Buck-I-Serv to Antigua, Guatemala, where eleven other group members and I worked with the local organization Constru Casa to build houses for three families in a nearby town.  Our tasks included digging the foundation, mixing concrete, cutting rebar, preparing and carrying blocks, and other miscellaneous ways we could be helpful.  I also served as one of the Spanish translators to facilitate communication on the worksite.  We were able to explore Volcano Pacaya and roast marshmallows on its hot coals, experience the beauty of Lake Atitlan, bargain and shop in the markets, and learn about the history and culture of Guatemala through a knowledgeable tour guide and several museums, churches, and other sites.

My Transformation

I was fortunate to travel to Guatemala in 2015 to work with another organization building houses and interacting with indigenous families.  However, I embarked on this trip with a new perspective and left with a new understanding of myself and the Guatemalan culture.  In 2015 I barely knew Spanish and found it difficult to connect.  This time, I served as one of the main translators and grew in both confidence and passion for the language and my ability to form and facilitate connections.  I approached this project with more cultural humility and the realization that I needed to be open to learning and let go of expectations I had of Guatemala, the people, and the trip in general.  This mindset was valuable during this trip and one that I can use whenever experiencing a new culture or idea.

An important takeaway from this trip for me is that, as human beings, we are all more similar than we are different.  Focusing on these similarities and respecting the differences is one of the best ways to achieve progress.  Despite the material poverty that afflicted the people we worked with, we were able to learn from each other and form relationships through the quality time we spent with one another.  I also found it encouraging that despite the differences in backgrounds and beliefs of the eleven strangers I started this trip with, we all were able to work towards a common goal and consider each other close friends by the end.

Events, Interactions, Relationships, and Activities

Each worksite had four trip participants, several masons, and the family whose house was being built.  The masons were patient with my Spanish and our groups’ construction abilities.  They far exceeded us all in physical strength but appreciated and accepted our help with humility.  We played soccer during the lunch breaks, an activity that allowed us to bond and have a lot of fun with the masons.  Once again, their patience, humility, and dedication to bettering their community was evident and admirable.

The most memorable interactions I had were with the children of the family – two little girls aged five and six, and their eight-year-old brother.  They were extremely shy the first couple of days, but eventually showed their playful sides after I asked if they wanted to help.  I showed them how to hammer a hole in the concrete blocks and they enthusiastically joined in and wanted to participate in all the construction tasks.  They asked to learn words in English and we doodled drawings together in a little sketch pad I brought.  I was truly devastated leaving them after only a couple days, knowing I will probably not see them again but wanting to form a lasting relationship with their family.

The relationship Buck-I-Serv has fostered with our hosts Elvira and Enrique is incredibly valuable and contributed to my personal transformation during this project.  They were welcoming and gracious hosts, who taught us about their country.  They were also extremely grateful for the work we were doing in their community.  I enjoyed the conversations I had with both Enrique and Elvira; they encouraged me to practice Spanish and shared interesting and hilarious stories about their lives.

As I mentioned before, we started this trip with twelve strangers but finished with a close group of friends.  I feel very lucky to have experienced this trip with these selfless, compassionate, and hardworking people.  Our late-night reflections were full of insightful, funny, and deep conversations that I will cherish.

Value of My Transformation

This project has been very valuable to my personal goals and future plans.  It has reinvigorated my love of Spanish, which I feel had become stagnant after several years of monotonous classroom papers and exams.  It challenged me to continue to learn and better my Spanish and to apply it to my professional goals and career.  Furthermore, it made me regret not spending a semester studying abroad, but introduced me to the possibility of returning to work or volunteer in Guatemala.  I am graduating a semester early this December and have already begun a search for opportunities abroad in the spring and summer.  The value of cultural immersion is undeniable and greatly benefited me on this trip.  It is something I would like to continue.

My trip to Guatemala has allowed me to reflect on my priorities and lifestyle.  Although many of the Guatemalans we encountered experienced material poverty, their focus on faith, family, and community was refreshing.  I want to live a more minimalist lifestyle and be more serious about my conservation efforts.  It has challenged me to focus on forming relationships and recognize their value.  This will help me focus on my career goals and be a contributing member of society.

 

Ghana 2019: The Akumanyi Foundation

For my STEP Signature Project I went to Ghana with a Buck-I-Serv trip. During this trip we worked with The Akumanyi Foundation to empower youth at their orphanage site. We also got to visit other project sites like the toilets they built with the clean water access program and paint at the new school building.

One transformation that took place while completing my signature project is my view of Africa. Many people, including myself before this trip, believe that all of Africa is the same. Everyone has this negative stereotype of sick, starving children living in small huts. But this is not the case for all of Africa. In countries like Ghana, there are many developed cities. For example, one day we went into a mall and it felt exactly the same as an American mall. You take one step inside this mall and it felt like you were back in America. My view of the whole continent of Africa changed because it is not all poor and developing countries like some people describe it to be. There are many beautiful places as well, like the beaches and hostel we stayed at in Cape Coast.

The relationships that I made with the Akumanyi staff and the children that are a part of this foundation led me to a personal transformation because they were all so kind and welcoming to their country. Every Ghanaian that I encountered while abroad wanted to get to know me, whether they were 5 years old or 30 years old. Even when we were walking down the street, the people in the village would wave at us with welcoming smiles and ask us our names. It was through all these relationships and encounters that I learned community is very important to their culture.

One specific event that led to a personal transformation is when we toured the slave castle in Cape Coast. This experience was very impactful because we got to learn about the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade from the African point of view, when many times in America we only learn about the American point of view. It was very interesting to hear why it started and that African people were doing cruel and inhumane things to other African people.

Another interaction and activity that we did that led to a personal transformation was the privilege walk. We had to step forward or backwards based on questions that applied to us and they all had to do with privilege. This activity was meaningful because although I was at the front of the line I shared something personal about myself with the group during our talk afterwards. This activity really showed and reminded me that you never truly know what a person has gone through. It was truly amazing to see and listen to other people’s stories and learn from them.

This transformation is valuable to my life because I can help break down stereotypes of Africa and Ghana by telling others about my experiences. I can help break the “single story” that everyone has of Africa in their minds by showing them all the positive things that we got to experience. I can show them the beautiful beaches, the canopy walk in the tree tops, and the happy kids. This transformation relates to my professional goals because this experience validated that I want to continue helping people every day in the hopes of becoming a Physician’s Assistant.

Art Therapy Service Project

In my STEP project, I created an art therapy project at Riverside Methodist Hospital. I painted a tree on several canvases, hung them on a wall, and cut out paper leaves where cancer and multiple sclerosis patients could write what they were grateful for.

I was a little afraid to work with cancer patients because I thought that working with patients who were in constant pain would be emotionally draining and may even cause me to rethink becoming a doctor. However, helping patients has reaffirmed my decision to become a doctor. In many cases, I am the only person who has a conversation with patients about how they’re feeling, and I hope that I am able to make their days a little better. We talk about what they’re grateful for, but I also connect them with relevant resources such as the hospital social worker or art therapist.

This project has allowed me to see a different side of the medical field. I’ve studied the science behind medicine, but there are no classes which can prepare you for interacting with patients. Medicine requires a level of empathy which cannot be taught or learned in any classes. Interacting with patients allowed me to not only learn how to better explain science to patients, but also allowed me to learn more about how to have positive interactions with patients; I always end interactions on a positive note, like asking patients what they are looking forward to when they get out of the hospital. I have also learned that sometimes patients do not want to be connected to services, but they merely need a person to talk to. This was difficult for me at first because I wanted to take action and find a way to help patients in a more powerful way, but I’ve had to accept that sometimes what patients really need is a confidant.

I’ve realized that patient care and the medical field may be emotionally draining, but knowing that I’m helping patients is worth it. I thought that patients would have more time interacting with services like social workers, but I found out that patients talk to virtually no one if their family and friends do not visit them. Being a confidant for patients allowed me to develop a deeper understanding of how cancer can affect not only a person’s emotional state, but also their finances, relationships, etc. and I hope that by talking to patients, I can help them find solutions.

Many of the patients tell me that they are thankful for the little things in their lives, like Manwiches or their cats. These seemingly insignificant parts of their lives have helped them cope with their illness. I’ve come to appreciate the little things in my life more since I’ve started volunteering at the hospital. I’ve also come to realize how many people have positively affected my life.

These transformations have given me the opportunity to learn more about the medical field. I’ve learned more than a textbook could ever teach me about patient care and how illnesses can affect other parts of a patient’s life. I will apply what I’ve learned from this experience to my future as a doctor; knowing more about how a patient’s illness can affect other parts of their life and knowing more about patient care and various resources (such as art therapy and social work) will allow me to more effective help patients cope with all parts of their illness, not just the medicine.

 

Buck-I-Serv: Pathways

For my STEP signature project, I travelled with eight other people, none of whom I knew previously, to Immokalee, FL to volunteer at Pathways Early Education Center. My fellow volunteers and I worked with the kids and did odd jobs around the center, such as painting and building tables. We also met with the OSU Alumni Club in Naples.

My view of both poorer, rural communities and my future was fundamentally altered by this experience. I currently live with my family in a rural area. Close to our house is a trailer park, much like the ones wherein many Immokalee residents live. Whenever we would drive past the trailer park, my family would tell me that it was sad the residents didn’t keep up their homes better, nodding towards the run down trailers in the park and implying that the residents didn’t care. After volunteering in Immokalee, I learned quite a bit about the exploitation of poorer communities, specifically by the landlords who own the trailers present in the parks, and my view of not only the community in Immokalee, but the community so very close to my own home was changed as I began to better understand the struggles that they face concerning those with power over them. I also came to better understand the strengths, struggles, and needs of different immigrant and migrant communities across the United States. This experience as a whole helped me to choose what community I would like to serve as a doctor in the future and showed me the true value of early education, something I was previously unaware of.

Immokalee is a poor, agricultural community in south Florida where a majority of residents are employed as migrant workers and whose families come from Mexico, Guatemala, and Haiti. I had not previously worked with people from these communities, so this was an invaluable experience that allowed me to work with people I otherwise may never have met. In town, there is only one grocery store. In terms of medical care, there is a pediatrician’s office and a free clinic operated by medical students from Florida State University. The closest hospitals are in Naples or Ft. Myers, both approximately an hour away. Though I myself live in a rural area, I would not consider myself to be in a medically underserved area, so this was extremely important for me going into medicine to see firsthand the struggles in communities with little access to health care.

One of the women who worked at Pathways, Cynthia, had worked as a migrant worker through her childhood. She took my fellow volunteers and I on a tour of Immokalee to show us her community and the struggles it faced, but also to highlight the strengths of her community. She told us what it was like to work in the fields and explained how migrant workers get paid, which is 50 cents per 25lb bucket of produce. She used this to explain to us how hard migrant workers have to work to provide for their families and to show how drastic the consequences of missing even one day of work would be for a family. She explained that up to three families would live in each decrepit trailer landlords refused to fix due to exorbitant rent prices. She told us that many families still did not have mattresses after theirs had been ruined by Hurricane Irma almost two years ago. One of the trailers we drove past in an area of town called La Rata (translated to ‘The Rat’ and so named because of the living conditions) had yet to be fixed, and part of the wall was patched up with a FEMA tarp that read “Send Relief”. That was singularly the most powerful moment of the trip. Cynthia told us that two families lived in it. Through the hardships, Cynthia also proudly told us of the rich culture that bloomed in the community. Migrant workers are proud of the crops they pick, she told us, and of the hard work they do. Everyone living there supports each other. Family and community, she said, are some of the Immokalee residents’ greatest strengths.

I saw this firsthand during the time I spent at Pathways. Families are proud of the work that they do, but they also want a different life for their children, and so greatly value education. Hence, why they send their children to Pathways. Before this trip I was unaware of the value of early education. Friends from elementary school and kids I teach today who have gone to daycare have absolutely hated it, saying the people working there don’t care about them. One place near my house, KinderCare, my family has less-than-affectionately termed KinderDump, alluding to the belief that daycare is simply a place to leave your children while you go to work. After working at Pathways, I see the necessity of early childhood educations. Never before in my life have I worked with such well-adjusted, mature, and polite children. In all my years of babysitting I never once came across a toddler who understood the concept of sharing. I have never had a two-year-old say “Nice to meet you, my name is___” to me after I introduced myself. I have never met a four-year-old with the language skills to give an entire tour of a facility and the confidence to do so with strangers. All of these things I found at Pathways. People working there treated the children like they were their own and expressed a kind of patience I can only hope to one day replicate myself. It was a family and a community. I see now how well these children have been set up to succeed in school. I see now the value of early education and all the good Pathways is doing in Immokalee by providing these children with a safe place to go and a path to success, hence why it is called Pathways.

All of this will be necessary for me to understand in my future career as a physician. As more people from Latin American and Haitian communities immigrate to the United States, the knowledge I gained about the strengths, struggles, goals, and needs of these communities will be vital for me to understand to be able to properly treat them. The same is true for migrant communities, with whom I previously had no experience. This trip was also an important exercise in empathizing with communities I might not know anything or everything about, specifically with the community living in the trailer park close to my house. I have learned now not to make assumptions about outward appearances of communities like this one, because it is very likely that conditions I am judging are out of their control, and even if they weren’t, it is not helpful to anyone if I judge them. All of these are important lessons for a doctor to know and I am immensely grateful to both Buck-I-Serv and STEP for giving me the opportunity to learn them. This trip has clarified for me what I wish to do with my life. I knew I wanted to work with underserved communities, and because of this trip I now know that I specifically want to work with rural communities like the one in Immokalee.

STEP Reflection

The main activities of my STEP project included several days of service at a Native American historical site, backpacking in the Grand Canyon, and white water rafting down the Colorado river.

I had never really gone camping before this trip. This was a two-week long camping trip with 15 essential strangers in a pretty harsh environment. I learned a lot of skills from filtering water to efficiently setting up and tearing down campsites.

Another transformative aspect was being without service or internet for so long. It may be strange, but throughout my adult life I have always been connected to people through my cell phone. When going on this trip that connection was lost and it was a really new experience not having that accessibility for communication.

Well, the nature of the trip forced the transformations. When evaluating what I wanted to do with my STEP money and looking at programs, I knew that this one would push me in these ways due to its structure. A camping trip would expose me to living outside for an extended period of time which I had never done before. Being in Arizona, the climate would be much different than I have experienced living in Ohio my whole life.

Going into the trip I knew I would be forced to learn how to cook meals in back country with limited water and having to carry all our supplies with us. This meant learning how to cook, pack efficiently, hike with a backpack, and rationing/purifying water which were all new skills to me. Throughout the course of the trip, everyone was given alternating roles such as cook, cleaner, water chief, leader, scribe, etc to have us develop these skills individually.

A large transformation that was not foreseen really was the loss of cellular data and its effects. I did not use my phone for several days for anything and not having that constant connection to the world was really mentally clearing. Since coming back to Ohio, I have made it a point to put time limits on my phone usage to try and limit that dependence.

Another transformation comes from the service. We volunteered for five days at the Palatki Heritage site. We were able to reinforce the base of the ancient native american site and extend it’s lifespan an estimated 10-15 years from our work. The volunteers and staff explained to us several times the effect of what we were doing. Our work also saved their park thousands of dollars worth of labor costs. Being able to contribute something like this that is so meaningful to the locals was something I will never forget.

I was able to form strong interpersonal connections with 15 former strangers/peers and share an experience that will last my lifetime. The head trip leader mentioned something that struck a chord with me. He said that once we get out of the Canyon, nobody will understand what this trip was like, except each other. This is an experience that is truly only fully understood by these other members. Words cannot really give justice to the size and scope of the adventure we had. I made several great friends on the trip and we have group messages to stay in touch.

From this trip I feel more in touch with my nature side. I am much more confident in my ability to survive outside of technology and appreciate the great outdoors.  I want to thank STEP for this opportunity as I really do feel like this was a transformative experience and I never would have been able to have it without this program.

 

Go Puerto Rico Trip (Hunger/Crossroads)

For one week in Puerto Rico partnering with Hunger Corp and Crossroads Church, I worked on rebuilding a Puerto Rican woman named Barbara’s house that was destroyed in Hurricane Maria two years ago. I also participated in smaller activities along the way, such as weeding in a coffee plantation, teamwork activities with the group as well as reflection time with small groups within the trip.

I started this trip anxious. I had put myself in a vulnerable position as a young adult going on a hands-on labor-intensive trip with a large group of strangers. I have always tried to push myself out of my comfort zone when it comes to groups of strangers, but I wasn’t sure this experience was going to be fruitful or meaningful. I thought that there wasn’t anything I was going to be able to learn from these people or the people in Puerto Rico, but I was, of course, mistaken. Also going a little deeper, I thought that I was “Christian enough”. That although I wasn’t rebaptized again as an adult it didn’t matter because I have never not believed in God and that was enough. Again, I was mistaken.

Though the main “purpose” or the trip was to work with the Puerto Ricans specifically in a community called Vega Alta, the leaders of the trip emphasized over and over again that community comes before the task. In other words, if there was an opportunity to share your story, hear someone else’s story or build into another person, take it! While the work was important, building community goes much farther and is much more fruitful for both parties. But for me, trying to be vulnerable, trying to start conversation or trying to speak in Spanish and serve as a translator was when I would become most anxious.

But I persevered. I was completely alone on this trip and I did this intentionally. Past mission trips were with friends and family allowing me to safely retreat to the people I knew. Easy. Nothing to worry about, no need to work at friendships, and no way to grow personally and spiritually. This trip was different, and I made the effort to talk to people. I made the effort to listen and provoke deeper conversation with more questions. I even made the effort to formulate into words what I have experienced in my life and to my surprise I was not alone in my experiences. Through small group discussion, one on one conversations with leaders that are way ahead on me in their faith journey and talking to Puerto Ricans who are volunteering with Hunger Corp, I stepped through a new doorway that was challenging but relieving. Quickly I made friendships much deeper than any I had back in Columbus, I learned way more about myself and others in one week than all my time at Ohio State. It opened my eyes to the power of vulnerability and supportive, initimate friendships.

From what I learned from engaging with people on a deeper, spiritual level, I decided this was the best time to get baptized. Like I said, I have always been Christian and was baptized as a baby. But to make the decision to follow Jesus on my own and to fully embrace this community, is a louder statement than being baptized by my parents. My new friends all gathered around me during this moment and the rest of the group waited on shore to cheer me on as I came out of the ocean. People were coming up to me welcoming me into a family I thought I was already a part of, little did I know that this personal but public decision of mine to get baptized made my adoption into God’s family official.

Coming back home, I am full of hope for implementing my new ways of communicating with my friends and family. It has been a week now and I have already met with my smaller group of friends from the trip for brunch and engaged in meaningful conversation about what is going on in our lives. During trip, I met a man name Victor who invited me to conversation with after the trip. He wanted to finish up discussion we were not able to finish on the trip, in doing so we found out that we were more similar that expected. He is about 10 years older than me and graduated as an engineer, he is latino and has similar personality traits as myself. I look at him as a mentor who has mustered his way through the years that are just ahead on me. He has introduced me to his family and even taken me under his wing in some engineering work he is doing at his job. I never knew I’d come out of this trip with a spiritual and professional mentor!

This trip has blessed me greatly with friends that want to build into me, it had introduced me to an organization (Hunger Corp) that I want to continue volunteering with next summer, it has opened my eyes to how God wants me to interact with people and it has taught me more about myself that I ever thought the trip would.

 

 

 

 

Constru Casa May 2019

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

The STEP Signature Project I completed was a service trip through BUCK-I-serv to Antigua Guatemala; through the coordination with Constru Casa, our 12-member group built 3 houses in a small town in Guatemala. We built the houses alongside the families that were going to live in the houses thus were able to build relationships among the people and our group members! We also had 2 days off to explore Guatemala we climbed a volcano and swam in a lake!

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the

world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or

two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

Before this project I would not have considered myself to be a person who ever left my comfort zone, and this trip was the complete opposite of my usual way of life in every way possible. I did not know anyone going on the trip when I signed up, and I am not the most talkative person. I am not used to long days of physical labor, I did not know very much Spanish, and I always tend to eat the same foods I am comfortable with. I believe this trip really challenged me to become more open and let me expand from my typical. Even though I did not know anyone before going on the trip I feel like I came home with 11 great new friends who have similar morals and ideals as me who I hope to keep in contact with. Even though I love my American food, I came home with a new appreciation for Latin foods, avocados and fruit. Even though I am not used to had labor I came home with bruises and scratches that remind me of the incredible work we did for the amazing families in the Guatemalan town. Even though I could not speak the best Spanish, you learn that people show their emotions in very similar ways everywhere and it is not hard to tell the people were appreciative that we were there to help. Overall I feel like this trip really allowed me to see that I can thrive and enjoy things that are outside of my comfort zone.

  1. 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? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences

completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

One of the most important interactions I felt added to my growth on the trip, was the relationship that grew between not only my 3 fellow trip members who worked on my worksite, but the family and masons that were working with us as well. The masons on our worksite were among the kindest people I have ever met. They did not scoff at us when we had to carry 2 bricks at a time while they carry 6, or become annoyed by our lack of Spanish, instead they always with a smile explained things to us with hand signals and motions. They were extremely hard working and never complained about the heat. In fact, we played soccer with them a few of the days in town, and even after working such long hours they still whooped us!

 

The family we were working with was also extremely kind. Their 3 children really warmed up to us on the 3rd day and after that they wouldn’t leave our side it was a blast! They would help us chip blocks and wear our sunglasses and ask us to teach them words in English. At the end of our house building, Constru Casa had a ribbon cutting ceremony for the family and even though I could not tell all the words they were saying you could see how appreciative the family was for the help and nothing makes you feel more grateful.

 

The 11 other group members chosen for the trip were also a huge part of the trip being an amazing experience. I am not sure how it worked out so well, but everyone got along tremendously well and I felt as though there were not many times throughout the week where we were not all laughing. From climbing up a volcano together to swimming in Lake Atilan and exploring different towns, my group members with not only funny, but also serious and appreciative about the culture around us. Our reflections at the end of the day always put me into perspective of the things we were experiencing and people pointed out things I missed. They just made the overall trip more comfortable and enjoyable.

 

 

As I stated above I feel as though this trip really let me expand as a person. This has taught me that I do not want to just stay in my comfort zone, I want to meet more new people and experience more cultures. It has also given me the understanding of a service trip and how it feels to help those in need, and I want to continue helping people as we did here. I want to continue going on service trips to new countries. This trip has also shown me that even though the people in Guatemala live in extreme poverty, they do not act as though they do. The families are still smiling and enjoying life as anyone else and this has inspired me to live my life more positively and be less bogged down by things out of my control. I have enjoyed my time in Guatemala immensely and it will forever change me. I could not be more appreciative and grateful for the trip and I would not have been able to afford it without STEP thus I thank you very much STEP for the experience!