By: Hope Cheever and Carly Costikyan
3 years. 12 plane rides. 26 days. Over 100 hours of work – our first-hand experience in Guatemala with School the World. But what is it that inspires two high school students to travel halfway across the world to build schools and playgrounds during their February break? And what keeps them coming back year after year? Though we both have been asked those questions many times over the course of our three-year relationship with School the World, there never seems to be one right answer. A combination of the warm and welcoming people, vibrant culture, and the overall experience with School the World are just three of many reasons that keep us coming back and never wanting to leave.
While each of the three communities we have both worked in are unique in their own ways, the kindness we have been shown by every member of the communities never changes. On the first day you are welcomed with a ceremony surrounded by confetti, balloons, and other celebratory decorations. Each community does it a little differently with speeches from their leaders and students from the school. The children in each community are always so excited and grateful. Every day for about an hour we get to play with the kids at recess. The kids do not sit on phones or tablets, they would not even know what you are referring to. Instead, they play games like Duck, Duck, Goose (aka Pato, Pato, Ganzo), tag, and are absolutely obsessed with bubbles. We try and bring them little toys every day to play with during our week of work, and it is always amazing how these kids are fascinated by the simplest things. These optimistic and grateful children do not need a never-ending game of Candy Crush to keep them occupied or happy.
One way we connect further with the community is through shadow visits. We visit the home of one of the children in the school, meet their family, and do some everyday tasks with the families. Some of the families we have visited have no electricity or running water but are some of the most grateful and giving people we have had the pleasure of meeting. The people in the communities make you never want to leave, but when it is time that you do, without a doubt, you leave with a fuller heart and a better understanding of the world.
The intriguing, vibrant, Guatemalan culture is something that we have found to be so unique, and so different than anything you will find in the United States. The area in which we work, Santa Cruz del Quiche, comes from a large descent of Mayan influence. The traditional clothing, worn almost every day by women, and on occasion by men, is modest, yet, bursting with color, intricate designs, and sometimes even sparkles. The typical town scene with buildings coated in various shades of greens, pinks, oranges, and blues, embraces the vibrant personality of each individual. What we experience not only on the streets and radios, but during a special performance in our communities, are the wonderful tunes of Guatemalan music. A simple uplifting beat goes a long way and makes the perfect base for any one of their traditional dances.
How could you not come back?! While some parents are hesitant to send their children to Guatemala on their own, we have always felt incredibly safe in our travels and welcomed by everyone we have met. Although we do work hard for long hours in the 5 short days we are at our communities, it is work that will never be forgotten and allows you to feel the impact you are making by building this school.
By the end of the week, we are able to see our finished product and celebrate the addition of better education with the entire community. These people understand the importance of education and want their children to have the opportunities that they, as parents, never had. Our past three trips with School the World have been completely transformational. Being welcomed into the homes and communities of the people themselves and being able to progress the education of the children in each community has made us extremely grateful for our time in Guatemala and we cannot wait to return next year!
If you are interested in becoming a World Changer with School the World and traveling with Lauralton Hall to Guatemala in February 2020, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.