When I arrived in Xela, I was not sure what type of service we would be doing for the Academy. I imagined either working with children, helping administrators with clerical duties, or painting or constructing a library or classroom. It surprised me that we had the opportunity to serve the school in many aspects, including these. I felt truly involved with the school from all angles, which allowed me to further connect with the students as I began to understand more about their lives.
Reading composite stories from students like those at the school allowed us to explore the different situations and issues faced by students in Guatemala, from difficult home lives, to having to balance school with work, and other struggles. The students face obstacles similar in many ways to their counterparts in the United States, but also many problems more unique to the students here. Understanding this is necessary in order to effectively serve the students and their community. With this knowledge our group acquired new attitudes sensitive to and helpful for our service.
While becoming educated about Guatemala’s history and education system, we also truly enjoyed our experiences in Xela. March 8th was Carnival, a holiday characterized by confetti-filled eggs, music, food, and celebration. The children’s parents came and everyone enjoyed dancing, talking, and just interacting with each other. The children dressed up in costumes and got face paintings and bought confetti-eggs to crack open, most enjoyably on all of our heads. This was a unique, joyous way for us to connect with the students.
I did not expect the emphasis that would be placed on educating us, as volunteers. I previously saw this trip, titled “Education- International,” as us educating students and helping their education system. We focused a lot of our energies on our education and learning about this issue of education in Guatemala, which will help us spread our knowledge to others and expand our service from just what we accomplished here in one week. I left Xela with a greater understanding of the broad spectrum of issues many school systems face and the desire to attend to them in many ways.
Junior, University of Florida
Florida Alternative Breaks