The third annual Guate-Maya Service and Immersion Experience took place July 10-20. Five scholars, two alumni, and two team members traveled to Esperanza Juvenil in Guatemala for 10 days of service and learning.
Our Guatemala Immersion Trip was more than I expected it to be. I thought I would enjoy the trip, learn about myself and the Guatemalan culture a bit and hopefully create a bond with the kids. This trip exceeded my expectations: It was truly fulfilling, I learned a lot about myself, the history and culture of Guatemala, and created an abundant amount of memories with the kids.
My first night my fellow scholars Madelyne, Jamari, and I ate dinner at House 1 at Esperanza Juvenil, the Boys Hope Girls Hope affiliate in Guatemala. I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to bond with the kids since my Spanish is not that great. Quickly I learned that language would not be a barrier.
The kids held my hand and used gestures and facial expressions to communicate. It was a humbling moment. I was born and raised in Manhattan, NY. It is a place full of different cultures that’s glamorized in the media, but it truly lacks the capability to bond if there’s a language or cultural difference. In Guatemala, on night one, those little girls taught me so much more about life than I have learned on my own.
Esperanza Juvenil does an amazing job of providing students with homes and the space to be themselves. They instill structure, passion, creativity, and many other qualities that make these students unique. I often reflected on my childhood during this trip and knew I was not on their level: The students work extremely hard in all classes; they can dance and sing; they’re bilingual and many of them trilingual. They understand the importance of education and how it can change their lives.
Scholars from Guatemala and the US embrace in a big group hug on the streets of Guatemala City on the last night of the Guate-Maya Service and Immersion Experience.
“This immersion trip was so impactful. I am thankful for the opportunity to attend. It has helped me begin to understand where I belong in the world. I look forward to visiting Esperanza Juvenil in the future and seeing the beautiful impact they will make on more students to come.”
My favorite part of the trip was simply seeing how much love the students had in their hearts. I was lucky to spend my 22nd birthday on this trip and it was the best one yet. The students went out of their way to create homemade cards, sing Happy Birthday for me, and to ask their tias to bring me cake.
The love everyone expressed – from the school staff, to the tias, and the students – was pure. They were excited to teach us, and to learn from us as well. I learned to live in the moment and not to take anything for granted. Here in the United States, we are consumed by social media and celebrities. We are in a rush to “make it” when we should learn from the students to live each day to the fullest.
The community service project was hard, but fun. I enjoyed making their classrooms beautiful! It was a great two days of fellowship. Bonding with the older students of Esperanza was amazing. We played games, danced, laughed, and even cooked together! I especially enjoyed talking to a scholar named Anna about my college experience and seeing her so passionate about going to university soon. I reminded her how talented she is and how I can’t wait to see where she goes.
Conversations like these happened all week as the students expressed their goals and dreams for the future.
This immersion trip was so impactful. I am thankful for the opportunity to attend. It has helped me begin to understand where I belong in the world. I look forward to visiting Esperanza Juvenil in the future and seeing the beautiful impact they will make on more students to come.