Intensive Trip: Leadership, Cultural Immersion and Camaraderie

mayan culture picBy Mario Flores, Program Director

July 15, 2013

From the moment we gathered as a group in the airport we were faced with challenges that demanded leadership, selflessness and group unity. We were delayed three hours from our initial flight. Due to this delay we had a short connection in Miami that demanded moving fast from one gate to the other. Each and every young person in the group rose to the occasion and showed leadership and group unity; as one of the students reflected:

“I really like that camaraderie that the group has shared because for the past week of being together, a lot of things have been done and said. I’m just so happy with such an amazing group of people.”

And it’s true that this group of young people really is a cohesive and inclusive group supporting each other, to make sure everybody gets it.

They supported one another, they did not complain, they moved through the airports maturely, contributed valuable suggestions, initiated games and activities to make the best out of the uncertainty of waiting for six hours in Seattle and make a 40 minute connection in Miami. They truly rose to the occasion and proved to everyone, including themselves that they too have the ability to lead each other and themselves.

the dump

Despite the fatigue of several hours of traveling, we got into Guatemala city and loaded the bus, then we headed to our first lesson on global injustice during this Cultural Immersion at the Guatemala City dump. For many of the students, seeing the dump was a period of introspection. If the piercing silence wasn’t enough of an indication (except for the screeching of hundreds of vultures flying overhead), the facial expressions certainly were. They were becoming aware, perhaps more so now than other times, of their personal contribution to environmental injustice and their responsibilities as global citizens. As another student reflected later,

“What really stuck with me this far, was the city dump… I realize how my waste ends up in the dumps like this one. I felt guilty… the next adjective that comes to mind is privileged. Privileged for the opportunities and living conditions I have.”

On Sunday, we traveled together by bus to the village of “Segunda Cruz,” to work, eat and play with the villagers. This was a powerful experience of how the majority of Guatemalans live. Despite their poverty, the way they shared with us was a real inspiration. The students especially like playing some raucous futbol (soccer) with the village children and painting – also with the village children – the classroom that GV has built. 

Segunda Cruz 3We have also completed our first day of work at the construction site in a Mayan village named “Santa Maria de Jesus”. A beautiful place in the foot hill of the magnificent “Volcan de Agua” (Agua Volcano). The view from this place to the Valley is just amazing; it’s really hard to describe in words the beauty of the landscape and the people we are working with. The work was challenging, as we needed to move 1.5 cubic yards of gravel from the top of the road to the school site. As well as mixing it with sand and cement to make the concrete that will make the beams of the three classrooms that we are building.

By the time I’m typing this words, the students are taking one-on-one Spanish lessons, there a lot of laughs and smiles among all of us. Rain started to come down and you can smell it on the air. I can definitely tell you without hesitation, that the sense of community of this group is just amazing. So, until the next time adios amigos!

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