Six members of the university community are spending their Spring Break in Guatemala as part of FIU alternative Breaks. They will help construct a school in the San Juan Comalapa community, working alongside local workers and other volunteers in re-using trash to develop the school’s infrastructure. FIU News is following the team’s journey through updates provided by the group members.
Today was the best day we’ve spent in Guatemala so far.
It started with a delicious breakfast of eggs, tomato, hot sauce, hot tea, and of course, more tortillas. After breakfast, Ben, a staff member of Long Way Home, walked us up the hill toward the school while debating Cuban history with Maylen and the pro-revolution views of the volunteers. The walk, which was very hard on our breathing the first day, was surprisingly easier.
When we arrived at the school, it was buzzing with last minute preparations for the welcome presentation students had organized for us. As the first graders practiced their dances, we talked with the other volunteers about their backgrounds.
The teachers rounded us up to watch the children as they welcomed us. The presentations started with all the students reading the sign they made that said “Bienvenidos y Gracias Por Ayudar”, which translates to welcome and thank you for coming. The children then separated into their grade level and joined us in watching their classmates dance. The first group to dance were the first and second graders who had the teachers lead them in spins and turns while in their little cowboy and cowgirl outfits. Soon after watching the older groups dance, a first grader named Anna was watching the other students with Allison and I but couldn’t see, so she sat on my lap and watched the show with me.
After all the classes danced, the teachers announced that the students had prepared cards for us. The students lined up by class and gave us each beautiful handmade cards that had thank you notes in them. My favorite moment was when Anna, with whom I had previously watched the show, ran up to me first to give me a card. Afterward, we gave the kids backpacks full of pencils, crayons and erasers. The kids went crazy for the gifts and gave us hugs to show their gratitude.
Once the dancing and gift giving was done it was off to the park to enjoy a field day with the kids. The children immediately ran to the playground and to the giant swing. The whole rest of the school day was spent playing and running around and just getting a chance to interact with the kids.
After the kids’ school day was done, we went off to work shoveling gravel and dirt to create a water irrigation system and tire wall for the school. Although it was grueling work at the end of the day, this past day has made me realize what we are here for and how these kids are benefiting from the work we’re doing. I truly think this organization is doing something that will permanent impact this community for the better.