We’re starting our 2nd full day here today, Friday, with another early morning breakfast (we’re always down stairs waiting to eat before they even open up the restaurant) and then heading out of the city to start our work.
A big thanks to Jenn today for her guest post. I’m so excited to read about others’ trips and experiences, especially when they make an impact like this one below.
Hope you’re all having a fantastic week, a great Friday, and a fun start to your weekend.
Hi Bran Appetit readers! My name is Jenn and I am the author of Eating Bender. When Brandi asked me if I would write a guest post while she was in Honduras, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Reading about her journey abroad inspired me to revisit my own mission trip experience to Guatemala back in the summer of 2005.
I had heard rumblings about the mission trip that was offered to just-graduated seniors at my high school, but truthfully never gave the opportunity serious consideration until I began dating a certain someone during my junior year. The non-profit that organizes the trips, Common Hope, was very near and dear to his family. They even sponsored a child named Juan, helping his family receive access to Common Hope’s services so that he could go to school and live healthy in a clean, safe environment.
Over the course of my junior year, I became more and more convinced that I needed to be one of the seniors fortunate enough to go on this trip. When senior year began, Bobby and I applied. Then, in the summer of 2005, we boarded a plane with eight other students and two teachers to Guatemala City.
The decision completely changed my life.
I’ve read countless books and blogs, seen countless television news stories and photo slideshows that document the (many times) harsh realities of civilians living in struggling countries. Certainly, when we traveled along the outskirts of Guatemalan cities into small villages and hillsides, I realized firsthand the often-overlooked luxury of clean water and a sturdy roof overhead – not to mention the substantial amount of work that still needs to be done to ensure this for not just the people of Guatemala, but the people in countries all over the world. It’s these sights and stories that originally brought Common Hope into existence.
But an even bigger learning lesson for me, one that I truly do not believe I could have fully grasped without being there in person (they say seeing is believing, after all) was the value of an education, which is at the heart of Common Hope’s mission. The organization has built new schools and empowered already existing ones with quality curriculum. They help teachers implement more engaging material in the classroom every day.
In short, I found that education is what brings the smiles to these children’s faces. They are given the opportunity to learn, to work, to grow and, by all means, to play.
What really brings tears to my eyes is that this opportunity for an education is offered with as much encouragement and open-ended hope for the future to the girls as it is to the boys. As someone who champions female entrepreneurship and, more broadly, the right of every human being to find – and do – work that they love, there can be no greater satisfaction than to see a young girl unencumbered by societal constraints against her gender, who is given the freedom to dream of becoming a doctor, a lawyer, a journalist, a business owner; who is told by her family and her teachers that by setting goals for herself and working hard at school, she can live an accomplished and happy life.
We all knew each other before the trip, but were still to some extent broken down into the smaller groups generated by four years of high school. At the end of our journey, as cliché as it sounds, we were all closer, having shared such a transformational experience together.
(Bobby and I are the two in front wearing red. I promise we don’t match on purpose.)
And here I am, still remembering it like it happened yesterday, six years later.
Bobby’s family has continued to travel to Guatemala in recent years and we all currently sponsor the education of another child through Common Hope. I look forward to going back someday in the future and checking in on the young girls with big brown eyes and endless energy who, thanks to organizations like Common Hope, were taught that anything is possible. The same girls who screamed, “Vuelta! Vuelta!” (Spin! Spin!), giggling as we took turns grabbing them by both hands and turning them in circles, their tiny bodies lifting into the air against gravity and flying parallel to the ground, like Superman.
Actually, let’s make that Superwoman.