In a world where you can eat sushi at a corner café in Paris while video-chatting with your family in the United States, it is clear that we live in an increasingly global society! Schools are packed with international students, and people are constantly asking others, “Where are you from?”
Nowadays, most people are proud of their heritage, and we share our hometowns, backgrounds and culture with others freely. In Guatemala, though, the majority of families are still trying to find a place for their Mayan heritage after decades of civil war and oppression, which ended in 1996, but linger in the hearts of the native people.
Only by embracing their culture and sharing it in a positive way with others will the Guatemalan people transform an ugly history into a positive future! Right now, there are two groups of adventurous, compassionate teenagers traveling abroad with GLA’s Guatemalan Service Learning Programs, and they’re working hard to help spread positivity and pride in the Mayan culture to those less fortunate in this war-torn nation.
See how GLA volunteers Abigail and Laila are connecting to a new culture!
“Traveling to Guatemala to explore and do community service was not my first choice. At first, I did not want to come to a country that seemed bland to me, but after my first day here my entire opinion of Guatemala has changed completely! Learning about the history, culture and traditions here opened a colorful new door full of wonder. Now I am really looking forward to what every day brings!”
–Abigail, Spanish, Service and Maya Culture Program
“When there are no open doors, make your own. I have made Guatemala my door. Sound, animals and green scenery bring out a more calm and curious me. Even though this could be a difficult trip, it is worth it. Si se puede!”
-Layla, Spanish, Service and Maya Culture Program
Diving Into Guatemala
Although their days abroad are filled to the brim with service projects, cultural excursions and opportunities for adventure, these teens are also in the midst of some powerful personal transformations. Here’s how GLA volunteers Hannah and Flora (Children of the Maya Program) described one day in Guatemala:
“We woke up to a chorus of iPhone alarm clocks, cock-a-doodle-doos and sheep. We threw on our now paint speckled t-shirts and jeans. After a quick breakfast of pancakes and bagels, we made our way to the school. The school kids were on vacation, so we thought we would spend the morning painting without distraction, yet periodically the sound of our scrapers and the swish of our paintbrushes were dulled by the screams and footsteps of children. The kids were there simply to hang out with us, and they had no classes so they eagerly offered us paining breaks. “Puedo pintar?” “No, es mi turno!”
In the afternoon we divided ourselves into groups and visited the homes of rural Mayan families. It was eye opening. In one of the homes we visited, there were 4 generations of family members living in the same house. And I personally was shocked that they did not have running water. Our reflection at nighttime revolved around our appreciation for what we have. We’ve also had insightful conversations about how superfluously dependent on material we are. It’s so different in Guatemala- they are so grateful for their opportunities, and they care willingly for their land without compensation. I hope this is a lesson we carry home with us!
These volunteers are taking full advantage of the life-changing opportunity to learn about the cultural and social landscape of Guatemala, while making a difference and have an amazing adventure in the process!
To learn more about Guatemala, and how you can a transformative experience of your own, schedule an appointment with one of our enrollment advisors today.