Tropical forests, wildlife, bright colors, and hot weather are some of the things you think of when you hear South America. Poverty, starvation, and homeless children would not be anyone’s top reasons to visit Guatemala. I know they weren’t mine, but I knew I was going there to help, not vacation. My grandma first brought up the idea of going on a missionary trip with the group Missionary Ventures to Guatemala; I did not jump for joy. In fact, I didn’t even commit to go until a month before the trip.
My first impression of Guatemala, was the airport, it was nicer than LAX. With Brand name stores, fast food restaurant chains and squeaky-clean floors. Next, we all loaded up in new trucks and traveled to the first house. It wasn’t until the second day that things got a little rough. We spent that whole day and most of the night, traveling to the worksite in the remote rural area to help build a youth center for the kids who couldn’t afford to go to school. On a previous trip they had finished most of the bunkhouses, a gymnasium, a cafeteria, and restrooms. This trip our main goal was to build tables and pour cement walkways.
But first we handed out kitchen necessities and games and crafts for the children. I could not believe the reaction from the people, they were crying out of joy. They were going through the boxes like children on Christmas morning. But instead of getting maculate toys of that year, they were receiving items that I used everyday. These were the things they would just dream of having. It made me realize how much I took for granted.
The best parts of my trip were the children. These kids were the sweetest and most unselfish people. They told me how they wished they could go to school but couldn’t because their parents needed their help with the house or the farm and couldn’t afford it. It was sad to see how ecstatic they were when we would give them coloring books and used markers. Their faces will always be in my head and heart.
Although this was a mission trip, we had one day to visit Panajachel, a beautiful tourist city in Guatemala. The streets were filled with vendors as far as I could see and resorts, restaurants, gorgeous views, and the X-Tremos zip lining, which was so much fun to watch my 72 year old grandma do. Even in this busy tourist city, you could see the poverty and desperation. The vendors slept in their booths with their families. The kids would beg you to take their picture and when you did they would say you owed them money for doing so. They followed you up and down the street all day until you paid them or you went to your room and locked your door.
By the end of this trip I learned lots and lots of things I will never forget, To this day I am still appreciative of being able to flush toilet paper in the toilet, Guatemala’s plumbing can’t handle the paper, and being able to drink our running water. That is what I really learned from this trip, being appreciative of all the little things I take for granted. I also learned to lend a hand to those who are in need of such simple things, if we all helped even in the slightest way such as donating our old clothes, dishes, etc. we could change the way other people are forced to live.
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