My mission trip to Guatemala in the summer of 2011 appeared to be a way to be experience a different lifestyle than what I was accustomed to in the United States. The idea of also changing the individuals’ lives there was also exciting to me. Before emabarking on this trip I had an idea of what I would be seeing there, and the bus ride deep into the mountains to the small community of San Lucas showed me exactly what I expected: severe poverty. Immediately I felt sorry for the people I encountered because of how little they had. Throughout the ten days of working alongside the Guatemalans we built stoves, helped farmers plant coffee plants, and leveled land for a playground.
I expected to feel like an outcast in this strange new country, because of our very different customs and language. However, I formed some of the closest relationships I have with anyone in my life in spite of our diversity. Just working with the people showed us similarities in humans in general. I especially bonded with a man named Eldar, who was our manager at one of the work sites. He spoke no English, and my Spanish was nowhere near fluent. Regardless, I talked to Eldar for over two hours, we figured out ways to gesture what we meant and find similarities in the two languages. We conversed about our families; I learned he has two sister, a godson and forty cousins. I too have two sisters and a large extended family. I was surprised how easily I could find basis to relate to this man who spoke no English and grew up in a very different culture than me.
I not only found a common ground with Eldar, I also did with the children of San Lucas. At home, I often play soccer with the kids I nanny. In Guatemala, I also played soccer with the local kids after work. This made the barriers between us melt; it didn’t matter what language we spoke or where we grew up, instead all that mattered was the soccer. I was so far away from home, with people that were very different, but we were able to find something to do that we both enjoy.
One evening, I played soccer with boy named Pedro, and handed the ball to him to keep after we were done. This was something we always did after we played because we had many more soccer balls to use. I expected the Guatemalans to easily accept any handouts from the Americans, but this was not the case. The mother searched through her clothes and pulled out one Quetzal, which is equivalent to thirteen cents, and reached out to me. I knew the significance of this to her, when many families here were struggling to feed their families. Instead of just accepting this as a gift, she wanted the pride in saying that she didn’t take a handout. Although I convinced her to save her coin, it shocked me that she was willing to give her hard earned money to me.
This trip ended up being much more than just a way to help the people of San Lucas. In reality, my work in the ten days didn’t significantly impact the lives of the people; however, it forever changed my life. I now see people as just that… people. I don’t assume that people who afflicted by poverty are beggars. I learned that pride is necessary in every human’s life.