By: Lexi Zabel
It’s not every day that you get to fly over 2,000 miles (about 3218.69 km) to a country in Central America.Recently, a group of students from Graceland’s Community Development Club had the life-changing opportunity to travel to Guatemala to learn. The group included Peyton Anderson, Katie Bover, Addison Cole, Audrey Cole, Josh Newton, Grace Moores, Adam Sherer, and Ishbel Wilson. While they were there, they had the opportunity to learn about the Guatemalan culture, integrate with families and young people , and learn how they build a kitchen for a school. Few people know what to expect and how to go about a learning experience such as this one. This opportunity deeply impacted the students. They hope to share with others about their experiences and to encourage other students to travel in future years.
Max Pitt, a professor and advisor of the Graceland Community Development Club, and Morgan Bradford, Director of Residence Life, helped make the trip possible by planning and chaperoning. For Pitt, taking students to Guatemala was a special experience because it helped them “learn how people live at a whole different income level and experience joy.” Along with this, he mentions how being in an unfamiliar setting, not sure what to expect, not only educated the group who went, but also taught them more aboutthemselves. Pitt’s hope is for the Graceland students to use the education from Guatemalans and to be inspired by the lessons they learned, people they met, and memories they made. Pitt says, “May the inspiration from this experience encourage more Graceland students to travel to Guatemala, to learn about authentic community development, and to help others help themselves locally and globally.”
Pitt, Bradford, and the Graceland Students worked closely with two nonprofit organizations to assist on projects, build relationships, and learn in any way they could. Within these organizations, the goal is to educate families and individuals on ways they can help themselves. People easily misunderstand the goal of travel opportunites such as this one . The goal was to learn from the Guatemalan people because they were the educators. Pitt explained, “they’re writing the story, we just had the opportunity and privilege to read it.” With this being said, the Community Development Club was able to integrate with the people in the community, build relationships and make memories by working together and creating something special. This experience is guaranteed to be one that everyone involved will never forget, and they will forever hold these moments in their hearts.
Another huge part of this trip was the community that was created. More specifically, Katie Bover shared, “One of my favorite things that impacted me a lot was that we could feel howstrong the community was. We all commented on just how friendly everybody was, almost every person youpassed on the street would tell you hi or greet you and I just loved that.” Bover also explains how one of her favorite moments was playing cards with some of the children. Although there were challenges because of the different languages, Bover observed, “It’s really special to experience how easily you can connect with kids across a language barrier and other obstacles and it’s something I’m very grateful for.” Overall, it is evident that the Graceland Students came back with knowledge and experiences they will carry with them everywhere they go.