Guatemala: One student’s reflection on the experience of a lifetime

Victoria Clarizio

Staff Writer

Jessica Manning picking coffee and gaining a real sense of solidarity with the people of Guatamala. Photo credit Diane Gasko.

Nine giggling girls were headed to a warm climate–not for vacation but for service.

This was the picture painted as eight fellow students and I headed to Guatemala over winter break.  Along with Srs. Cathy Luxner and Donna

Korba, I.H.M. we traveled to the village of San Lucas Toliman, which is about two hours from Guatemala City.  We went mainly to serve the people of Guatemala

but ended up learning and receiving much more in return.

Bridget Carrol, Victoria Clarizio, Sr. Donna, Karla Dalious, Monica Bixby and Sr. Cathy move rocks to form the foundation for a road up to the coffee fields. Photo credit Diane Gasko.

On our first day in San Lucas, Father Greg Schaffer, the Priest of the parish in San Lucas for the past fifty years, shared his wisdom with us.  He talked about his experiences and what he has learned about poverty.  When asked what the aim of social justice is, Father Greg answered said that justice is “helping to make the road a little smoother for those we accompany so that we can all walk it together.”

“Living social justice takes patience with yourself and the people you are serving,” he added.

We also left with a real sense of how the people live and work.  A highlight of the trip was picking coffee along with the locals, getting right into the heart of their lives.  Coffee is the main source of income for many people in San Lucas and life revolves around it. The Guatemalan people drink it like water.  Souvenirs from this adventure included scratches and new appreciation for coffee.  We all agreed that the next cup of coffee after picking was the best we had ever had.

Our group had a chance to help at each project being run in San Lucas, giving us great exposure to everything that is happening there.  In addition to picking coffee, we helped build the foundation for a road, constructed a wall, weeded and did various other small tasks.

We also spent New Year’s weekend in Chichicastenango, a city about two hours away from San Lucas, where Sr. Donna taught English for many years at Anunciata school.  We stayed at the school since the students were on vacation and again there was a real sense of solidarity because we slept in beds of the people we were serving.  We repainted the school’s basketball courts and explored the city.  We also had a chance to go to Mass there, which was a beautiful experience and really brought us into communion with the people.

As usually happens on international service trips, we gained much more than we gave.  We all agreed that this trip was a reminder of the important things in life and taught us about enjoying the simple joys of  every day life.

In the words of Sr. Donna, we learned to “see the world with the eyes of God and live in the world with the heart of Jesus.”