Cross-Cultural Lessons: Service in Guatemala

By Katelin Haley, Peace & Justice Editor
With Amy Kluck, Samantha Breiner, and Mary Moskwa

Nine students and three chaperones traveled to Guatemala over Christmas break to serve side by side with the people of Guatemala and experience their culture. The students traveled to the San Lucas Mission on Lake Atitlan in the mountainous region of Guatemala. Four days of the trip were spent experiencing the culture and four days we spent participating in side-by side service with the people of San Lucas.

The cultural experiences involved traveling to Chichicastenano, the site of a colorful marketplace that has made the list of “Top 100 places to see before you die”.             Another site of interest was Santiago Atitlan, the site of the martyrdom of Father Stan Rother, a priest from the United States that was serving in Guatemala during the civil war and was killed for supporting the indigenous peoples. The participants in the trip learned about the difficult history of the people of Guatemala, but were also inspired by their resolution to improve their lives.

Participant Amy Kluck, a graduate student in the social work program shared her thoughts on the experience: “I started the trip crying and ended the trip crying. I began my journey to Guatemala scared of the unknown and with many anxieties of what it was going to be like, how the people were going to be and what we were going to do. Throughout the entire experience, all the fears and anxieties were wiped away with tears of happiness, for the experience and tears filled with hope for the people of Guatemala. It was so amazing that it is hard to explain in words.”

Samantha Breiner, senior nutrition major and veteran service trip participant, experienced the trip in a different way than her past service experiences, “The international trip to Guatemala was similar to other national service trips I have been on because we completed several service projects, such as setting up a library, working at a clinic and painting a school. The trip was different, however, because we completed those service projects in an altogether new environment. Not only did people in Guatemala communicate differently than we did by speaking Spanish, they also went about their daily lives differently–working, eating, praying, etc. –according to their culture.”

Mary Moskwa, senior elementary education major, brought home some very valuable lessons, “we saw the process of poverty where we were however I looked at those people and saw that they were truly rich. They didn’t rely on telephones or the Internet. They didn’t live each day looking at their planners. They didn’t use machines to do their work. The people of Guatemala depended on each other. That is a lesson that I have brought back to the States. We don’t acknowledge people. We acknowledge time and technology. Maybe it is time that we recognize the people walking beside us.”

Students try out their Spanish skills with children in Guatemala. Photo Credit: Katelin Haley
Students learn the origins of their daily cup of joe at San Lucas coffee fields. Photo Credit: Katelin Haley

Marywood volunteers organize the library in the school at San Lucas and discover some of their own favorite books. Photo Credit: Katelin Haley