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By Marna, Gr. 11
The trip my school group took to Guatemala this past Spring Break was an adventure that I will never forget. Between a tranquil stay in a colourful Mayan village nestled on the banks of the ethereal Lago Atitlan, a visit paid to Chichicastenango, home to what is surely the most vibrant and beautifully traditional Native market in Central America, and the sensory experience of meandering through the cobblestone streets of Antigua, brought to life with the exuberant annual processions of their “Semana Santa,” there was truly never a dull moment. Perhaps the most evocative of all was the time spent with the children and their mothers at Project Somos, a facility dedicated to providing single and widowed mothers and their children a loving home, and hope for a better tomorrow. Unfortunately, the devastating circumstances through which these families were forced to suffer are far from uncommon in the beautiful and tragic country of Guatemala; a country bursting at the seams with inner contradictions. It is a forgotten civilization erased from the world map by its own media induced inertia; where the tears of those crippled with suffering trickle deep into the undaunted soil.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, to really stop and think about how much we have. It’s an impossible pill to swallow when you see those who have nothing by comparison. Though this was not my first time visiting a developing country, the images of poverty that I was continually bombarded with generated intense feelings of discouragement and futility. However, forming relationships and bonds with the families at the project took everything to the next level for me. We were not simply taking a few seconds to gawk at people and situations that we can not even begin to comprehend through tinted bus windows. Instead, we were given the opportunity to get to know these people on what felt like equal grounds – in the sense that both parties had something they could learn from each other. The bonds that were made at Project Somos are a true testament to the concept of shared humanity, at the most fundamental level. Though different cultures have different strategies by which people satisfy their needs, due to the varying norms, options and access to resources, the disparity ends here. When I looked into the eyes of the children and their mothers, past all of the circumstantial differences, whether we were discussing our days, or simply sharing a laugh – I saw myself in them.
My experience at Project Somos was not only a journey of cultural discovery but one of self-discovery. It also put many things into perspective for me – I now realize that as long as those with the ability to change the world isolate themselves from the part of the world that needs change, those people will not be fully equipped to change the world. This is why it is crucial for people like us to experience and witness firsthand the things that need changing. I am extremely thankful to have been given the opportunity to do so, and I aspire to carry my newfound global citizenship with me in my future endeavours. I hope to dedicate my life to using what I have to offer, in order to touch the lives of those whose lives need touching. Our time in Guatemala served as a source of inspiration for me to do just that.
I will forever treasure the relationships that were formed on this trip. The families at the project, Melvin and Carlos, and all those living below the poverty line in Guatemala, will forever be in my thoughts and prayers.