For the past six years, senior Carter Knott has spent a week during his summer devoted to helping communities in Guatemala. Throughout his trip, he travels to places including Guatemala City, La Gomera and San Lucas. Knott goes on these trips through an organization entitled Manna Worldwide, aimed towards rescuing families from poverty.
“My favorite part about this trip is seeing the impact that we have on these families’ lives,” Knott said. “They live in the one of the poorest parts of their country but are still so loving and generous. It’s such an eye-opening experience and makes you realize all the blessings we have.”
While in Guatemala, Knott does different types of work, including volunteering at orphanages, playing with children, going on home visits and bringing supplies to families. However, aside from that, he also does construction work to improve the community.
“We have been in the process of building a church, which is now also running a feeding center out of it. A few years ago, we built an orphanage in Guatemala City that is now housing over 50 children and newborns,” Knott said.
Though Knott goes on these trips to help poverty-ridden areas, they have also served as a gateway to many new friendships that have lasted through the past six years.
“I have made relationships that will last a lifetime,” Knott said. “I still talk to one of the girls I met from the feeding center my first trip. Every year I go back, I find her and her family and spend time with them.”
While the trip is an eye-opening experience for Knott, he advises that students wishing to go on a similar trip be prepared for the destitution they may encounter.
“If you are not emotionally prepared to see hardships, then you will have a hard time going on these kinds of trips because when you go, you are going with a purpose to serve in any conditions,” Knott said. “Being in a third-world country really puts into perspective how tremendously blessed we are. There is so much hurt and poverty that we don’t see in America on a daily basis.”
Junior Jess Horne will be going to Costa Rica with her cousin this year for the first time through the program Rustic Pathways, which combines service activities with cultural experiences, from July 10- 18. Horne is visiting La Fortuna, a small town outside capital San José.
“I decided to go on this trip after my cousin went on a similar one to the Dominican Republic,” Horne said. “She has so many memories and always talks about how amazing it was, so I thought I would enjoy something like it too.”
Though Horne has not yet gone on the trip, she received an itinerary with the activities from day to day, combining service activities like improving schools, planting trees and teaching English to children, with zip-lining, whitewater rafting and visiting volcanoes and hot springs. While in Costa Rica, Horne will also learn about the Ticos, or native Costa Ricans.
“I’m looking forward to the mix of service and learning about a new culture while also meeting kids around the country,” Horne said. “I hope to learn about a new culture I know almost nothing about, the Tico culture. I am really looking forward to being able to interact with—but most importantly help—the locals.”
Before planning the trip, Horne and her cousin did extensive research on different trips to see what suited their interests so they could get the most out of the trip as possible. She recommends doing the same thing for prospective travelers.
“Although I haven’t been on my trip yet, a word of advice would be to do your research and see what you really want to get out of a service project,” Horne said. “There are so many different options out there through so many different programs, so you can definitely find one that you could see yourself participating in.”
For the first time last year, junior Gabby O’Hara traveled to a small village called Batey San Rafael in the Dominican Republic through an organization entitled Praying Pelican Missions with her church.
During the summer of 2019, O’Hara plans to go back to the same place again. O’Hara’s experience in Batey San Rafael involved spreading religion to others, as Praying Pelican Missions’ goal is to “connect the local church on a global level.” She and 30 members of her church spent each morning doing vacation bible school—religious education targeted towards children—with 50 adolescents from the village. After that, they also spent time helping to rebuild the community.
“We worked on building large chicken coops for the families, and we raised money at our church to purchase chickens for each of the 15 families in the village,” O’Hara said. “We also donated supplies like shirts, shorts and sneakers to the families since they had no money to purchase them.”
Although she knew everyone from church who went on the trip, O’Hara also formed new relationships with people from Batey San Rafael. “Every day, we played with the children and brought them basketballs. Even though we only went a week, I became friends with all the kids I played with,” O’Hara said. “This trip brought me closer to everyone in the village from grandparents to young children.”
O’Hara’s week-long trip changed her perspective on the world and taught her things she otherwise might not have learned.
“I learned that instead of looking at what I do not have, I have to make an effort to focus on what I do have,” O’Hara said. “Although these families have close to nothing in material things, they have so much love and joy they shared with us. I also learned that having gratitude helps us focus on experiences instead of material things.”
O’Hara would recommend this trip to students like herself who are interested in helping out impoverished areas of the world, and she plans on going back every other year with her church.
“I would definitely recommend this trip to someone interested in helping a poor part of the world. The people were beyond thankful for the help we gave to them, and it gives you a whole new perspective on life,” O’Hara said.