Pics and Comments from Team 2010

See the TV news footage of the team's homecoming!
For the full story on the work being done in Guatemala, read here.
To hear more about the natural disasters
this year's team encountered while in Guatemala,
read here.
We thought the best way to tell the story of the 2010 trip was to let those who went tell you in their own words about their experiences. Enjoy the Q & A that follow...

Q:  What were some of your impressions about the trip and Santa Cruz?

  I found it extremely eye-opening and really thought-altering.

A:  It was just a little culture shocking only because we get used to the way we live and things we experience daily, and we forget that not everyone is as blessed as we are. When I would get homesick or worried about something, I would remind myself that there are people that have it far worse off than I do. I am so happy I went!

A:  While we were [in Santa Cruz], I heard everyone talking about the poverty that these people were in. I understood where they were coming from, but I had a hard time grasping it. I saw these people as very rich; maybe not rich in the sense of monetary status, but in the sense that they were so blessed by God and happy. They were willing to share what little they had. How many of us here in the U.S. are willing to do that, with all the money we have?

A:  Despite the extreme poverty that these children live in, they are full of joy and hope for their future. 

A:  I was so struck by the joy of the children in Santa Cruz. They have so little but are still happy. But happy isn't enough to sustain life. I'm very proud that we are able to offer them more: health, education, and economic self-sufficiency. I know that the hope for their futures that we saw in them is in no small part due to the work we've been privileged to do in Santa Cruz. I feel so blessed to have been a part of the change happening there!
Q:  What were some of your favorite or most meaningful experiences?

  One of my favorite parts was when the whole team fasted for lunch and instead fed not only the Santa Cruz students, but took leftovers into the community.

A:  After our work in the village was over for this trip, we had a couple of days scheduled to stay in Guatemala City. One of the days, we were planning on climbing Pacaya, a famous Guatemalan volcano, and the other day, we planned to spend in the market in Antigua, a town known for its beauty, colonial charm, and large market. Then Payaca erupted! A “state of calamity” was declared and the city – and airport – shut down as the city was blanketed in volcanic ash. As our team was processing this information and preparing to shift our plans, we heard word that Hurricane Agatha was off the Pacific coast and was about to hit Guatemala. The heavy rainfall from the storm worsened the state of emergency, causing several mudslides and widespread flooding. Thousands lost their homes, crops, and more – over 150 lost their lives.

While we were waiting for the airport to reopen, our team had the opportunity to help build homes for families so poverty stricken that they lived in shacks at the city garbage dump. Their “homes” were destroyed by the hurricane. We spent two days in the dump and helped build safer, dryer houses for 5 families there and left materials for 3 more houses to be built. We also painted murals on walls in the children’s rooms of a church that ministers to families living in the dump, and we spent some time at an orphanage getting to know yet another group of beautiful children and helping them to calm down after the back-to-back natural disasters.

To see this type of poverty was a new experience for me. It was absolutely heartbreaking to watch children, toddlers, babies, playing in trash. I am grateful to have had my eyes opened to this type of poverty.

A:  What most impacted me was working in the dump [in Guatemala City]. The dump made Santa Cruz look and feel like paradise. The houses we built [for the people who live at the dump] varied [in size], but one I remember was 13x17 ft. My room is bigger than that! The houses we built were a 100% improvement from what they previously had, but at the same time, my lawn mower sits in a shed that would be better suited for living. 

A:  I had the privilege to listen to and translate a presentation that a group of junior high students gave on the status of their second-hand clothing store, which they created after having won a business plan competition at their school. Our organization funded the start-up of this business, and we were blessed by hearing the report on the current status of the business. They walked us through their experience, explaining both the ups and downs of their business. These students have already gone beyond expected in their studies, they continue to care for younger siblings and help out at home, and they use their weekends to develop their business.

A:  Building houses in the dump was the most eye-opening to me because of the living conditions that [the people there] were in.I think we had just as big of an impact in the city as we did in the village.

A:  Some of the children became very special to me. One was named Victor. I told Victor that one day I hope to come back. Victor said, "I'll be waiting."

A:  Feeding the hungry, talking with one junior high student at a time to let them know how special they are, and hearing about the dreams of these young people and seeing the men and women they are/have become.

A:  For me, the most meaningful experiences in Santa Cruz were playing with the children and letting them use my camera and connecting with them. The fiesta we gave the children on the last day was so much fun, but that day was so sad, too. Everyone was crying when we had to leave, even the kids, which made me cry more.

A:  The focus for me was 100% on the junior high students who we have worked with for 7 years.  Their growth, their ideas, their hopes and dreams were being realized right in front of my eyes - they were different people and it was truly inspiring.

Q:  What was it like to be stranded in Guatemala because of the volcanic eruption and subsequent hurricane?

Neither I nor the team would ever have been able to work in the dump had we not been "stranded."

A:  I was very happy to be "stranded" in Guatemala. I didn't feel like the trip was over for me yet: not until the day before we actually left did I feel like I really wanted to go back home!

A:  In a way I thought the natural disasters were a good thing for our team [in the sense that it was] a way for us to grow closer and to bring help to more individuals.

A:  It was frustrating to not have any plans, but we ended up being pretty busy the whole time. Even though it was tiring and stressful, it was hard to be mad at anything because of how fortunate we are in comparison.

A:  My first response was to see it as an adventure, but through the help of our local friends and translators, I was overwhelmed by the impact this would have over the next year on the people of Guatemala and in particular the community of Santa Cruz.  It showed me how much they live on the edge, as a single storm could mean fighting hunger all year long.
Q:  What has it been like for you since being home?

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about my time in Guatemala
I miss the kids, strangers who smile at you like an old friend, and I miss bringing light into so many lives on a daily basis. 

A:  i miss the children sooooooo much!

A:  I've been working at my job at a daycare, and it started off kind of hard because the kids here are spoiled and still not happy. But they don't know any better. Sometimes I share stories with them about Santa Cruz and try to teach them. :-)

A:  Since returning home, I definitely feel as though I have a lot more than before, and I am so much more thankful for what I have than what I don't have.

A:  Being back home makes me want to go back! This experience has made me appreciate things so much more. Now I try not to take things for granted. Even though it happens, I still remind myself that I’m blessed, and I thank God for that.

A:  Now that I am home, I really want to go out in the community to help those in need. We shouldn't only be helpful out in other countries, but we also should try and find opportunities in our community. I plan to contact a local orphanage/group-home to find out if they could use some help.

A:  I miss that village SO much. I miss the beauty of the mountains, and the trip up the mountain everyday with the team. I miss the kids (especially Victor and Angel)! I miss seeing their smiles and joy despite their lack of "things." I miss playing with them, singing with them, trying to talk with them! And I miss the love from the people of Santa Cruz.

A:  Busy, but this is where my life is and this is home. I am really looking forward to doing as deep a project as Santa Cruz here in our own community.