Guatemala Service Immersion Trip With Fordham Global Outreach and Share Tours

In early August, I spent a week in Guatemala working with Fordham alumni and Share Tours on a new school for kids in Tecpan. In a remote village in Tecpan, overlooking corn fields on hillsides there stood a newly constructed school awaiting a cement pavement and a paint job. A few years ago, the community had gotten together to build the school, but stopped work on it when the funds ran out. The old school was in decent shape, but with growing number of kids, the classes had to be held outdoors.

Share Tours is an innovative culture and experience exchange program that helps achieve organizational goals, while offering a unique and fulfilling experience to participants.​ The non-profit works with organized groups and local partners in rural communities of Guatemala.​

With the help of Share Tours, our team of seven immediately got to work on the replacement school. We mixed cement and painted the class rooms and outside walls of the school. In our spare time, we played with the kids and participated in their lessons. In turn, the kids taught us about their culture and welcomed us into their homes. It was an action packed week, and I am so grateful for the experience.

You can leave a place, but the place never leaves you. It’s hard to forget the kids’ vibrant smiles, their colorful clothing, and their eagerness to learn. One of my favorite moments was engaging with the girls and dancing with them. On a sunny afternoon, while the boys went off to play football, the girls gathered around us wanting us to play with them. With minimal Spanish language competency, I had a hard time communicating with them. However, if there is one universal language, it’s dance. So, we asked the kids to show us their traditional dancing. The girls beamed and started the music. Within minutes, we started swirling and moving our bodies to the hip, high energy beats. Kids as young as four and as old as fourteen joined the fun, and our laughter must have traveled throughout the village. At the end, all the girls gave us hugs, and it was that moment I will never forget.

After completing work on the school, our group visited Iximche Mayan ruins, Lake Atitlan, and Antigua. But the most fulfilling part for me was spending time with the youngsters, and lending a helping hand towards their new school. Now, when I am sitting on the subway going to work, I think about the adorable students walking to their new school with their little backpacks and smile.

Below is a collection of the highlights:

If you’d like to help me fund my volunteer trip, please visit my GoFundMe page. Thanks!

Published by Lavanya

Lavanya Sunkara is a writer, animal lover, and globetrotter based in New York City. She has written for The New York Times, Fodor’s, Architectural Digest, Shermans Travel, The Dodo, and many more in a career spanning eight years. She covers travel, eco-lifestyle, culture, pets, and wildlife conservation.

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