Spring Break in Guatemala

The Manna Project Guatemala site enjoyed two groups of outstanding spring break volunteers this March from Vanderbilt University and the University of Georgia.

Vanderbilt arrived on March 1st with 10 people ready to work. The group set out to construct (and re-construct in some places) a playground for the local pre-school in Chaquijyá. They arrived to the school bearing paint, shovels, and over a dozen tires. Throughout their week-long stay, they added a teeter-totter, a tire jungle-gym, two brand new swings, and layered the entire area with grass to protect any niños who might fall while playing. The Parent Committee of the school matched our efforts by joining us every day to guide and collaborate with Manna in the construction of the playground. Vanderbilt’s spring break also coincided with Carnaval, and the group was able to experience all Guatemalan Carnaval festivities – especially the use (or overuse, some might argue) of “pica pica”, paper confetti. Jack Suiter, the student leader of the group shared his thoughts on their week-long experience with Manna Project:

My time as a leader and participant during my time in Guatemala was as rewarding as it was challenging. I was pushed to extend myself to new customs, people and places, and enjoyed each minute doing so. Our leaders did an outstanding job in showing us as much of Guatemala as they could in a single week – I connected with parents and children at a local school, and learned to shower in a lake. I would not have wanted my spring break any different, and I hope to again connect with a new group of people soon, whether that be in Guatemala or any other place in this wonderful world of ours. – Jack Suiter

Peter Kim, a Vanderbilt freshman, composed a list of something he “learned” every day while on-site in Guatemala.

Eight things I learned in Guatemala (Peter Kim)
Day 1: Transportation in Guatemala for ten people is always cramped
Day 2: Always carry tissue around. ALWAYS
Day 3: Mayan herbs can cure just about any illness 
Day 4: Kids LOVE Carnaval
Day 5: The van from day one fits 27 people
Day 6: Nothing makes you more proud than finishing a playground for preschool kids
Day 7: Coconut water is the most refreshing drink when you are dehydrated
Day 8: A last game of Catch Phrase in the airport never hurts.

The completed playground

The University of Georgia and the Parent Committee of another local school collaborated to paint an entire elementary school a beautiful shade of blue. The group also gave six sessions of English classes to the students in the school. In between painting and teaching, the group played soccer and basketball with the students of the school. For Christine Lopez, a UGA freshman, this was her second time as a community volunteer in Guatemala. She shared her thoughts on her experience with Manna Project.

After visiting Guatemala in 2011, I was very excited to revisit it this spring break. Of course, I faced some nervousness as I boarded the plane because I hadn't traveled outside of the country in several years. However, landing in Guatemala felt like reuniting with an old friend. As an Early Childhood Education major, I was very excited to work in the local school. I enjoyed teaching English to a variety of age groups and working with the kids-- it was good practice for the future! However, I have to say the highlight of my trip was when I learned more about myself. Two important realizations came out of this trip: language and nature. I was afraid that I had lost much of my spanish since coming to college, but I was reassured in the Guatemalan environment that I was still able to communicate just fine with the locals. I also realized that I enjoy hiking! I didn't think I would like it, but I ended up loving climbing at the Reserve and Volcano Pacaya. One of the highlights of the trip that I've been happy to brag about to my friends was roasting marshmallows over recently erupted lava rocks. After this trip, I look forward to the next time I can visit Latin America!  -- Christine Lopez

The Committee and the UGA group in front of the newly painted school

Manna Project and the community of Chaquiyá in Guatemala are so thankful for the hard work of both of these fantastic volunteer groups that visited us over spring break! Do you want the chance to travel to a Manna Project site during a school break? Contact springbreak@mannaproject.org for more information.