Guatemala: What I Took Home with Me

We arrived in Guatemala City on a cloudy Thursday afternoon. We were a group of 7 women, aged 10–18, who had all fundraised for Pencils of Promise. Our group soon left Guatemala City and began our 4-hour trip to Mazatenago. We arrived in Mazatenago at dark — feeling weary and tired, with no idea what the next three days would hold. When we woke up, we were greeted with the most beautiful sights: mountains, volcanoes and flowers. We were also greeted with the most beautiful sounds: birds, church bells and busy city streets. As we left for the first community, Cantón Pumá, I had no idea what lay ahead of me. Little did I know, I would leave Guatemala with a full heart and a clear mind.

I can sum up my top takeaway from my PoP Field Trip with one word: happiness. It’s nearly impossible to describe the pure happiness I not only felt, but observed. In my opinion, a child, anywhere in the world, has an uncanny ability to light up a room. The smilies I saw and the children I met could light up the whole world. Seeing the communities pre-build was difficult, but inspiring. It was difficult to see because of what poor shape each classroom was in, however, it was inspiring to know that there was hope. It was encouraging to know that the 6 other girls surrounding me were collectively bringing hope to these communities. I’ve been asked what my favorite moment or memory from my trip was and at first it was hard for me to answer that question, but then I realized my answer was simple. My favorite moments came from the students and families. I spoke such little Spanish that communicating was difficult. But, luckily in moments like these, there’s little need for talking. The moments are special regardless of the language barrier.

One thing I didn’t expect going into this trip was the love and appreciation that came from each and every person in the community. Almost every community we visited gave us gifts, such as coconut water, fruits, blankets and handmade cards. These people have so little, but they are happy, and more than that, they are appreciative and grateful to PoP. The parents and community leaders are like all parents, they want more for their children. They realize that PoP is creating new opportunities. It was astonishing to me how much they gave us, regardless of how little they had. I’ve worked with PoP for several years. I’ve tried to fill myself with as much information as I possibly could prior to this trip. I never even considered the fact that most kids don’t have a bathroom in their own homes. I never considered that the bathrooms and sinks PoP supplies through WASH are the only opportunities the kids have to use a real restroom. Seeing WASH firsthand was something that opened my eyes to recognize how essential PoP’s work is.

One thing I want to touch on is the empowerment I felt. I felt empowered standing with 6 other awesome women in a place where we could visibly see the change we were making. I’m hopeful that the girls in those communities saw futures for themselves through us, futures containing education extending beyond the 6th grade.

On our way to the airport on our final day, I wrote a little paragraph of reflection. It’s raw, it’s honest and it’s straight from the field:

Pencils of Promise is quite simply my first love. There’s a certain beauty to its mission, its work and its beliefs. There is a certain beauty to what I have seen this past weekend. There is beauty in the communities. Their simple way of living, their smiling happy faces. There is beauty in the children, whose lives we have changed. Their faces light up when the cars pull up; seeing them come alive is beautiful. The colors. The Mayan dress. The bright city streets. The mountains and volcanoes. Watching mothers cry of happiness, watching the children’s faces as we cut the ribbon, hearing the happiness. It’s all beautiful. There’s a poverty here unlike any other. Despite that, it is beautiful. The people have so little, but they are happy. I will never forget the children who taught me WASH (Marietta, Jorge, y Alejandro, muchas gracias). I will never forget the shy little 3rd grade boy whose smile lit up a room. I will never forget Adam who wants to be the next Bruno Mars and move to the States. I will never forget the beautiful girl who asked me to dance at her inauguration ceremony. I will never forget the woman who pulled me aside, thanked me and gave me a hug. These are the memories I will take with me the rest of my life. These are the moments I will never forget. To all of the sweet boys and girls I met, please know that I will never forget you. The 1,500 miles between us are nothing compared to the love I have for you, today and always. This is why Pencils of Promise is my first love. This is why I so firmly believe in our mission. This is why I’m leaving Guatemala with a heart full of love and hope.

There is only one thing left that I can say,

Muchas Gracias.

Cantón Pumá