M-A senior Cameron Kelly first traveled to Guatemala to do community service work three years ago. He went, he admits, because he was looking for a bit of adventure and his mother knew about the trips. But then we went again the next year. And will go for a third time this June.
“The people, the poverty, everything hit me harder the second time,” he said. “Now I really want to go back.”
The upcoming trip in June, 2011 – organized by nonprofit Global Visionaries and led by M-A teachers Paul Snow and Andrew Stuart – will be the 13th year Menlo-Atherton High School students have traveled to Antigua, Guatemala. According to Snow, students who go in June will resume construction of a fourth school, work on reforestation projects begun years ago, and continue to help at Hospital Hermano Pedro. These projects are familiar to M-A art and ceramics teacher Deb Gutof, who lead the the 2009 and 2010 trips. Students stay with host families and receive daily Spanish lessons at a local language school.
“Students return from the Guatemala trip with a real sense of how good we have it here in the U.S.” said Snow. “They work side by side with Guatemalan youth and help construct schools in some of the most impoverished villages in Guatemala. They’re working for the benefit of children who have never worn a pair of shoes and that sleep in make-shift homes with dirt floors. I think one of the greatest parts of the trip is seeing students come back with a new found love of community service, and an appreciation of what it means to be a ‘global citizen’.”
Shoes, in fact, played an important part in Cameron’s experience this past summer. “I was picked to be a part of a smaller group of kids who went to Segunda Cruz,” he said. “A school had been built there some years ago. We went to visit with the kids and their families and handed out shoes that we’d personally raised money to buy.
“Now I tell other kids that although building a school or planting a tree is hard work, it’s really worth it because you’re really helping people. What we do makes them smile and that makes me feel good, too.”
Cameron is quick to point out that it’s not all hard work. There’s the benefit of being immersed in Spanish and getting to climb to the top of the pyramids in Tikal. Then there’s sports day.
“We play a soccer game,” he said. “Last June the American team won for the first time. That was so cool!”
You can learn more about the community service project at Global Visionaries or by contacting Paul Snow, the trip’s leader at psnow[at]seq.org. As for Cameron Kelly, he’s also an aspiring rapper, whose latest song is on YouTube.
Photo of Cameron in Guatemala, courtesy of Cameron Kelly. Photo of Cameron in red shirt by Linda Hubbard Gulker.