In one of three alternative spring break trips offered to Springfield College students, The Together Campaign traveled to Guatemala. The student-led service club annually plans an abroad trip to participate in service projects with a focus on youth outreach.
Following a school year of hard work and planning to make the trip a reality, The Together Campaign’s service dreams came to fruition in rewarding fashion. While in Guatemala, the group gained valuable cultural experience while contributing an array of philanthropic assistance to the Guatemalans they came in contact with.
Much of the trip’s service took place in Santa Marie de Jesus, where The Together Campaign painted the community’s only school a remarkable shade of sunshine yellow.
“The school was built just a year-and-a-half ago, but to these children a new school means a building of plain, cement cinderblocks. We wanted to contribute in a way that would have a long-term positive affect on these children,” remarked senior and group leader Ashley Day.
First-time alternative spring breaker and junior Elizabeth Footit experienced the heart-melting gratitude of those in need more than she imagined could happen.
“On the last day a few of us spent the afternoon painting a mural. I finished and the director asked me to write Springfield College. In broken English he smiled and said, ‘So we can remember all that you did and the happiness you gave.’”
The Together Campaign’s positive attitude did not go unnoticed by Guatemalan locals, who remarked that the group was “more committed than the people had ever seen,” according to Day and Footit. The locals had received service from Americans before – but never with as much passion as delivered by the charming cast of Springfield College students. Rather than following the planned itinerary, the eager students added more services to their plans. In all, contributions included the painting of La Escuela de Santa Marie de Jesus, the delivering of vegetables to poor communities, as well as picking up trash – an activity that was assisted by young, joyful Guatemalan children.
While the group was delivering vegetables to a poor community, a particularly thankful Guatemalan mother burst into tears. Americans had built the woman’s home just a year ago; now, Springfield College students had saved her family much distress in a community of tin-roofed houses that only receives vegetables once a month, and must walk for a full day just to get them.
“The whole week we were welcomed with warm smiles and kind gestures. They don’t have much, but they don’t want much,” said Footit.
It is moments of appreciation that not only change the lives of service recipients, but also the lives of the student contributors. After going on last year’s alternative spring break trip to Jamaica and this year’s trip to Guatemala, Day plans to pursue graduate studies focusing on social change. This is a testament to the rewarding, heartfelt impact The Together Campaign has.
The joy of service made spring break for these students a memorable experience. The students also were able to fully take in the culture, eating Guatemalan cuisine, getting a crash course in speaking Spanish, perusing a busy Guatemalan marketplace, learning about the 39 indigenous Mayan languages and even hiking one of the country’s many active volcanoes.
The Together Campaign encourages motivated students to take advantage of the service opportunities the club offers throughout the school year in the city of Springfield as well as during the yearly international alternative spring break.
Students can join the club at any time by visiting the Student Volunteer Office in room 350 of the Richard B. Flynn Campus Union. Information about the alternative spring break trip can also be obtained this way. For students wishing to go on the alternative spring break trip, there is an application and interview process, which begins in September. Fundraising is done to make the trip possible. For both the general club and for the annual March trip, The Together Campaign meets weekly.
On Mon., April 7 at 6:30 p.m. in Marsh Memorial there will be an informational event in which students can hear personal accounts from first-time participants of all three alternative spring break trips.