Over the Labor Day weekend, Cross-Cultural Solutions held our inaugural alumni weekend trip. The trip was for those who have previously been on a longer experience with CCS, and wanted to reconnect with an international community and meet other like-minded volunteers. With the recognition that many alumni don’t have the time to travel abroad for as long as they did on their initial program, CCS wants to continue to offer quick ways to increase cultural competency and make an impact with some of our partner programs.
Four CCS alumni from various professions traveled to Guatemala City for a new opportunity: to spend their holiday weekend volunteering, and getting a glimpse of Guatemalan culture. Cool fact: Two of the volunteers were reconnecting with each other again after previously meeting as volunteers in Morocco.
All of the volunteers arrived on a Friday afternoon, and had free time to explore the neighborhood and see nearby attractions, such el Palacio Natural de la Cultura. On Saturday morning, the group traveled to their volunteer assignment, a school that many teens from the local community attend on weekends for additional tutelage and mentor support. Most of the students work for the majority of the week at the largest trash dump in Central America, and therefore don’t have as much time for lessons, during traditional school hours.
The group spent the morning preparing projects from recycled materials, such as creating print-making templates from cut up milk cartons, which was a great first bonding experience. After lunch, the volunteers split the students into groups to practice improving their English vocabulary. In Guatemala, like many places in the world, learning English opens up doors for more job opportunities in tourism. Practicing English together gave both volunteers and beneficiaries the chance to learn more about their daily life routine and long-term goals.
To celebrate the connections that were being forged, at the end of the day there was a ceremonial bonfire and one student even prepared a special rap that he had written with the entire group, inspiring two volunteers to get up and sign some songs from home. The students shared how grateful they were that the volunteers would give up their entire weekend to be in Guatemala with them. The volunteers expressed thanks at the wide arms that the students had greeted them with. It was a heartfelt evening roasting marshmallows with new friends over a roaring fire in the middle of urban Guatemala City.
The following day at the school, the volunteers returned to focus on manual beautification projects, where they painted walls and finished the home-made planters to add some green touches to the school.
After a weekend of hard-work, CCS built-in a day for the volunteers to learn more about elements of Guatemalan culture in traditional Antigua on Monday, and there they enjoyed one last special dinner together, discussing all of the amazing students they met, before taking off for home on Tuesday.
If this sounds like an amazing weekend, and if you previously LOVED your CCS experience, we have two more alumni weekends in Guatemala coming up in November over Veteran’s Day (November 11th-14th) and over Thanksgiving weekend (November 24th-28th). Why not spend your holiday making an impact?