volunteering in guatemala [six]

so my mind has recently been blown by the generosity of friends and family.  this semester, i am taking a Global Leadership class, where we get the opportunity to spend Spring Break in Guatemala, building stoves for indigenous Mayan families.

when i first heard about the project, i was confused.  building stoves?  really?  i mean, first of all, i know absolutely nothing about building anything.  and secondly..stoves?  what good can building a few stoves do?

well, it can do a lot of good, apparently.  we are teaming up with an amazing group from Maine called Masons on a Mission [not missionaries, haha, just brick-laying masons!].  it turns out that a lot of the Guatemalans living in the beautiful rural areas are currently staying in less-than ideal conditions.  most families live in one-room homes, with a tin roof and an open fire on the middle of the dirt floor that they use for cooking and providing warmth.  cooking on these open fires is a job for the woman of the house, and she usually spends several hours a day doing this.  usually accompanied by her babies and small children, they inhale the smoke and fumes for several hours a day while cooking.  it causes a lot of serious health issues, mostly affecting the respiratory system and eyes.  often, women appear to constantly be crying, because of the tar burns on/around their eyes.  many women go blind in their 40s from this.  women and children frequently have respiratory issues, and their average life expectancy is reduced by 10-15 years because of it.

so we are joining the masons to help stop this problem.  we’re building simple brick stoves with proper ventilation, so that homes will not be so full of smoke and fumes.  it is unreal to me that something so small can make an impact so big.

i have gotten some flack from people about this–most recently, a friend-of-a-friend i met downtown tried telling me that the people there are “not really Mayans”.  he also told me that they are doing “nothing” to get out of poverty.  it was extremely disheartening, especially since he has lived in Guatemala for years and owns a restaurant there.  we got into a heated debate, but eventually calmed down, realizing that we are both just coming from extremely different places.  by the end of the evening, we made peace and he actually emailed me some tips and places to visit while i’m in Guatemala, if time allows.

while people’s judgment and negative outlooks on the situation have surprised me, the generosity of the majority of my friends and family has shocked me even more.  in just a few days, i have already raised more than my goal!  i can officially say that i have raised the materials needed to build two stoves, and am hoping to have enough for a third or fourth by the end of the week.  [my site: http://www.gofundme.com/m8ymts ]

i was super reluctant to start a GoFundMe, because i really, REALLY hate asking for help–especially when i’m asking for money.  but our professors encouraged us to do so; learning how to raise money for something we believe in is just one of the many lessons we’re learning in this Global Leadership class.  one of my professors said to us that “We want you to realize that you can make things happen; that if you really want to do something, and if you really believe in it, you can do it!”  she was so right, it shocks me still.

i am gobsmacked by the experiences i have had in college already, and i’m not even two years in.  i feel a little “late to the game” sometimes, because i am ten years older than the average student starting out, but i have to let myself be ok with that.  being 28 doesn’t make me less qualified or less deserving, or mean that i should be participating less.  if anything, it may mean that i should participate even more in my educational experiences, because i finally know what i want to do, and i’m going for it.  i worked my ass off to get here, and i will continue to do so.  it’s been tough, and there have been many times that i’ve felt crazy for doing this, but it has been an awesome adventure that i know will pay off.  i am really starting to grow out of that scared little insecure girl, who uses her own issues as an excuse not to participate in life.  i am here, and i am participating!


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