Guatemala Service Learning-A Typical Day
Typically, the work day for Common Hope volunteers is divided into two work sessions–8:00-noon and 2:00 to 5:00. Each member of the team receives two assignments, with almost everyone getting one assignment to construction. Volunteers who work construction in the morning will visit in homes or work with children in afterschool programs in the afternoon. Volunteers who go on social work visits in the morning will work construction in the afternoon.
Our team is building a home for a family in San Miguel Escobar, a village not far from Antigua. Homes are simple structures made of fiberlite panels with concrete floor and lamina roof. They provide shelter from the rains and an improvement over cornstalk homes in which many people still live. If a family needs to move, the house can be deconstructed and moved with them. Teams build the panels here at Common Hope and make concrete blocks which serve as the floor–then transport the materials to the work site and erect the house. On Monday and Tuesday, members of our team laid the floor of the home we are building with blocks already made by prior teams. Then we made blocks to be used by the next team. Tuesday afternoon, members of our team carried the panels that will be used to the building site. Thursday will be the house build.
Accompanying social workers into homes is an awesome and sobering experience for our team members. Even without knowing Spanish, for many of us this is an up close encounter with Guatemalan poverty and circumstances. Two of our volunteers walked into a home in the midst of a wake for a family member who died last weekend. Others heard stories about family crises related to medical needs and violence. Common Hope provides each team with translators who help team members debrief after visits. All the social workers are Guatemalans. The disparity between our lives and the lives of those we visit is enormous, and social work visits raise sometimes uncomfortable questions for us. We are also humbled by this opportunity to overhear deeply personal and intimate conversations. Sometimes our hearts are heavy following these calls.
Common Hope has a library which serves as site for after school activities for children approximately 6-12 years old. Monday afternoon Janine and Nan helped the kids make snowflakes out of coffee filters and Tuesday afternoon Ed and Dane had them making God´s eyes out of craft sticks and yarn. The children were delighted and the afternoon passed more quickly than our volunteers expected!
We eat meals in a dining room here at Common Hope and both Monday and Tuesday spent some time together at the end of the day debriefing and sharing our experiences.