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Building Beyond Borders: High School Guatemala Service Trip

Building Beyond Borders: High School Guatemala Service Trip

Global service trips at Silicon Valley International School (INTL) are transformative experiences that transcend borders, cultures, and personal limitations. They are an opportunity for students to step out of their comfort zones, engage with diverse communities, and contribute to positive change on a worldwide scale. 

As part of INTL’s opportunities for international travel and exchange, INTL high school students recently returned from an impactful service trip to Guatemala. During their travels, the students learned about Mayan culture, explored the breathtaking scenery, and engage in meaningful service activities. Read more about their experience below.

IMG_8910Monday: After a good night's sleep, the students gathered for a guided tour to learn about the local geology, the history of Antigua, and the rich influence of Mayan culture on modern Guatemala. 
After lunch, the 9th Graders made their way to El Astillero to begin clearing a path to the village school to save the village’s younger children from walking hours each day. The INTL students weeded, dug up roots, and started moving soil to flatten the land and start the foundation for the new school. Meanwhile, the 10th Graders worked on a variety of other improvement projects, including painting walls and playground game designs at the Dream Volunteers Academy (DVA) site on the western edge of the city.
Guatamala4Tuesday: Both groups began their day by switching worksites. The 9th Graders started by painting the building’s exterior and enhancing the playground with games of chess, hopscotch, and a maze. In the meantime, the 10th Graders took part in more physical work, removing large pieces of wood and moving dirt to level out the school’s foundation. 
After lunch, both groups met in a small village in San Antonio. Women of Mayan descent introduced the students to the Mayan culture, way of life, and traditions. The students learned a few words of Cakchiquel and experienced the meticulous nature of traditional weaving. The students witnessed a re-enacted wedding ceremony with traditional clothing, celebration, and dancing.
Guat5Wednesday: The two groups met on the outskirts of Antigua to make their long and sinuous way to Lago de Atiltlán. Along the way, the students caught glimpses of the Guatemalan countryside, highway system, and numerous construction projects. 
After arriving at the town of Panachajel, the students enjoyed a relaxing boat ride to San Antonio Palopó, taking in the view of two nearby volcanoes. After walking the steep streets to the town church, the group made its way to a small ceramics factory, where they learned about local traditions and the cultural significance of the factory’s designs and products
IMG_9236Thursday: Both groups continued with their respective projects: the 9th Graders working on leveling the field in El Astillero and the 10th Graders expanding the school beautification activities at the Young Dreamers Academy. In the afternoon, the students took part in a small reflection before learning to dance merengue and salsa. Guatemala2Friday: In the morning, INTL students and local DVA youth mixed into teams and took part in different competitive activities followed by a closely-contested and passionate football match.
In the afternoon, the groups made their way to the village of Vuelta Grande to meet the DVA students in their homes. In small groups of 4-5, the students engaged in insightful and entertaining conversations in Spanish.  
Guatemala3Saturday: The day started on a physical note by leveling the plot of land where the new Dream Volunteers school campus will be built in El Astillero. Everyone took part in various activities, including wheelbarrowing, shoveling, hacking at a large stump, layering, carrying boulders, mixing cement, or reinforcing the road leading up to the community. 
After a hearty lunch, the students returned to the Dream Volunteers Academy to share activities prepared by DVA youth. The group watched a small presentation about the importance of the Lent celebration for the city of Antigua and took part in making the ephemeral art of sawdust carpets.
Everyone enjoyed a final dinner in Antigua together to wrap up the journey. Messages of gratitude and good memories were shared in English and Spanish as small amounts of lava glowed from Volcán de Fuego in the distance. Unexpected fireworks near the center of town also concluded the night.
Silicon Valley International School strives to ensure that each INTL student develops a strong international mindset that allows them to demonstrate integrity and sensitivity across cultures. More than just knowing about a specific culture, an international mindset enables students to adapt to different contexts and different cultures. It allows students to communicate across cultural, linguistic, and social boundaries. An international mindset gives students the ability to immerse themselves in another culture, to observe patterns of behavior, and to adapt their own behavior to function well within that culture. This is a skillset that will help them thrive within many different contexts, whether in a new country or at a new company.

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