Marywood Students on the site of a service project 2018

Open Hearts & Open Doors in Miami & Guatemala

Every year, Campus Ministry organizes a number of Alternative Break Service Trips. This May, teams of students flew to Guatemala and Miami, Florida, to gain valuable experience, to make a difference in local communities, and to ease the burdens of those they served.

Good People in Guatemala

The Guatemala team worked at two different locations, San Lucas and Chichicastenango. They partnered with the San Lucas Mission to build housing for low-income families. As Early Childhood/Special Education major Delaney Kane ’19 pointed out, since the job sites were deep within the narrow streets of San Lucas’ poorer parts, this involved students truly pulling their own weight to ease others’ burdens—by  “carrying sacks of rocks” on their backs.

In Chichicastenango, the team stayed at a school for girls (who would not be able to get an education otherwise), where they taught English. Spanish is the most widely spoken language in Guatemala, with a variety of Mayan languages also being prevalent in various parts of the country, but that didn’t stop the team from engaging with the communities around them. Delaney recalled, “The girls became very attached to the team.” Overall, the people they met were “willing to try to communicate,” even if most of the team was not fluent in conversational Spanish.

Keeping the Faith in Miami

The Miami team partnered with the faith-based urban aid organization DOOR. Over the course of the week they spent in Miami, the students worked in a soup kitchen, a warehouse for distributing food and clothing to people in need, and a transition housing organization for people returning to society from prison. Rachel Kester ’18, who recently earned her M.S. in School Counseling, noted that much of the work was “indirect,” but important nonetheless. For her, working alongside the recently released inmates was the highlight of the trip. She described “hearing their stories” and getting to know them as human beings as “a humbling experience.”

Changed Hearts at Home

Ann O’Brien, M.S.W. ’04, Assistant Director for Service-Learning and Community Service, coordinates Marywood’s service trips. She explained that these trips are not just about the communities served; they are also about the serving students.