Lessons learned for students returning from Guatemala

Christina Weber, assistant professor of sociology, led a class of NDSU students on a service-learning trip to Antigua, Guatemala, May 17-27. The group embarked on the 10-day trip to witness firsthand the challenges and issues that impoverished Guatemalan communities face and to assist in community-building service projects. The trip was the culmination of a semester-long course and worked in collaboration with the God’s Child Project, a non-profit organization that emphasizes health, education and human rights.

Students’ core experience focused on building four homes for families in need of houses with a stable foundation to help with the prevention of sickness and disease. Course fees contributed to building supplies and students participated in all aspects of the home building process. According to Weber, an equally important goal for the students included learning about their own emotional, physical and intellectual limits – all of which were tested during the trip. "From the physical work of building the homes to the emotional challenges of working in a culture that is very different than their own, the students discovered just how much they are capable of accomplishing," she said. "Over the 10 days, the students learned a lot about themselves as they learned about poverty and global social inequality."

During the semester, the students spent time learning about Guatemala, the importance of understanding privilege and social position and learning about each other. "All of the work and lessons over the semester came alive for the students upon their arrival in Guatemala. For a number of the students, this was their first time outside of the U.S., so each student faced different challenges," Weber said. "Each student rose to those challenges and exceeded my expectations."

The team included Weber, graduate assistant Angela Mathers(,) and the following 15 undergraduate students: Carly Aamoth, Lauren Aamoth, Brandon Beyer, Holly Christian, Rachel Dahle, Meagen Essen, Jaden Fedora, Michelle Gaffaney, Janae Hagen, Katie Heinsen, Hannah Metz, Josie Olson, Krista Padgett, Toni Planteen and Elise Schoch.

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