by Jen Houska, 2015 Work Tour Guest
In March of 2015 I had the pleasure of joining a work tour with Trees, Water, & People (TWP) to visit Guatemala and volunteer in the community of La Bendición. Guatemala is a country full of pride, hard work, and friendly smiles. When signing up for this tour, I knew that volunteering on a trip was one of the best ways to visit a country but had no idea what I would learn about communities supporting communities.
During the trip, we had the opportunity to tour several areas of the country with well-informed guides from Trees, Water, & People. For five days in the middle of the trip, we visited one community and volunteered our skills and supported another community. The people of La Bendición are true leaders in the growth of a self-sustainable structure that provides a healthy diet and thriving lifestyle for all families. We assisted the community members with building clean cook stoves, repairing a water aqueduct that supplied power, and worked in their tree nursery.
One of my favorite experiences was the exchange of ideas between the groups. The community has organized several divisions of leadership including a Men’s Group, a Youth Group, and a Women’s Group. Each works diligently to better their community’s systems for sustainable living and development. The women from our volunteer group in the United States met with the Women’s Group from the community. The women of La Bendición wanted to know how they could gain input from other cultures to better their sustainability and contribution to their community. Together, we formulated ideas on how the women of the community could make jellies and medicinal salves from their land to sell in local markets. This is only one of their efforts to better their community and become a contributing force in their development.
The only challenge of the trip was that we wanted to do so much more work for the families of La Bendición, but we ran out of time during this trip. TWP is doing such a great job supporting their efforts and will continue to need support from volunteers and donors to continue this work in Central America.