UNC Spring Break

Friday, March 14

Today we went zip lining and went to Panajachel for lunch and shopping. I’ve been zip lining before, but I couldn’t believe the sights of the lake that I saw when we were flying across the mountain. I tried to imprint the image in my head because of how naturally gorgeous it was. I realized while I was in the air how this experience is once-in-a-lifetime and how I will always remember this trip. It was almost as if this whole trip sunk in as soon as I saw the volcanoes above the glistening lake. I felt like I understood a new perspective, and I almost became a better person from being here and helping out. I hope this perspective stays with me when I go back to Chapel Hill. I want to keep this new enlightened perspective so that I can apply it to my everyday life and continue to do good for others. I’m so happy that we were able to see everything in the views of the indigenous people, and we got to understand more than most tourists and people from other countries. I’m so thankful for this experience. Thanks Manna!
- Francesca

Today was much different from the previous days in Guatemala.  We took a pick-up truck to Panajachel to go zip lining and shopping! Zip lining caused me to conquer my fear of heights and experience the beautiful view of the lake and Panajachel from an entirely different perspective.  As we went through the air on the zip line, I looked around and really took in the beauty of this place.  Shopping in Panajachel taught me more about the culture and way of life in this part of Guatemala.  I got to see more about how many of the people here make a living and I also gained a greater appreciation for the hard work they do every day for small amounts of money.  As our trip is coming close to an end, I have been reflecting on how much this culture has impacted my views.  The people who live here work so hard for everything they have and seem to not take anything for granted.  Meeting the kids in the school, seeing how the families live in their homes, and getting to learn about a completely different culture has impacted me in numerous ways.  Overall, taking this trip to Guatemala with Manna has been an amazing experience for me!
-Abby Perez

Well, today was the last week day in Sololá for us. As usual, the first thing I did was run out and look out of the balcony at the beautiful landscape. Every day since I have been here, I have been amazed by the two mountains that lay in the far distance behind Lake Atitlan. The first day, there was a heavy fog over the lake and the view of the mountains was obscured. Day by day, the fog started to lift and gradually I was able to see the two mountains. The way my group changed in Guatemala was very much like the fog: at first, heavy with anticipation and obscured by the discomfort of having to share a tiny room with a handful of strangers. But now, at the end of the trip, we have a clear view of our role in the Guatemalan community and we have also become very close friends. This trip has been a great learning opportunity for all us, and a way to make friends we otherwise would not have been able to make. I have been on other international service trips before but this trip has truly left a deep impact on me. It has allowed me to view the world with a new clarity. After coming home from my other trips, I always thought that I had figured out how people in developing countries live. They are poor, they are in need, and they don’t have resources to sustain themselves. But the people in Sololá are different. Even though they are poor, they are self-sufficient. They send their children to school and have a stable community with a role for every member of the family. I’m leaving Sololá knowing not that I have changed any lives in this community but that I have enriched the learning curiosity of many children. Hopefully, one day these children will look back to this week in March and remember the people who came from America to paint their school, help them make goofy toothbrush holders and teach them English. If they remember us in this light, I will be more than satisfied with my role as a volunteer.
-Pooja Mohanty

Wednesday, March 12

Day 3 in Guatemala was incredibly rewarding. Today my group was asked to work with children ranging from first to second grade at a local school. We had a chance to lead art projects with the children and were also able to participate in recess. The children were so active and seemed to love having us at the school. I had an absolute blast playing with the children, even though most of them were beating me in soccer and basketball... The teachers at both schools have also been so welcoming and willing to help with our projects, making it extremely easy to interact with the children while leading fruitful class demonstrations. Overall my experience in Guatemala has been amazing. All the Guatemalans have been so open to communicating with us and accommodating us during our stay reminding me of the southern hospitality I grew up with at home in Shelby, North Carolina. I am eager to see what the rest of this week holds for our group and I hope we can continue making a difference in all the communities we visit. Thank you!
-Andrew Toney
Guatemala has been the most incredible experience and it’s far from over.  This having been the first time in a foreign country, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I haven’t been disappointed in the least.  The people have been so friendly and eager to share their ways of living that it’s made the trip even more enlightening and meaningful.  The language barrier has hardly been an issue, like I was expecting.  We are still able to connect with the Guatemalan people and communicate through other ways.  Seeing how another culture lives and works everyday has opened my eyes to the fact that just because someone may do something differently, doesn’t mean that it’s wrong or inefficient. It’s just different.  This trip has made me want to explore other countries and see how they truly live and get along to open my eyes even further.  I can’t wait to see what the rest of my time in Guatemala has in store for me!
-Jennifer Allen

Having spent several days in Guatemala now, working in the community and learning more about the Manna Project’s programs and goals, one aspect that has made an impression on me is Manna’s determination to support the community’s assets and understand the how and why of the current conditions, rather than be a blind benefactor.   I was interested when Manna explained the sexual health education program that they are trying to establish and how it will affect or offend many people who share conservative beliefs because it initially seemed contradictory to the importance Manna places on collaborating with the people, but then I learned that it was community leaders who introduced the idea and have encouraged Manna Project to pursue it.  Between interacting with homestay families, playing with children, and painting in schools, I have learned that the community knows what it needs—from financial resources to social programs—and the most important thing that people can do who want to help is listen to them and their concerns, and take those ideas into consideration.
-Margo Lanier

Tuesday, March 12

The MPI chapter at Chapel Hill painted the school that the chapter has been fundraising for the past school year. I was excited to finally be able to do something to alleviate the workload needed to make the school a more beautiful place. After having met and played with the kids yesterday, I couldn’t help but want to do something that benefits them.  The painting was a bit difficult but the group persevered and we got our room done in the time allotted. Afterwards, we had lunch and then proceeded to visit Soluciones Comunitarias. It’s always great to see that there are multiple organizations and groups of people all with the same interest of helping the community. The people that live in this area are all hardworking, honest people and they deserve every bit of help that comes their way. Then we decided to get some ice cream and bread from the bakery and stuffed ourselves. I don’t blame the people who slept through the movie afterwards. We’ve been walking and working all day but I loved every second of it and I can’t wait for the rest of the week. Spring Break with Manna Project International is amazing.
-Ronald, Me, UNC MPI, President, what it do.

I love knowing that I will be able to make a difference by starting from the bottom up with the kids. When MPI of Chapel Hill arrives at the school early in the morning,-- tired, I am immediately inspired by the energetic kids that run up to the car. They are so excited to meet new people. The community is so open to the idea of positive developments for their environment and this is what motivates me to do the best that I can do. This is an experience of a lifetime and I am so appreciative that I am able to work with MPI.
-Margarita J <3

I love our accommodations here at the hostel! The view from the patio is beautiful, overlooking a neighborhood of charming white houses, a small, jagged mountain, Lake Atitlan’s blue ripples, and a volcano in the distance. They feed us three novel, tasty meals a day and I sleep like a baby in my bottom bunk. There’s no running water until 7pm, so before that you flush the toilet by pouring a bucket of clean water into the bowl. And, as in all bathrooms around here, you don’t flush the toilet paper: you throw it in the trash since the pipes are old and small. When you drive in the street, the vast majority of women you see walking or tending stores are in the traditional Mayan dress of a blouse, belt, and below-knee-length skirt, all made of thick fabric. The little first-grade girls in school wear tiny versions of the long skirts, even in gym class! Most men and boys wear western-style dress, but you’ll see some in traditional attire and cowboy hats. I’m 5’2”, and I’m about as tall as the average adult: people here are small compared to Americans. Lots of adults have crooked or gold teeth, since tooth brushing doesn’t seem to be the norm. Manna’s trying to promote dental health, though – we got to help by making and decorating tooth-brush holders with the elementary schoolers in Central yesterday out of empty plastic bottles. Everyone here is really nice – since we’re looking at everyone and everyone’s looking at us, my friendly American impulse is to say “Hola”, and everyone says “Hola” back! I feel really welcome here, and I’m having a ton of fun. I’m glad to be able to join Manna in doing some good in this community. J

Monday, March 11

This is my first time in Central America.  I am really excited to learn about all of the culture and the environment.  It is a really great experience and I really enjoyed helping the children and learning more about the family life. I found it to be a really humbling experience and it really puts things into perspective and makes you think how people from lower economic statuses live.  Life is seems so much simpler and people are friendly and help each other whenever possible.  I really love playing with the children and the food is delicious.  I hope to gain much more with my time in Guatemala and I plan on enjoying every minute possible.
--Arti Patel—

Today was the first full day of my trip to Guatemala. We woke up and had amazing food ready for us to eat. The food tasted very authentic and had a flavor of food that I had never tasted. Afterwards, we went to Chaq to the school to work on the recycle bottle art project. I was with a group of 4 boys that were very enthusiastic about their toothbrush holder. I suggested they put cars and they were all about it. They were really excited and grabbed all the materials in my hands and made one of the nicest toothbrush holders of the whole group. After that we went out for recess and played tag and thought the kids Ninja which was an amazing bonding experience for me and the group. Afterwards, I went to Sarah’s homestay family and we had a great meal prepared for us! It was nice to see the humble and simple lifestyle they had. It made me contemplate about my trip to India recently and comparing the two countries. I was able to see main similarities and differences between the two. I hope to be able to learn more Spanish while I’m here and also make more and more connections with my group and Guatemala.
--Kishan Patel—

Today was my first full day in Guatemala and it was amazing! We started the day off with an authentic Guatemalan breakfast—fried egg, black beans, and biscuit. After breakfast we headed to Central school to make tooth brush holders with the kids. I was a bit nervous at first just because my Spanish isn’t the best, but I was relieved when I realized that it didn’t matter because the kids and teachers were so welcoming. My favorite hanging out with these six 10-year-old girls; they were so precious and friendly! We sang songs together, played a game of basketball, and chatted about our favorite foods, colors, songs, etc. Also, they asked me how to say certain words in English and told me several words they knew in English. I loved that they could help me with my Spanish-speaking skills and I with their English-speaking skills! After hanging out with the kids at school we ate a bean soup with corn tortillas at Ja’s homestay family which was deeelicious! It was so humbling to see Ja’s homestay family home and has given be a brand new perspective on life. I look forward to learning more about the Guatemalan culture and building relationships with the kids at Central and Coopertiva!
-Aggie Igboko-

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