An Alternative Spring Break had its pilot run last semester which allowed 12 students from different academic backgrounds to travel to Guatemala and volunteer at a local clinic.
The trip was a joint effort between Corey Inzana, Area Coordinator for Residential Life, and Salud Y Paz. According to the organization’s website, Salud Y Paz is a project by International Hands in Service, the Iglesia Metodista Nacional Primitiva de Guatemala and the United Methodist Church in the United States. It was created in early 2001 and currently operates two health and dental clinics that primarily serve the Mayan population in Guatemala. According to their mission statement, Salud Y Paz “provides a ministry of health services, health promotion and education to the people of Guatemala leading into a self-sustaining partnership.” Seventyone percent of the Mayan population lives in extreme poverty with an income of less than one dollar a day.
Inzana was in charge of putting the student group together, planning the hotel accommodations and plane trip, the vaccinations that each student had to take before going on the trip and a pre-trip orientation. “Service is something that is instilled in each class starting with the First Year Service Project, and this trip is one of many service opportunities provided to students,” Inzana said.
Last semester’s group stayed in Guatemala from March 5 till March 13 in three hotels in Chichicastenago, Panajachel and Antigua. The group stayed mostly in Panajachel, and worked at a clinic in Camanchaj.
The students worked at a clinic which had a preschool attached to it; their main focus was to build an enclosure to provide shelter for patients who travel for days at a time in order to receive free healthcare at the clinic. The group also painted murals to help educate the young Guatemalans.
On free days during the weekends, students had a chance to visit the largest open market in Central America located in Chichicastenago, and visited Antigua, an old colonial capital. They also zip-lined, climbed a volcano, and shopped around.
The value of the trip included the hotels, the plane tickets and food which was a flat price offered by Salud Y Paz. Through two fundraising events ran by Inzana and the students and a donation from SGA’s special event funding, students spent approximately $700 for the eight day trip. This year, Inzana plans to start fundraising earlier in order to raise more money.
“Here at Monmouth University, service is a part of the University’s mission and we try to make service a tradition that students continue with long after their college experience,” Inzana said. “This trip is unique. We live in a global society and students have the opportunity to see exactly how their actions affect the world and someone else’s life.”
Erika Ortiz, senior, was a part of the experience last semester. “The trip was absolutely amazing. It made me see the world in a different light and I saw how big of a difference one group of students from Monmouth can make,” Ortiz said.
Tyler Bischoff, senior, also traveled with the group.
“The Guatemala trip was definitely an eye opening experience for most of us on the trip. We had an opportunity to immerse ourselves in a culture so unfamiliar to us and had the opportunity to help serve the impoverished natives of the country of Guatemala,” Bischoff said.
“It brought things to perspective for us and really showed us how adverse life can be in communities around the world,” he added.
This year’s group will travel to Guatemala on March 10 until March 18. It’s open to all students from every major and class standing. The group will stay in Antigua and serve at a clinic in San Antonio.
“My hope is that this trip inspires these students to find more ways to make a difference in their world,” Inzana said.
PHOTO COURTESY of Corey Inzana