After spending 6 weeks in Guatemala, time has finally come for us to pack up, head home, and reflect on what we have learned. To each of us, the experience was different, but we have all grown immensely from this project and have a deeper understanding of the complex problem of global poverty and the hard work necessary to counteract it.
The past week here has been full of both productivity and adventure. Mauricio took us back to Santa Fe to help Juan Jose clean the day center and dispose of the waste. After hours of labor, our team successfully moved over 1000 pounds of cardboard from the building and loaded it into the truck of a recycling company who agreed to purchase it for $35. This is enough money for the center to turn their water back on after it had been shut down due to insufficient funds. Juan Jose jokingly told us that the children will be disappointed that all the cardboard is gone because they loved to wrestle in it, but the center will undoubtedly benefit from having an extra room for recreational activity.
Fernanda came to our house on Monday so we could help her design a construction manual REcyclathon’s greenpoints. This will allow future Enactus members to build them uniformly after Fernanda leaves. Anthea, our resident desginer, formatted the report while Alba helped with wording.
We have also spent countless hours this week working on our final report for Enactus. The final report was not one of our requirements, but we agreed that formally assessing our experience here for Enactus in writing is the least that we could do for everything they have done for us. We divided the report into the following 4 sections: Eco-Weaving, REcyclathon, Harvesting the Future, and Human Resources. In each section, we commented on the project’s strengths, weaknesses, and our suggestions for improvement. We understand that we have a relatively small scope of what their organization is capable of and that not all of our recommendations can be implemented, but hopefully we provided them with some feasible ideas in ways to take the direction of their projects.
On Wednesday evening, we also witnessed Enactus UVG compete against 7 other Enactus Guatemala chapters in their national competition. Although the entire competition was in Spanish, it was very exciting seeing them express their enthusiasm about their projects and each other in front of hundreds of people. They even gave a shout out to our project team! UVG has won the competition the past 5 years, but unfortunately did not take the gold this year. Their stage presence at this competition was second to none, so we speculate that the judges wanted to give another university the chance to compete in the world competition this year. However, Enactus UVG did win various other awards, such as the best Annual Report of the year, 2nd place in their league and Andrea, the vice president of projects, won Enactor of the year.
Our team was given two days off after the competition for us to use as we pleased. Dylan, Anthea, and Jessica went with Jose Paiz (Pepito) and Pedro Pablo (PePa) to experience some of the gems of northern Guatemala. We left on Wednesday night at 1:00AM and drove straight through the night to arrive at the ruins in Tikal National Park by 10:00AM. Tikal is located in a beautiful rainforest and many of the gargantuan ruins are still well preserved. In the rainforest, we saw toucans, turkeys, pizotes, and giant spiders. We also had a great time climbing atop of some of the temples which reached heights well above the canopies, giving us a spectacular view of the rainforest.
On Thursday night, we drove to Flores, a small backpacker community on an island in the middle of Lago Petén Itzá, where we checked into a youth hostel. In the hostel, we shared a room with a Korean woman, two Australian men, and a man from New Zealand. Each of them had fascinating stories to tell of their travels, and we offered them all the opportunity to stay at our house if life brought them to Guatemala City before we fly home on Sunday. On Friday morning, we stopped at Rio Dulce on our way home. Our first stop on the river was at a hot springs waterfall that intersected with a chilled river. There, we enjoyed relaxing in the hot springs atop the waterfall, jumping into the river from about 25 feet high, and exploring the caves behind the waterfall. We also took a boat out on Rio Dulce and checked out a bird island and another natural hot spring. We drove back through the evening and arrived at our house by 1:00AM on Friday night, successfully completing the trip in 48 hours.
While Dylan, Anthea, and Jessica were gone, Alba and Pavit were having their own fun. Alba got to spend some time in Antigua and Lake Atitlan with her tia (aunt), and even made it back in time on Friday night to go with Pavit to a reunion with some of the people we worked with at Techo.
Tonight is our last night in Guatemala. We are filled with a mix of emotions, but are incredibly thankful for the time and energy put into this trip by the Nourish headquarters and Enactus UVG. We will be hosting a goodbye gathering for Enactus tonight, and look forward to reuniting with our families and friends tomorrow!
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