July 13, 2017
PARRAMOS, Guatemala – They started the day putting in long hours working the grounds and fields of NPH (Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos---Spanish for “Our Little Brothers and Sisters”) wanting to make the children’s home look its best for an upcoming special festival.
The nine DePaul student-athletes on a service trip pushed through the weariness and fatigue much like they’ve done in practices and competition.
Next came an opportunity to explore Antigua, Guatemala’s oldest city and to learn first-hand about the social injustice issues and challenges facing this country.
Men’s track and field standout Sebastian Feyersinger and Tom Judge of University Ministry check in with the latest update.
Sebastian Feyersinger, Men’s Track and Field
The fifth day of the trip has finally arrived and the ending is near. Today was a time for our group to ramp up the amount of work we have been tasked with by NPH. Since we did so well on Tuesday with garden work, we were asked once again to assist the home with the garden and farm work in the field.
The work was enjoyable at first but then slowly we began to get tired and wondered when it would end. In the back of our minds we continued to push on because we knew the caretakers had been working the fields and gardens every day without complaint. They just push on, so what choice did we have?
When the last leaf for the day fell to the ground, we let out a big gasp of relief as a long morning of work came to an end. Looking back, it was very hard, but it paid off when the workers complimented us on a job well-done and we could see all the progress we had made.
In the afternoon, we packed into a bus and headed for the oldest city in Guatemala, Antigua. The history of the city spoke to the mental fortitude that the Guatemalans have had in persevering through difficult times.
Antigua has been destroyed 14 times throughout history, and the people just continue to rebuild the place they call home. Buildings from the era of the Conquistadores can be seen from time to time in this city as the old world and the new world intermingle.
There were many local vendors busy selling items to tourists in the market. Boys were carrying shoeshine boxes and only asking for a few cents U.S. to do the job. Little girls were selling jewelry and hair items.
It seemed as though people of all ages were trying to make living doing whatever they could, from dancing in the street, playing musical instruments for a few dollars or bartering newcomers to the city for what may seem like small change to us but is worth hundreds of dollars to them.
As the long day came to an end, we met with two journalists who gave us a lesson on the history of Guatemala, what it’s really like living in Guatemala today and what the people actually need in order to break the cycle of poverty that affects a majority of the population.
Tom Judge, University Ministry
Another day of landscaping, and every task seemed meaningful because of the views of volcanoes in the distance, the refreshing breezes and the cheerfulness of the older NPH students we worked alongside.
But, perhaps our greatest motivation was knowing that Saturday, NPH Guatemala hosts its annual Quinceanera---a fiesta for the pequenas who celebrate their 15th birthday. We wanted to do our share to make the grounds look extra special for these young women and their guests.
Once again, I was impressed by the work ethic and commitment of our student-athletes. Whether it was swinging a machete or pushing a broom, they were all in. Makes me think that no matter what their futures bring, they will make the world better because of the skills and character they have developed through athletics. Inspiring for me.
In the afternoon, we shifted gears and went into Antigua---oldest city in Central America and former capital of Guatemala---where you can find a slice of history or culture around every cobblestoned corner. After a hike to a sweeping overview of the city and shopping at an artisan’s market, we had what I thought was the most interesting experience of the day---a free-wheeling conversation with two prominent Guatemalan journalists.
These women introduced us to current issues confronting the country including judicial reform, youth and gangs, the effects of Guatemala’s long-running civil war and on-going concerns around sexism and the lack of access to education, employment and health care.
It was intense---but necessary. It would not be appropriate for us to be here engaging with marginalized children and not learn something about the deeper, systemic issues of social injustice that keep these problems alive. And, then challenge ourselves to do as much as possible to end them.