By Kassondra Burtis
Guatemala had ten new visitors last May as nine Saint Mary’s University students and one faculty advisor took part in a 12-day trip sponsored by the Campus Ministry program Serving Others United in Love (SOUL).
“It was an amazing experience,” faculty advisor Dorothy Diehl said. “Being able to meet the people and hear their stories was something I couldn’t have learned from a book.”
The group took a couple tours and traveled to a few different cities throughout different parts of the country and got to spend time with children at an orphanage.
Jamie Cooper, student leader of the group, noted some key differences in the international trip to Guatemala as compared to other domestic SOUL trips taken throughout the school year.
“Well the obvious difference is that you go to a different country,” Cooper said. “Another big one is that the Guatemala SOUL trip is not meant to be a service trip. It is meant to be more of an educational trip about social injustices in other countries.
“It is supposed to open people’s eyes and hopefully inspire them to preach what they witnessed and spread the awareness.”
And that’s just what it did for Diehl.
“Standing on the hill and watching the people working in the dump and hearing a woman talk about how she helped save some orphans during the civil war is something that will stay with me forever,” she said.
It was an eye-opening experience for all involved, and both Diehl and Cooper encouraged others to sign up for the trip in the future, even if they don’t speak any Spanish.
“Even if you haven’t had any Spanish, you will benefit from the experience,” Diehl said. “The happiness on the faces of the children as we played games with them at the orphanage showed that you don’t need words to communicate with someone.”
“It’s a life-changing experience in some way or another,” Cooper said. “You will not have any regrets.”