By: Daniella Portillo, McAuley Hall Senior Residential Counselor
The Guatemala Service and Immersion Experience was a dream come true for NY staff member and New Orleans alumna, Daniella Portillo. Having a Guatemalan mother, she has always wanted to visit the Guatemala affiliate of Boys Hope Girls Hope since she joined the organization in 2007. Her and five BHGH of NY scholars, Trevonte Decoteau, Mejeen Mclain, Jessica Lopez, Kayla Newman, and Janielle Young, had the privilege of joining 11 other staff and scholars from across the BHGH international network at the Guatemala affiliate this past August.
Even though the trip was the first of its kind, it was well planned in its variety of activities. The trip included teaching English to the scholars of Ezperanza Juvenil; touring Campus TEC, the first technology park in the Central America; and visiting the home of Christian, an Ezperanza Juvenil scholar. For BHGH of NY senior Jessica Lopez, meeting Christian was the highlight of her experience as he was the most memorable person she met during the extent of her trip. She explains, “[Christian’s] smile stood out to me the entire time…His resiliency really stood out to me also… Being able to see [his] poverty on a personal level. Entering his home and them (his family) allowing us to. Because you know, being where we’re from, you don’t want people in your business.” Jessica also recounts that the trip “definitely” changed her by saying, “I feel like I didn’t know a lot about Boys Hope Girls Hope when I went, I just knew there were other affiliates, but I didn’t know it was this deep.”
The scholars and staff all enjoyed exploring various parts of Guatemala, meeting their fellow BHGH brothers and sisters, and participating in community service by building a playground for a school in Tecpán, a Mayan community. Scholars worked for two days, from sun up to sun down, remodeling the playground, which included removing a flag pole and making cement by hand. Nothing stopped the scholars from putting their all into the intense and laborious work needed to complete the project, not even Trevonte’s bad knee.
When asked her favorite part of the trip, Mejeen said it was building the playground because, “It was nice to know that what I was doing was going to benefit someone else, and that they were really going to enjoy it to the fullest.”
Overall, all participants truly enjoyed themselves and were grateful for such a wonderful opportunity. Scholar Janielle advises her fellow Boys Hope Girls Hope peers, “If there’s an opportunity like this, if I were you, I would definitely do it!”