The Hopkins Service Trip has been hosted by the New Haven/Leon Sister City Project in Nicaragua for 12 years running, but this spring, protests which erupted against the government made us change destinations. Hopkins deeply believes in building lasting relationships through service and cross cultural communication, and in this spirit, Spanish teacher Susan Bennitt offered Hopkins students the opportunity to visit Guatemala and to dive into nearly two weeks of activities that strengthened our sense of global citizenship.
Along with History teacher Ian Guthrie, the group ventured into Guatemalan and Mayan culture. Our home base was in Quetzaltenango (you can call it Xela for short), where we worked in a school for a week painting and teaching English classes. In spite of the hard work, students said it was the most fun they'd ever had! We traveled to surrounding villages and Mayan ruins to learn about different ways Mayan beliefs coexist with Catholicism, and saw Lake Atitlan, the beautiful lake surrounded by three volcanoes. We visited markets, such as the incredible Chichicastenango where some of the most exquisite woven goods in Central American are sold, and got to try weaving with both back strap and foot pedal looms. We zip lined, hiked, and soaked in a hot spring at the top of a volcano. In our evening meetings, we heard stories from both sides of the civil war that ended in 1996, and reflected together on our deepening understanding of people different from us, with whom we discovered we had a lot in common.
Zaryah Gordon '19 noted, "I think this trip has sparked my love for just trying things. Not being afraid because they might just give me memories I will always cherish. It means me not being afraid to be on my own or with others. And it means my love for leadership." Ava Phannenbecker '21 stressed that "on this trip, we learned about the value of spiritual wealth. The people we met exemplified what it means to be spiritually and morally joyous."
It was an exciting experience for us all. We came home with great new friends, and excellent stories to tell. For information on future trips, please contact Ms. Bennitt.