January 22, 2013
The students traveled to various sites in Guatemala, including Antigua, San Lucas Toliman, Flores, and Guatemala City. “The various locations were selected to show the students the diversity of the country,” said Mobley. “We wanted to show them urban vs. rural, rich vs. poor, and ancient vs. modern. The bulk of the journey was spent engaging in service learning and social justice programs at a Catholic mission in the town of San Lucas Toliman.
“In Antigua, students were able to visit and tour a fair-trade macadamia nut plantation,” said Mobley. “Here the students learned about sustainable agriculture, reforestation and the principles of fair trade.
“The memorable moments from San Lucas Toliman are many!” continued Mobley. “We were able to learn about the numerous community projects operated through the San Lucas Toliman Mission. We visited their health and dental clinic, women's center, fair-trade coffee facility, and reforestation project, each run in collaboration with the mission. We got to meet the managers of each of these projects, and learn about the role they play in the community.
“San Lucas Toliman is a small village on the banks of Lake Atitlan that is predominantly inhabited by indigenous Mayans. They suffered greatly during the genocide in the 1980s, and now many live in abject poverty. The students got to listen to a lecture by a Mayan woman whose husband was ‘disappeared’ during the genocide, and hear her tale of rescuing children from a neighboring village whose parents had also been murdered. We heard stories from many people who live in the community, and visited many of their homes.”
During their time in San Lucas Toliman, the travelers learned how to make homemade tortillas and tamales over a "modern stove" which was simply a wood burning stove with different size cooking rings to help regulate the heat. According to Mobley, they learned a few words and phrases in the local Mayan dialect of Kaqchikel from a man in his eighties, who was also a former musician who took the time to play a few songs on his marimba for them.
The students got to play soccer and other games with children in the neighborhood, and learned that many of those children rarely get to go to school beyond the 5th grade. Some must quit at the 3rd grade so they can help support their families by working on local coffee plantations, said Mobley.
The group spent one day working at the local reforestation project sifting dirt, breaking open cypress seed pods to remove all the tiny seeds, and sanding wooden spoons that are sold to help fund the project.
The trip ended with a visit to the ancient Mayan site of Tikal where the students toured the ruins, and went on a zip-lining canopy tour through the jungle. “It was an amazing way to wrap up such an amazing journey!” said Mobley.
“We met the numerous friends and partners of the woman who organizes this program, and through their stories we all came home with a much greater understanding of social justice issues,” said Mobley.
“The students who went on this trip want to bring the lessons they learned back to the Columbus State campus by starting a new student club called Students for Peace and Justice. One of the first projects they would like to work on is collecting sufficient money to fund the education of a child from San Lucas Toliman. We learned that through the San Lucas Toliman Scholars organization it only costs $200 per year to send a child to secondary school. The students would like to commit to raising sufficient funds to send at least one child to school, and welcome any donations towards the cause.”
According to Mobley, another trip to Guatemala is tentatively scheduled for December 2013, but plans have not been finalized.
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