This Spring Break, UC San Diego Hillel brought thirteen passionate and inspirational students to Guatemala for the first time in their lives to apply the Jewish values of Tzedakah and Tikkun Olam on the ground. Over the course of their time in Guatemala, the students not only fell in love with the people and the culture, but also gained valuable perspective on their own lives, future, and place in the world.
Hillel partnered with Long Way Home, a non-profit organization that builds schools, community centers, and homes out of sustainable materials. Students got down and dirty with various aspects of the construction, including preparing plastic bottles to be made into shingles for classroom roofs, making stucco and insulation out of cow manure for new walls around campus, and packing tires to support the driveway leading up to the school. Each construction technique is unique to Long Way Home’s worksite in Comalapa, and by learning the strategy behind each methodology, AB participants got a sense of the needs of a community in rural Guatemala. While the building materials – trash brought in by the Guatemalan students at the Long Way Home school and gathered by volunteers – are specific to Comalapa, this sustainable building enterprise is part of a global movement to rethink sustainability and ecological responsibility.
In addition to working on site for the majority of the week, AB participants had the opportunity to get to know local Guatemalans one on one over games of soccer, home cooked meals in the countryside and walks into town to get ice cream. They visited the longest mural in Guatemala that chronicles the history of the town, starting with the Mayan creation story. Participants got an inside look into Guatemalan life with painting, weaving, and folkloric dance demonstrations by locals in the community. Finally, students had the opportunity to explore Antigua and the Pacaya Volcano to understand the larger Guatemalan context in which the town of Comalapa is situated.