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Experiencing Guatemala From the Inside

Our guest blogger is Kaelee Shepherd. I had just finished reading a book about the atrocities in Guatemala that went on in 2001 and then I found out Kaelee, who works with me, was taking her second trip to Guatemala through her school. From my perspective, as a young woman, Kaelee is so aware of what is going on in the world. More so than the young people that I know. She and I had a conversation about Guatemala over the phone, me telling her what this writer had experienced in 2001 and Kaelee sharing a completely different and more uplifting experience on her 2 trips.

I asked Kaelee when she came back if she would be a guest blogger and share her experience and here it is:

Entering into college as an eighteen year old girl who wanted to see the world, I knew I had to get started. With great excitement, I received and accepted a Freshman Summer Experience Award that was able to cover nearly the entire cost of my trip. With my parents’ blessings, I was headed to Guatemala for 3 weeks to immerse myself in a new culture and language. I had no idea what to expect but could not wait to find out!
As an eighteen year old who had only ever been out of the country, in a group setting, for 9 days prior to college, I was in for the biggest adventure of my life. The Kaelee who traveled to Guatemala in 2010 was a completely different person than the Kaelee who returned only a few short 3 weeks later. I did not know the language, I did not know the history, I did not know anything entering this situation. I was taken in by numerous people and treated like family. The kindness, hospitality and love that overwhelmed me during my time in Guatemala was something I had never experienced before. There is something about the beauty of the country and the hearts of its people that enveloped me and I knew that once I left, I would undoubtedly be back again.
When I returned from my trip, my entire perspective on the world had changed. I had been living, unknowingly, in my own bubble of a world for the last eighteen years of my life. I came to begin realizing how vast the world is, how alike humankind really is, and how much more I still had to learn about it all. It was all of this that drove to me focus my studies on Justice and Human Rights in Latin America. Though I should have known this beforehand, when I arrived home I learned of atrocities that had occurred in Guatemala and how it had shaped it into the country that it is today. Guatemala suffered a 36 year-long Civil War that resulted in the massacre of 200,000 of its indigenous Mayan population. I craved to know more. I focused every paper or class project that I could around this Civil War, searching for more answers, for more information. I was hooked.
This year is my fifth and final year at my university. I am finally a senior. In what I felt was the best way to bring my college career full-circle, I enrolled and was accepted to a two-week program in Quetzaltenago, Guatemala. With seven students and my academic advisor, I headed back to a country that has had my heart since my feet first touched its soil back in 2010.
The feeling of being back in the Guatemala City airport, recounting the countless memories and thinking about how much has changed since the last time that I was there, was overwhelming. I was ready to take all of what I had been studying over the last five years and to make the trip worthwhile.
During the first week of the trip our group worked with two separate organizations, one focused on women’s empowerment and the other on reforestation. During the second week we lived with host families and took extensive Spanish language classes. I learned so much about the experiences of individuals who live their lives in the aftermath of war, in every day discrimination and fear. I learned so much about the true meaning of family, of community, and what it means to be human. I was reassured that I am on the right path for my career in global health and development.
I am so grateful for the opportunities that I have had to travel to such an incredible country. While there exists so much beauty within it, the people and the land are still scared from the past and people are working hard for a better tomorrow. My hope is to be a part of creating that better tomorrow, alongside those who experience it all first-hand. This is only the beginning; there is so much more to come!

Kaelee lives in Philadelphia, Pa. and will be graduating from Drexel University this year.

Kshepherd

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This entry was posted on Friday, January 16th, 2015 at 5:43 am and is filed under Industry News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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