This year, 16 students from Halifax Grammar School went to Guatemala as a part of the Habitat for Humanity volunteer program. The students stayed in Panajachel, a town in the Guatemalan highlands for five nights. Every day the students would take a 45-minute bus ride to get to their work site.
"Panajachel is surrounded by tall, imposing volcanoes responsible for the formation of the stunning lake Atilán at the base of a massive crater," said Onika Drabble'19. It was in Panajachel, that our short but rewarding build experience with Habitat began. A typical work day began with waking up around 6:45 a.m. for breakfast at 7 a.m. The busses to the worksites left at 8 a.m., so we had an hour to eat and get ready for the day."
The students worked with Guatemalan locals and volunteers to build the foundations of a house and install stoves for the homes. They dug trenches for three days and created the foundations for six rooms. With the help of local masons – they helped pour concrete to form a structural foundation for the homes. After six days, they finally finished their work.
“Staring at what we had accomplished in such a short time was immensely rewarding,” said Onika. Not only has she and her team gained a sense of accomplishment they also got to immerse themselves in the local culture and learned the way of life of the Guatemalan people.
“We learned how the people here make their living, and the importance of collaboration and working as a team. It was impressive to see how far effective teamwork can take you when everyone cooperates with the same goals in mind,” said Onika. “Habitat will forever be an unforgettable experience, where memories were made and valuable skills were obtained.”
“This trip had a profound impact on everyone who went. Before going, we had very limited exposure to Central American culture but were able to learn so much about a group of people with similar values to our own. It has forced us to think twice about using resources that may be second nature in Canada, but absolutely foreign in countries like Guatemala.”