The Class of 2015 traveled to Antigua, Guatemala, for a service trip where they built two houses with the organization “From Houses to Homes,” operating in the poorest areas of highland Guatemala. Many indigenous families live there in makeshift homes that are constructed of nothing more than cornstalk or cardboard walls with dirt floors.
Those two 13’x19’ block homes had a great impact on the families. A door they can close provides them with a deeper sense of security, a roof that will protect them from the elements, and a window to provide light into the home. The homes are stucco, and painted in peach and turquoise chosen by the homeowners. At the end of the week when the homes had been completed, the families found it difficult to express fully their deep gratitude to the volunteers. They cooked a splendid feast for everybody—quite an accomplishment when one is aware of how little they have in material possessions. For the students, it was the most satisfying feeling of a task well done, started from scratch, and accomplished with smiles, jokes, singing, sweat and muscles, determination, attempts to communicate in Spanish, some with more success than others. “We did it!” they would exclaim many times in that last festivity.
Again and again, as in the two senior trips of 2013 and 2014, the predominant image was of a group of people truly working together, loving to spend time together and also alone, at times, to reflect and take in the beauty and also the poverty surrounding them. To get a perspective about their lifestyle, where they come from, where they are going after graduation, and what difference they can make for the world: priceless!
For our service trip, we traveled to Almost Heaven, a branch of Habitat for Humanity in West Virginia. We worked on two different sites: one where construction skills were taught and used efficiently to help renovate an old cabin for an elderly lady, and the other where pure muscular strength and lots of willpower were needed to shovel sixty tons of gravel into a new foundation for a ranch-style house for a family of six, to be built by the next set of volunteers.
The trip was transformative for one and all. There are so many powerful images: the seniors working on installing dry walls and insulation; posturing and laughing while nailing roof shingles; some diligently learning the use of power tools; fixing a busted water line way past our scheduled work time; working with such determination for so many days; continuing to shovel gravel even in pouring rain; offering a community dinner for the families involved and the staff at Almost Heaven; the landscape all in curves and ups and down and the wonderful views on our daily commute; the true community spirit, the team-work atmosphere, and the intense camaraderie that intensified throughout our nine-day journey; finding an intact six-foot-long snakeskin in the garden in front of our rental house (exciting and scary!); beautiful evenings by the creek and waterfalls with shallow cool water as a balm for burned skin and aching limbs; the palpable broadening of perspectives; the honor and respect paid to and love felt by each member of the class in the appreciation circles.
Throughout, the predominant image was of a group of people truly working together, united in a common cause in service to others. These ten truly rose to the best in themselves; they truly earned and deserved the epithet “a wonderful human being.”
2013 Senior Service Project to Pine Ridge Reservation.
For our Waldorf high school's first-ever senior class trip, the students chose to inaugurate a tradition of social service and learning.