We are happy to report that the group has had an exciting week, full of new experiences, hands-on work and lively conversations with community members.
The students have worked with local community members of San Antonio in partnership with an organization called OPCION (Organización para la Promoción comercial y la Investigación) to paint and construct shelves for the school where they are staying. In addition the students have had the unique opportunity to teach English to the children of Sacala. Each day the Maryland participants divide into small groups and go into the classrooms. They have taught them songs such as head, shoulders knees and toes, colors and letters. In addition they are working on teaching basic English greetings. The participants are working on posters that they can leave behind so that the teachers can continue the education that the Maryland participants started. I was told that this has been an unexpected highlight of the week. Tomorrow the group is planning on spending some time in the fields of Sacala to help community member’s plant corn. It is a unique opportunity for the participants to be there during the planting season.
Through this immersive experience, the students are getting first-hand accounts of Guatemala’s social problems including hunger, poverty and malnutrition, while exploring how the pursuit of global justice is informed by teachings of Jewish tradition. Some participants have shared that the experience has opened their eyes to aspects of Judaism that they’ve never before explored in their Jewish life. The leaders of OPCION have spent time with the group to give them a better understanding of the organizations work and explain why their presence is so beneficial to the community. The organization leaders also held a discussion about immigration which was eye opening to the students.
Each day during meals, the participants have taken turns telling the story of their life and one of the women from the community tells her story. It has been a great way for the community and group to learn about each other. Yesterday some of the students went to visit the local clinic and spoke with the nurse there to help them better understand how healthcare system works in Guatemala. Today the participants will be visiting homes of community members to engaged in small group discussions and learn more about the lives of people in Sacala and its history. Tomorrow afternoon the women who have been preparing the meals for the Maryland participants will be teaching them how to make tortillas. They are going to learn the whole process from grounding the corn to the baking the tortillas. Everyone is really looking forward to this activity.
To conclude the week, participants are looking forward to a spiritual Shabbat of their own planning—what will surely be a unique experience in Guatemala.