Kelly in Guatemala on service trip holds the hands of local childrenBy MaKenzie Copp ’20, English and Writing and Publishing

The start of the semester is always an exciting time for the Saint Joseph’s College community, but as we all rejoin each other on campus, it is important to reflect on the winter break, and the amazing opportunities that Saint Joseph’s is providing to some of our students, even after the semester ends, and our community dispenses.

SJC students on Guatemalan service trip with local childrenOne student, Kelly Sheehan, traveled to Guatemala for a service trip in coordination with Partners in Development, or PID, a service organization which helps provide individuals in extreme poverty with the tools to change their futures. Kelly, along with a group of friends and other SJC students, went to Guatemala in December, during the week before Christmas, to help construct a home for a Guatemalan family, paint a home that had already been built, aid in medical care at the local clinic, host and help with Christmas parties for the children, and more. Kelly explained that traveling to a new and different part of the world was an intimidating idea, but that having friends from SJC made the experience feel more comfortable, and that ended up having an incredible experience. Kelly’s work day spanned from about eight to four, with a break for lunch in the afternoon. Because of the heat, students would switch tasks halfway through the day, so that if they were doing construction, they would also spend inside the clinics or at parties for the children. Some of the children that Kelly worked with in Guatemala were sponsored through different service programs, and so many of them would have parties to celebrate the holiday, where Kelly and the other volunteers would play different games with the children, and where at the end, the sponsored child would receive a present and a meal. Kelly said that working with these children was one of the best parts of her trip, and that it felt great to see them so happy. Another experience that Kelly found especially gratifying was getting to paint a house that had already been built by PID, because she was able to actually meet the family that would be living there, and see the real impact that she was making in people’s lives. That day was Kelly’s favorite of the whole trip. Kelly explained that as she and the other volunteers painted that family’s house, that they were swarmed by groups of Guatemalan children, who wanted to talk to them, help the paint, play, and were so excited to have them there. Although Kelly doesn't speak much Spanish, she said that her high school Spanish classes helped her understand them enough to tell them her name, to teach them how to help paint, and to create a common connection, breaking down cultural barriers that at first felt so strong.

Kelly in Guatemala and local children give the peace sign

Volunteers in Guatemal diggingKelly said that she had an” incredible experience” in Guatemala, that she is so thankful for the opportunity, and that she “wants desperately to go back.” She urges everyone to look in to the amazing opportunities that SJC can provide you with while you are here, not only while you are here on campus, but outside of the classroom. Because of the structure of students' lives during these four years, the college provides the perfect opportunity for trips like Kelly’s, and she urges everyone to consider going, and reminds everyone that Saint Joseph’s provides all students with a Connections stipend, which can be used to pay for service trips, and to make these kinds of amazing experiences. Kelly’s time in Guatemala was truly priceless, and it was with a bright smile that she explained that she can’t wait to go back, and that she will take this experience with her outside of Saint Joseph’s, doing more work with, and maybe even working for, PID in the future.