Psychology major and volleyball player Kate Hehre ’15 (Minneapolis) spent part of January on a Macalester-sponsored trip to Guatemala. Here’s what she had to say about the experience.
I spent two weeks in January working with an organization called Rising Minds in San Juan de la Laguna, Guatemala. I did the trip along with 17 other Macalester students.
While there we focused on sustainable community development expressed through various Rising Minds (RM) projects. Throughout the two weeks we learned about the coffee harvesting process, traditional medicines and herbal remedies, and Mayan spirituality, while learning how to cook with our host mothers and how to do traditional back-strap weaving.
We also teamed up with a local women’s co-op and their kids to build a playground using recycled tires; ran a health expo with community health workers for families affected by Hurricane Stan; worked in elementary school classrooms demonstrating experiential learning ideas; and labored in RM’s gardens, where they grow fruits and vegetables for a nutrition program for families living around Lake Atitlan. Oh, and we also managed to run a Kids Carnival for the entire town of San Juan.
The whole experience was amazing, and allowed us plenty of time to get to know the people of San Juan, especially our host families and the community members we worked most closely with. Through those relationships we learned a lot about tourism, trade, foreign relations, politics, the Guatemalan economy, the effects of their civil war (which ended only 20 years ago), religion, the influence of the Mayan culture, Lake Atitlan, education, health care and nutrition, as well as how each of those topics affects the various towns around the lake.