In March, One Million Lights partnered with NGO Long Way Home, Santa Cruz Hillel and Oregon Hillel for an Alternative Spring Break Program to distribute 150 solar lights to school children, teachers, and construction workers for a sustainable school that is being built in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala. Here are some blog entries and reflections from the experience.
Rachel from UC Santa Cruz:
It is still so hard to imagine that there are children that do not receive an education or have electricity because they cannot afford it, but I feel fortunate that I was able to help the community as much as I could. One of the instances that I will perhaps remember for the rest of my life was when we distributed solar lanterns to the kids. Their genuine surprise and pure happiness made the entire experience worth it.
From Ben, Volunteer Coordinator at Long Way Home:
We have power outages here in Comalapa pretty frequently, so they’re going to come in quite handy for everyone that doesn’t live out here at the school where we have a building with solar power. There were enough lights for each of our students, teachers, guatemalan workers, gringo staff, and the entire family of 7 that runs the hotel where our groups stay. The few extras we had are making incredible lighting for our non solar buildings at night.
Lives and Perspectives, by Laura from Oregon Hillel:
Original Post Here
Today was a day of firsts for me. We left at our usual time of 8am and heard we were going to spend the first half of our day playing with the students at the school. While everyone was getting excited that we were getting time to spend with the children, I was nervous. I tend to feel uncomfortable around children either because I cannot match their energy level or the fact that they always seem to be sticky. I was also nervous about talking to them because I do not speak Spanish very well. We arrived at the school/worksite greeted with beautiful decorations around the classrooms set up by the students. Soon after, the children came out welcomed us with skits and dances that they have been practicing for our visit. Each grade had a different performance and, I have to say, it was adorable. The children looked so overjoyed to be performing these silly dances and songs for us. In America, I feel like most kids would be bothered by the task of having to prepare a show for a handful of visitors from another country.
The students were smiling from ear to ear as they danced and acted their hearts out; I was so impressed. While the performances were going on, Andy & Jim (the directors for Oregon Hillel and Santa Cruz Hillel respectively) pulled Maddy Winard (a student from UC Santa Cruz Hillel) and I aside to ask us to stand up in front of the students, teachers, Long Way Home Staff and our peers to explain about the solar lanterns we brought with us to donate to them. Both Hillel groups worked with another nonprofit, One Million Lights, to raise $1,500 ($750 by each campus) to purchase and donate 150 solar powered lanterns to give to the students, teachers, and Guatemalan volunteers that work with Long Way Home. Maddy and I took turns saying thank you to the group and telling them about their lanterns. I have never seen a more excited and appreciative group of kids. To think that many of the children at home get this excited over an Play Station, or new cd, and these children were blown away by the ability to read or have light while going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Then, one by one, the students came up to us, took a lamp, and gave each of us a hug. It was incredibly moving for me because these children were so grateful for what we were doing for them and it showed on each of their faces. After the gifts, we all met up at a park to play on an awesome playground and a soccer field. This park was Long Way Home’s first project and it came out beautifully. I got my butt kicked at soccer with some boys but it was all in good fun; everybody was smiling the whole time.
We then had lunch for an hour and started work on the school. I was feeling very tired so my first instinct was to sit inside and rip Styrofoam to recycle into a material that would help waterproof important spots of the school, but one of the groups working on a landscaping project needed another person so I volunteered. I can’t tell you how happy I am that I wasn’t inside ripping Styrofoam. The landscaping project called for us to move a bunch of dirt to create a path and stairs in order to make it easier for people to move things across a ravine. I have never made stairs before and let me tell you, it was quite the experience. We used pick axes (my new favorite tool) to clear away some of the dirt and then we had to use that excess dirt to level the ground and create stairs with shovels. It was very sweaty work but also very satisfying because we were able to see the finished product after two hours! These experiences have changed my perspective on what hard work really is and what genuine gratitude looks like.