From being a first-time participant to a first-time leader, a lot has changed in the way that I view the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program and how I view the world. And as another great year of ASB comes to a close, I can’t help but look back on some of the most memorable experiences from my trip.
As a participant of the program in 2016, it was the first time I decided to leave the country with 13 other strangers, doing construction work in a remote location of the Honduran countryside and putting my health and safety into the hands of people who had no clue who I was and barely spoke the same language as me. I didn’t know it then but from the moment we arrived at the Montreal airport, my ASB experience truly began.
It wasn’t just the feeling of lifting off into the air and leaving the bitter cold of Canadian winter, or driving eight hours into the community we were staying in once we landed in Honduras. No, it was the emotional bonds I created with my team members, the 13-wonderful people who I was fortunate enough to share my week with, that really enhanced my experience. And in my role as a team leader this year, I felt that connection amplify as I took on the responsibility of bringing 12 new participants on this crazy adventure.
Guatemala is full of many steep and winding roads. Roads that will give you butterflies looking out the bus window as you see the edge of the mountain beneath its wheels. But the journey, as long and tedious as it was, brought us to the beautiful town of Aldea de Los Angeles. The community was full of incredible people who encompassed a powerful vision for their children. The history of the sports court we helped build comes from the belief that everyone should have the right and the opportunity to meet in a collective space, express themselves, and learn from one another in a safe environment. Through years of civil war, meeting in crowds was seen as a threat to government control. It meant that people would have a chance to deliberate their thoughts, to learn that others might share the same feelings and concerns.
As a leader and participant, I never really understood the importance of conversing freely with friends, neighbours, and even government officials about the ways we think our society should be run. I learned that communication is such a vital skill and a privilege in life, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have earned the chance to lead other students in experiencing this for themselves.
I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to spend another reading week abroad. Experiencing ASB again has truly been a blessing and I couldn’t be happier with the result of our community project, the friendships that came from our amazing team, and the overall experience of being in Guatemala for the very first time in my life.
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