Posted April 14, 2011 by Beth Goad 

Alternative Break: Guatemala City

In March, I traveled with eight students from Bridgewater State University and one other staff member. We spent four days working at AbonOrgániCo, a company that processes organic waste from Guatemala's Central Market into compost used to fertilize the land. The business exists to create meaningful jobs for adolescents who come from high-risk backgrounds; it was born out of work Young Life has been doing there. Bridgewater State University Alternative Break (contributed by Beth Goad)

At the beginning of each day, we would split into groups and work on two projects: mixing and laying concrete or readying garden space. The priority of the week was laying a large concrete pad that would be used to receive produce and sort it for composting. The concrete pad was completed in seven parts and the group mixed the cement by hand. While most of the group worked to mix and lay concrete, others prepared the ground for flower and vegetable gardens at the entrance of AbonOrgániCo, making it more appealing.

We spent one day working in a neighborhood community, preparing a foundation for a house to be built in Zone 3. By spending a full day in a community that is not only impoverished, but extremely close to the Guatemala City Landfill, one of the world's largest dump sites at 40 acres (read more), we saw firsthand what the poverty in this area looks like. Many of the people we met living in Zone 3 grew upscavenging in the dump. They looked for food scraps and discarded items they could clean up to sell. The stories of the people I met there are heart-wrenching. We worked to prepare the foundation for a family's home to be built. They had been living on the cement slab that was there for a year, but supplies had been purchased to build a home from re-bar, mortar and cinder blocks. Our group literally cut through concrete and dug 50 centimeters down for the new foundation to be poured. The house was completed in the weeks after we were there by two other alternative break groups from the U.S. As we dug through the concrete and dirt, we pulled out all kinds of trash from a plastic Mr. Incredible toy to food wrappers to glass bottles.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing to come from this alternative break trip was the impact it has had on the eight students. The group returned to BSU and formed a club called Zone 3: Worldwide Community Initiative. Its aim is to: “broaden awareness of poverty stricken areas across the globe, render assistance to those affected by varying levels of poverty, and construct quintessential individuals of whom can lead global communities by example in an effort to alleviate associated effects.” While the group has a waiting period before it is an officially recognized club on campus, they have been recruiting new members and looking for established clubs to co-sponsor events with them.

Bridgewater State University Alternative Break Group (contributed by Beth Goad) 

Beth Goad

Beth Goad is the Associate Director, New Student & Family Programs at Bridgewater State University.

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