Christopherson Business Travel is a proud corporate sponsor of CHOICE Humanitarian. In addition to voluntary employee contributions and matching program, Christopherson annually sends a group of employees on a week-long humanitarian expedition. CHOICE Humanitarian provides support to these small villages in extreme poverty with a village-centered approach. By teaching self-sustaining skills and implementing needed updates, CHOICE is driven by eliminating extreme poverty. This year, the group of nine employees visited a small village in the Buena Vista region of Guatemala. Marta Musich, a corporate travel agent from our Denver office volunteered this year. Below is her experience.
Traveling with our team on the CHOICE Expedition was a fantastic experience, even though it was somewhat bittersweet. It was a long ride to get to the village in Buena Vista, high in the mountains. It was a beautiful and bumpy ride into the jungle. We arrived at the village in the late afternoon. There was a wonderful and joyous welcoming from the villagers. We went down a steep mountain trail to end up by their small but clean school where we would be spending the next few days. I was sure happy to hear that the village men would be bringing down our luggage for us.
They put on a dance for us by the children, The Dance of the Dear. This is a dance that has been used over the years to welcome the visitors to the village. I really enjoyed watching all the children and villagers welcoming us. They were quite happy to see us and I was getting excited to start helping them with our assigned project.
We split up in groups. I was in the painting group. We were going to paint their community center. We were handed our supplies to complete this task and worked with several men from the village.
This was quite a highlight for me. I was able to spend time with the men and the children too. The villagers I painted with tried to teach me Q’eqchi. I had to pronounce the words over and over until I had them just right. We made a game out of it, they had to pronounce them in English. This helped break the ice. My favorite word was “us” which mean good. I used it a lot. The child were great. They wanted to help us too, until we brought out the coloring books. Then they decided they liked that a lot more.
After finishing the painting. I went over to help with the stove building. Everyone was helping to make their homes a much healthier place for them to live. The old way of cooking caused the walls and ceiling to be blackened with soot.
Some of my favorite moments were trying to grind the corn and make tortillas. I never realized how hard it was to do from scratch. I never was able to form one correctly. I need a lot more practice. It was quite fun laughing with the women in their homes. I so enjoyed being with the people of the village.
They really enjoyed the soccer balls that were brought and the children had so much fun with bubbles, coloring books, and jump roping. It made me smile from inside out.
The week was filled with many emotions. It saddened me to hear that their government would not pay for a teacher to come to the school and that the children had been without one for six months.
One day, I really wanted to take a shower after hours of long hot, sweaty work. But after I learned that the villagers were not using water so we could have a shower, I felt that I could stay a little dirty. It was so selfless of them to do this for us. They already a have so little; how could I take more from them?
There was hardly anything in their homes, yet they all seemed happy with so little. You hardly ever heard a child crying or not sharing with the others. These are lessons that so many of us need to learn. Maybe a few less possessions and more time spent together doing things would be good.
The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” still seems to apply here. I’m not sure if this is one of the reasons our children have become so isolated, where we don’t even know the family that lives next door, but it was such a wonderful time watching everyone together. A movie was shown one night and for some of the children this was the fist time they had seen one.
Personally, I have been downsizing for many years. I have realized that you don’t have to have a lot to be happy. But I am saddened that these villagers don’t even have the basics. There aren’t many ways to make money that far in the jungle. My outlook on poverty has changed a lot after this trip. I see how stuck people can become when it comes to getting out of poverty.
I was so lucky to meet such wonderful and caring people from the CHOICE group. We are so fortunate to live where we all can get an education and have an opportunity to make our lives better. I am very thankful for all that I have. This has opened my eyes and I hope I can find opportunities to help out the less fortunate here, near my own community.
See more photos from Marta’s expedition group on Facebook.