The current generation of teens finds comfort in sticking close to friends. Even speaking with an adult or acquaintance on the phone is not something that feels natural for them. So much of teen communication is through social medial and texting. So here we are in the mountains of Guatemala with no WIFI, no connection to friends back home, and surrounded by new faces. Nobody seems to miss the electronic connections as there are many ways to connect to the people around us – a smile and a wave, a simple but at times difficult “Hola , Como Te Llamas?”, an invitation to play Uno.
Every day there are activities planned with The Pequenos, and every day I am amazed at how our GSP teens force themselves to step out of their comfort zone to connect to the NPH Pequenos (and in Spanish, no less!).
Doing this is not easy but the rewards are great. I have witnessed many smiles and hugs, impromptu dancing on the soccer court, singing jam sessions, and innumerable string bracelets being made and later lovingly tied on the wrists of new friends. This is the norm here at the NPH home.
I can only hope that we will bring back even a little piece of this way of living.
Today our group is headed out to spend the morning with those children that have special needs. I see the excitement in their faces as they pack up their bags full of coloring books, markers, beads, and string. Communicating via smiles, laughs and games. Instagram, Facebook, Snap Chat nowhere to be found.
Over three billion people (almost half of the worlds population) live on less than $3 a day. This country is beautiful but the poverty is quite apparent. Many of our GSP youth are experiencing this for the first time, though on more than one occasion they have commented that financial poverty does not necessarily equate to misery and isolation. By providing education, resources and career guidance, NPH works to lift people up and break the cycle of poverty. By providing basic human physiologic needs, security needs, love/sense of belonging The Pequenos can reach their full potential. GSP youth are seeing this firsthand.
Relationship building with “The Pequenos” and immersion in the culture are only part of the story this week. I have also watched the GSP teens form new friendships with each other.
Experiences like this inevitably lead to stronger bonds with those traveling together. Painting classrooms and prepping the fields for tilling have a way of bringing people closer, believe it or not. End of day reflections are honest and thoughtful as we discuss Catholic Social Teaching and share with each other our “Roses, Buds and Thorns” (Highlights, Hopes, and Low points”). And after a physically and emotionally exhausting day, the adults fall hard into bed and fast asleep. Perhaps not surprisingly, there is just a little bit too much giggling and whispering coming from the teen dormitory feeding off the highs of new experiences and new friendships.