Mission trip to Guatemala serves kids

With summer quickly approaching, some students prepare for internships, work and relaxation back in their home towns. 

However, Pat Bristor, associate dean of students, and Ryan Smith, assistant director of student activities and 16 students will be traveling internationally.

They will head to Guatemala, Central America, where Waynesburg faculty and students have attended since 2002.

“[Bristor] and I are co-leading the Guatemala mission trip and we’ll be leaving the day after graduation [May 6] at three in the morning,” Smith said. “We’ve both lead it for the last three years and then also, I had gone when I was a student as well.”

The volunteer work available for Waynesburg students ranges from physical work to hands-on field experience for some of the university’s most prominent programs.

“It all depends on the year, but [it could be] anything from physical labor to painting to children activities and education in the schools,” he said,  “[This year] we’ll be actually be teaching English in the high school and middle school.”

Teaching children in Guatemala will be a first for the trip. Smith said it took a lot of coordination with teachers in Guatemala to make it possible for Waynesburg students to go into the classroom and serve as educators.

“We are adding on the education piece this year,” Smith said.  “We’ve been talking with the English teacher there and then also we’ll go and live with about 14 nuns when we’re down there. So, we’ve been talking with them and then this year is the year that we’re able to go into the school and teach English.”

Along with educating, nursing majors will have the opportunity to work in a Guatemalan nutrition center and hospital over the three-week period in which Waynesburg visits.

“The center is a nutrition center and in it there are the children that are there, and then there is also a hospital for the whole community that’s attached to it,” Smith said. “So, the students will be able to volunteer in the hospital as well.”

This will be Smith’s fourth year leading the mission trip with Bristor, but his experience with Guatemala stretches back to his days as a student when he first attended this mission trip.

“After meeting the children, they’ve really touched my heart and I’ve continued friendships with them over Facebook and have continued to go back and deepen those relationships with those students,” Smith said. “Now, I’m a co-leader and help foster those relationships with the students and the children down there in Guatemala.”

Bristor, Smith and the 16 students attending the trip are set to leave the day after graduation, May 6.

They will stay for more than three weeks, working on a variety of volunteer and service work before returning to the U.S. May 22.

Smith said all the work is worth it because of the conditions in which most of the children they encounter live.

“In general, the situation that the children are in is similar to what we know as an orphanage here in America,” he said. “But basically, the children are living in a group home and their families either can’t afford them, or the court ordered them to live in the group home, so they hardly get to see their families.”