Study abroad group to aid Guatemala


Sitting on her couch, she read page after page detailing the issues hindering Guatemala’s development: the social problems caused by 36 years of civil war, lack of educational opportunities and the utter poverty most Guatemalans face on a daily basis.

Yet, even after much research, Laura Rivera knew she still could not fully comprehend the fear and pain associated with Guatemala’s struggle. While resting in her air-conditioned apartment with the TV humming in the background and a pantry full of snacks, could she truly relate to the Guatemalans struggling to feed their children?

“You can spend enormous amounts of time reading about different problems these other countries have, but not really be affected by it or have a life-changing experience from it until you actually go see it,” said Rivera, a junior in economics. “That’s why I wanted to go [to Guatemala]. I wanted to see it for my own eyes.”

And during Spring Break, Rivera will be able to do just that. Seventeen students and two faculty members will be traveling to Guatemala to discover first-hand what they can do to aid the country’s economic development. The students understand that in order to help the Guatemalan people most effectively, you need to completely understand their plight.

Multiple fundraisers have been organized solely by the students to provide donations to non-governmental organizations that help further Guatemala’s development, and specifically, provide
pure water.

“In order to really help with economic development, the first thing you’ve got to do is provide clean water for people,” said Dr. Jeff Michelman, director of the International Business Flagship Program and professor of

The next fundraising event is the “Guatemala Aid Benefit Concert,” which will be held at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19 in the Hodges Stadium. The band Crome Yellow, winner of 2009 Battle of the Bands, will be performing, and a $5 donation will earn you a ticket.

Tickets are available on the Green every day leading up to the concert.

“The proceeds raised at the event are going to be spent on ensuring clean water for remote Guatemalan villages that we will most likely be visiting on the trip, or similar ones to those,” said Josh Freedman, a sophomore political science major who organized the concert and will be attending the Guatemalan study abroad trip.

Each student will also be traveling with an extra suitcase filled with clothes and school supplies for the Guatemalans. They will be collecting donated items from Feb. 23-27 at the Student Service Center in Building 42, room 2021.

The students going on the trip have a goal to earn at least $300 each to donate to a non-governmental organization they will choose after the trip.

About half of the students going on the trip speak Spanish, ranging from fluency to rudimentary knowledge.

“The opportunity for our students to interact with the Mayans is going to be significant because they will have the opportunity to speak the same language,” Michelman said.

Freedman said he decided to go on the Guatemalan trip because it seemed like the right thing to do.

“These people need help. It’s an underdeveloped nation and it has a bright future in store for it if everybody keeps on track,” he said.

If you would like to make a donation, call Michelman at 620-1541.

E-mail April Schulhauser at [email protected]