Holy Trinity group travels to Guatemala
A group from Simcoe's Holy Trinity Catholic School as well as Assumption College and St. John's College in Brantford and St. Jerome's University in Waterloo were in Guatemala on a humanitarian mission this month. While there, they worked on making improvements to an elementary school. Contributed Photo
Holy Trinity student Nicole Dunn has always wanted to help those less fortunate, so when a mission trip opportunity was presented, she jumped at the chance.
Dunn and a group of 24 fellow students and administrators representing Holy Trinity as well as Brantford's Assumption College, St. John's College and St. Jerome's University in Waterloo were in Guatemala from Feb. 2-11 to help improve an area school. Also taking part in the trip was the Brant-Haldimand-Norfolk Catholic District School Board director of education Chris Roehrig.
The group stayed in Antigua and worked a little less than an hour from the city where they painted both the exterior and interior of an elementary school, helped build a water filtration system at the site and also worked on constructing a kitchen for the facility.
“I want to go into international law, so I thought (the trip) was something that really called out to me,” said Dunn, a Port Dover resident. “As soon as I heard about it I was like 'I need to do this, this is what I'm supposed to do'. I felt like it was calling to me.”
Going on humanitarian excursions has become a tradition for Tianna McElligott's family. Both of her siblings had done the same, and Holy Trinity's 2017-18 valedictorian returned home with a greater understanding of her life in Norfolk County.
“It definitely gave me a better appreciation for the education system here,” she said. “I think a lot of students take for granted what we have, so I'm definitely a lot more grateful to be able to go to a school like Holy Trinity and also for my living situation.”
The group did reserve some time for sightseeing (including a trip to the Mayan ruins) and to experience the local culture, but that's not what they'll remember most about the trip, Dunn said.
“I think the biggest thing that stood out to me and was the most enjoyable was the connections we made with everybody in the community,” she said. “All of us got the chance to teach (the students) a little bit of English and I think all the connections we made with the kids were really powerful. Even though we had a language barrier we were still able to kind of communicate with them.”
Roehrig, who documented the journey on Twitter, felt the same.
“It was really good to see progress made on the projects we were working on, that was important, but I think even more important was the relationship built between the students and the members of the community,” Roehrig said. “The joy on the face of the kids was really remarkable, it was one of those things that will stay with me my whole career.”
Roehrig hopes the students can now see themselves as “agents of change” in the world and what lending a hand can do for one's outlook.
“I think they learned a lot about what it takes to find joy in the world, that you don't have to have things and money to find joy, that you can find joy in your life by serving others,” he began. “It's really impressive to see them transform in that way.”