By Karen Billing
Carmel Valley’s Adam Woodnutt, 14, spent three weeks of his summer volunteering in Guatemala at a school for indigenous Mayan children. The incoming sophomore at Canyon Crest Academy logged 60 hours of community service from July 16 to Aug. 5 with Global Leadership Adventures (GLA), an international organization headquartered in San Diego that offers service-learning opportunities to high school students.
“I feel like we made a difference and I think the kids will remember us.” Adam said.
Adam researched many different kinds of service trips and picked GLA’s Guatemala trip for its focus on service and foreign language — he is fairly adept at speaking conversational Spanish.
“I wanted to go on a trip that wouldn’t be like a vacation, I wanted to go on one to actually help people and learn things,” Adam said.
Adam’s group included 36 students, mainly from the U.S., but also some from Europe. They stayed in a lodge outside of Xela and participated in an immersion curriculum designed to improve their Spanish-speaking skills.
Throughout the week, the students restored a classroom at a local Mayan school. They built up the new classroom and even installed faucets.
“I had built things before but not anything of that scale,” Adam said. “The hardest part was probably chiseling out part of the wall. It was just rock and it took like 30 minutes just to get a little done.”
The group painted the outside of the classroom building, as well.
Adam had plenty of time to connect with the school’s students—the kids always wanted to be carried piggyback-style and loved taking pictures with his camera. He was impressed that while the children appeared to have very little and were dressed in “hand-me-down” clothes, “They were all really happy still,” he said. “They were nice little kids.”
In addition to the service work, the students visited different towns and villages in Guatemala, such as the market town of Chichicastenango, archeological ruins, organic coffee farms and the sacred lake Laguna Chicabal, located at the top of a dormant volcano.
Adam learned about Mayan art, music and culture — he was struck by how vibrant the community was, with bright colors used in clothing and art, and the people very welcoming and so happy.
At CCA this year, Adam hopes to get more involved with school service groups and wants to find a cause to support and fundraise for.
“I think (service) is very rewarding,” Adam said,
He would “absolutely” recommend Global Leadership Adventures to his peers and hopes to be able to do another project in a future summer, perhaps GLA’s service trip to Ghana.
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