PW Service Club members Nicole Tier, Ana Cwietniewicz and Rebekah Howard with Guatemalan children from the school in Tecpán.

Members of the PW Service Club from Plymouth Whitemarsh High School (PWHS) recently spent nine days of their summer vacation in a return visit to a rural K-6 school outside of Tecpán, Guatemala. The club mixed cement, cut ribar, and laid tile to create a sink and counter area in the school’s kitchen and taught English classes to children in grades 4-6.

“The most rewarding part of the trip, by far, was being able to see how eager the kids were to learn,” said PWHS Junior Arya Venkat. “I loved being able to share their love of school and learn more about their lives.”

The club traveled through Squads Abroad and their partner organization, Cross-Cultural Solutions, who notes that the poverty rate in Tecpán is nearly 60% and approximately 33% of children drop out of elementary school to begin working. During their time volunteering at the school, the PWHS students saw evidence of the economic troubles firsthand.

“The trip to Guatemala has shown me a wide variety of lifestyles and emphasized that everyone’s ‘normal’ is different,” said PWHS Junior Mei McWilliams. “Many people do not realize how fortunate they are until they see the conditions of others, which I got to experience and learn through this trip.”

The PW Service Club members also had the opportunity to participate in several “cultural immersion” activities, including making their own Maya pottery, milking cows at a local dairy farm, and exploring Maya ruins and the nearby colonial town of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“I’ve grown as a person, and I know I’ll definitely miss the friendships I’ve made, but the biggest thing I’ve learned was the power of volunteering,” said Arya. “Whether it’s through doing something local or international, helping others is the way to make the world a better place.”