Each year, some of the girls at Discovery Ranch for Girls get the amazing opportunity to travel to Guatemala for an immersive seven day service trip. There is something to be said about experiencing the culture of countries very different than our own. The students that take part in this trip, have life-changing experiences meant to open their eyes to the wide world around them.
As part of the trip, our girls volunteer as teachers for impoverished kindergarteners teaching them English. The girls form a special bond with the kids they teach and gain valuable perspective on their own lives and problems. Discovery Ranch girls have also taken part in painting murals and painting the outside of school buildings. Another aspect of the trip is getting the chance to tour the city, and taking part in different cultural activities. These help our girls experience the reward of cultural immersion.
Culture, Service, and Growth
Every trip has been an amazing experience for those who participate; each one is unique in not only the experience itself, but the activities and opportunities that are available. Some of our trips have involved working at daycares, while other trips our girls have worked teaching english to elementary children. DIscovery Ranch for Girls also keeps the main therapy goal in mind when these trips are planned. One such healing ritual our girls have taken part in involved writing a letter to someone that they cared deeply for. The girls then hiked into the Guatemalan mountains to plant a tree with their letter. This symbolic journey shows the healing power of nature and love.
Discovery Ranch girls also learn the importance of true service. By juxtaposing our girls with the lives of the poor children they are teaching, our girls gain a greater sense of empathy. Outdoor Recreation Director, David Mosse who plans and accompanies the students on the trip described the girl’s first experience with the kids, “[They were] filled with apprehension and excitement as they entered the room. The girls soon found themselves immersed in their lesson and doing a wonderful job of bridging the language barrier and interacting with the kids. I was blown away by their willingness to be silly with them and also present the information effectively.” Many of our girls come to Discovery Ranch for Girls with relationship struggles; they have a hard time making and keeping healthy relationships. Part of the Guatemalan experience is trusting our girls to put aside their own problems for a greater purpose. The students that go on this trip, come away from it with a new life perspective. By moving forward with love in all aspects of life, our girls begin to heal themselves.
Of course, our girls also come on this trip for cultural fun! Some trips have seen our girls making chocolate with the country’s oldest chocolate making families, shopping and exploring the Spanish Colonial city, visiting the Presidential Palace and city square, and taking a city tour all over Guatemala City. Our girls have also had the opportunity to see the Iximche Mayan ruins. After the tour of the ruins, the girls get to participate in a Mayan Fire Ceremony. The purpose of the Mayan Fire Ceremony is to cleanse, heal and give protection to those involved. It is one of the ways the people of Guatemala stay connected to their Mayan ancestry. At the ceremony, the girls learn their Mayan symbols, which are similar to animal totems found in Native American Culture. On the final day of the trip, the girls have the opportunity to visit Antigua, the original Spanish Colonial capital of Guatemala. In Antigua, the girls get to experience an authentic Guatemalan market. At the market, the girls get to interact with the locals, as well as try their hand at negotiating prices on items with the sellers. Every aspect of the trip opens up our students’ eyes to the world around them.
There is so much for the girls to take away from this trip to Guatemala; from all the culture and history they learned, to the positive impact compassion and service can have on others. For many of our girls who get to go on the trip, it is an experience like no other.