A New Perspective: Lower School Students Service Trip to Guatemala

Written by Sarah McCleary, Grade 8 

Today we left Guatemala. The past week has been so amazing and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to work along side the Doppenbergs with my school. Over the past seven days, we helped build a school, did a water walk (which was a major eye-opener to the struggles that many citizens have to over come each day), went swimming at Fantasy Island and met many incredible people. All the people in Guatemala are super nice! I remember on the first day, when we were driving in the back of a truck, Miss Harding’s hat flew off. The person driving behind us jumped out of his vehicle and chased after us until the hat was returned to Miss Harding. I have many fond memories of Guatemala that will stay with me forever.

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The children we met were so funny and nice and even though we could not speak the same language, we all grew to have an incredible bond. We would play “high low piccalo”, tag and patty cake. At the malnutrition centre, I would tickle and pick up and hold the children.

During our stay a man named Fernando helped us and always had a smile on his face. He was the true meaning of enthusiasm. I am currently on the plane that is taking us home to Canada. During the two plane rides and the lay-over in Miami, I have had time to reflect on this service trip and have come to realize that the things I have experienced on this trip have motivated me to go further and help more people who are less fortunate and that this trip has helped me grow as a person. Each night we had to share our “highs” and “lows” from each day. I had many highs but only a few lows, the main one being having to leave. I love Guatemala!! I got to experience a different way of living, different food and this trip allowed me to develop a closer bond with my friends and teachers. I will forever hold this trip in my heart.

Gracias!

P.S.  I hope to come back next year.

Service Above Self – Habitat Trip to Cambodia

Written by Arwyn Workman-Youmans ‘16

I have been on three Habitat Service trips so far, and describing my experience throughout the years has always been somewhat of a challenge. I have mostly found it difficult to find the right words that could best articulate the breadth of my feelings and encounters. Each trip so far has been unique and has enlightened me as a person in so many different ways and each has brought its own specific value and rewards depending on the circumstances I was put in.

On our most recent trip, I think that all 28 of us who traveled to Siem Reap, Cambodia can tell our own story, but also, all collectively can speak about how we each came back changed and with new perspective. This is my reflection.

The teams built for 6 days on two separate work sites working on the final stages of houses that had already been started. I can honestly say I have never worked so hard in my life. With the hot tropical sun beating down on us and 40 degree heat punishing us as we toiled, we nevertheless left the site each day with a feeling of accomplishment and pride for how invested we were in our work. Each evening as we boarded the bus, we were sweaty and dirty, but that was okay because a little discomfort on our part was so others could have some comfort and a place to live.

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The days were long but rewarding as we built block walls, mixed cement, parged walls, and assembled scaffolding. We also made new friends. The family’s children continually ran around us, always smiling and giggling which managed to keep everyone’s spirits high. All of this brought to me a new perspective as to how fortunate I was to have grown up in Canada, and also how grateful I am for, among other things, the incredible opportunity for education I have been afforded.

Living in a first world country such as Canada makes it so easy to take for granted the opportunities we have been given and the circumstances we have lucked into, but seeing children like Tida, who played with us every day, and how kind and happy she was made me question why I deserve these opportunities when they don’t exist for children like her.

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We also formed bonds with the skilled workers who worked on the sites with us and we were able to learn more about their lives and come to an understanding of just how hard things can be for people without a fixed salary or a secure job.

At the end of our build we were able to thank our families for allowing us to contribute to the building of their home and they conveyed to us, as we all celebrated their new homes, just how grateful they were even for our small contributions. As someone who has always left habitat build sites where the house was never complete, I cannot describe how rewarding it felt to leave a standing house, that could be lived in, behind.

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Cambodia itself is very poor but was also a beautiful country filled with lively markets and busy streets. As a group we were able to experience the current culture, food, religions and people of this wonderful place. We also explored some of history by visiting the ancient temples of Angkor Wat, truly magnificent buildings located in Siem Reap. In Phnom Penh we also traveled to the Killing Fields, a sobering and sad moment that granted us another opportunity for reflection on how selfishness and greed can ruin lives. This left us with a feeling of horror for the millions who were killed and also gratefulness for all we have in life.

The second part of our trip consisted of a cultural tour of Vietnam, which is a place I hope to return to one day soon. We biked for 3 days along the Mekong River, visited temples, houses, and the bustling city of Saigon, all while living on a wooden riverboat which allowed us to see the beauty of Vietnam, explore the culture and experience it’s history and customs.

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Overall this Habitat trip was filled with memorable moments and incredible experiences. I know that I speak for all of the students who went on the three trips this year when I extend my thanks to all the chaperones, team leaders and especially to Father Jason for organizing and making these joy-filled trips possible. To truly engage in service like this has allowed all of us who participated to better understand what it means to meaningfully and selflessly transform our globe. Once again, I have experienced the real world and have gained some new perspectives and understandings of our place in this world and how we can further bring justice and love to those who most need it. Whether it was El Salvador, Guatemala, or Cambodia and Vietnam all of us formed new bonds with one another and the people we served and I think it helped us to create our own life paths and see the world we live in in a new light.

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El Salvador Experience – Habitat for Humanity Trip

Written by Liam Wilson ‘ 16

This March Break, a group of 17 Ridley students, one Ridley teacher, and a Ridley nurse had an experience that none of them will forget for the rest of their lives. It is not going to be easy to forget the long hours of working under the burning sun mixing cement and moving bricks. It is not going to be easy to forget the smiles on the faces of the family members who watched their new home being built. And the relationships and friendships made on the trip with our Habitat for Humanity translators, masons, groups leaders, and fellow students are definitely going to stay with us for a long time.

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I had the opportunity this March Break to travel to El Salvador with 16 fellow Ridleans, Mr. Martínez, and Ms. Honsberger. To say that it was a great experience would be an understatement. I didn’t know very many of the other students on the trip well, but by the end of the two weeks, I felt as if I had know them for two years.

We split everyone up into two groups to work on two separate houses. Nothing had been started on the house that my group worked on. We spent the first two days just digging into the ground to make the foundation. After that we did a bunch of different tasks like filling in the trenches with cement and sanding the outside of the bricks. Over the course of the next two weeks, we had some great times together. Whether it was moving huge piles of sand, moving huge piles of bricks, or mixing cement, we always found a way to make it fun. Meeting and interacting with the family that we were building the house for was an experience in its own. Although the family had very little, they did all they could to make us feel welcome and comfortable. They are some of the happiest and most generous people I have ever met. We also became good friends with the masons and with our Habitat reps Jaime, Emilio, and Jxoe.

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Although a lot of time on the trip was spent working, that was only half of it. The purpose of the trips is to forge bonds with people from another country and to experience another culture, and we did just that. Our first day in El Salvador was spent touring to capital city of San Salvador. We visited the Cathedral in San Salvador and learned about one of the country’s heroes, Oscar Romero. We also learned about the dark spots in the history of this beautiful country and how many people lost their lives in the conflicts during the 70s and 80s. It was extra special for us because one of our leaders, Mr. Martínez, fled El Salvador as a child so he was able to give us a personal connection. The second weekend, we toured a coffee plantation where we saw all the steps that go into a bag of coffee and we hiked in El Imposible National Park. Everyone on the trip has mixed feelings about that hike because the park and its views were beautiful, but it was almost a 6-hour hike. Very tiring. To complete the cultural experience of El Salvador, we ate some great food. We got to experience many different traditional El Salvadorian dishes like pupusas and tamales. Mr. Martínez also introduced us to the El Salvadorian KFC, Pollo Campero. To sum up El Salvadorian food in one word; amazing.

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All in all, the trip was an unbelievable experience. Not only did my friends and I have fun and experience a new culture, but we also made a difference in the lives of two families, something that makes the trip about way more than ourselves. As John Bunyan once said, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” I highly recommend this experience to everyone. I would like to thank Ridley and Habitat for making this possible and also the leaders, Mr. Martínez and Ms. Honsberger for being so great.

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Ridley College Presents: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Last week audiences in the Mandeville Theatre – and the world (this was the first Ridley musical to be live streamed using TigerNET Live) were introduced to the contestants in the ’25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  This hilarious musical is about six quirky adolescents competing in the ‘Bee’, run by three equally quirky grown-ups. If you didn’t get a chance to see it in person, please view some highlights below: