For 18 students, this March break was about commitment, making a difference and proudly practicing Ridley’s motto: Terar dum prosim – May I be consumed in service. This group of students travelled 3344 kilometers from St. Catharines to Guatemala. Accompanied by their chaperones, Mr. Dave Costello, Ms. Allison Harding, Ms. Carla D’Annibale and Ridley parent, Ms. Kim Arnold, the students spent eight days working with the Doppenbergs and their organization known as The DIG.
The Doppenbergs moved to Guatemala six years ago and have since dedicated their lives to helping those living in poverty. Their most recent project has been The School of Hope in El Progreso, Guatemala. This school, when complete, will give students with special learning needs a place to grow. “The School of Hope will be the first of its kind in the region, and will provide access to education for students who typically would not be able to go to school,” says Ms. Allison Harding, Intermediate Teacher. The School of Hope is set to open in early 2017 and our Ridleians spent the week making progress on its construction.
The students began their trip with a visit to El Salitrillo, the first village that the Doppenbergs began working with when they made their move from the Niagara region. While visiting, our Ridleians had the chance to play with some of the local children and visit the school that was constructed by The DIG last year. For some students, this was a chance to revisit the school they’d help build during the 2015 service trip. For the others, it was a chance to see what would become of this year’s project. After an inspirational first day in Guatemala, the students were ready to get started!
Their first day on the work site was a tough, but rewarding day. The students spent several hours making progress on The School of Hope. Laying cement and tying rebar was difficult work, but the students were happy to assist in any way they could. In the afternoon, the students visited the nursery run by the Doppenbergs. This nursery helps provide sustainable nutrition to Guatemalans living in El Progreso. Our students helped plant peppers and moringa trees (a plant that provides an incredible amount of nutrition), fill soil bags and place soil around the nursery. After a long day, Ridleians were able to look back and see all that they had already accomplished.
“The work we did at the site was rather tedious but we managed to get a tremendous amount of work done… I am definitely looking forward to tomorrow”
– Nnamdi Chibuzor ‘21
For the rest of the week, the students continued to help in the nursery and make progress on The School of Hope. Over the course of only a few days, the students could see that they were having a positive impact on the community.
As the end of the trip approached, the students went back to El Salitrillo. The Doppenbergs had spent the last couple of years working on a way to bring clean water to the village. Before the system was completed, the villagers had to walk to a spring, located 15 minutes away, through rough terrain, where they would fill buckets with water and then have to trudge back through the path. Our Ridleians participated in a “water walk” to experience the challenging task that these villagers had to endure multiple times a day.
“This was an eye-opening experience that undoubtedly left us all with a much greater appreciation for the clean drinking water that we have easy access to at home.”
– Ms. Allison Harding, Intermediate Teacher
The week had flown by, and after days spent working tirelessly, time spent exploring Guatemala and an experience of a lifetime, it was time to say goodbye. As our Ridleians left Guatemala and made the journey back home, they were asked to reflect on their experiences and how it had impacted them. It was clear that in only a week, these students had grown attached to Guatemala and the people who inhabit it. For many, it ignited a fire within them to do all they can to help those in need.
“This trip made me grateful for all that I have…. I hope to come again.”
– Paloma Moragrega ‘20
“I can’t stop thinking about how these two trips have impacted me as a person. I believe that I have grown as a person because of the experience I was able to have.”
– Sarah McCleary ‘19
“This trip had an impact on everyone in many different ways. We were able to see Guatemala from a perspective that most people aren’t able to experience and because of this, are able to learn and grow from it. This will truly be an experience that everyone won’t forget. From arriving on March 10th to departing on March 17th, everyone will surely be able to bring this story back home, spread the word and bring back even more people for next year.”
– Jasmyn Traboulay-Drach ‘19
Each year, these service trips give students the opportunity to experience what life can be like in the developing parts of the world. It is a humbling and enriching experience, that many Ridleians keep with them for the rest of their lives. We can’t wait to see what next year will hold and what opportunities will arise for our students to make a difference.
If you would like to donate to The DIG and help them complete The School of Hope, please click here.