For four years running, through a partnership with Medical Teams International, we've sent a team of Superfeet employee-owners far into remote regions of Guatemala to help increase access to clean water and improve hygiene practices in the community. Superfeet employee-owner Shari Karber shares key reflections from her trip.
There is no other way to put it: the experience of this service trip, where I got to immerse myself in a completely different culture, was life-changing.
While I was in the hills of Guatemala, more specifically, a remote village called San Sebastian Beleju, I reflected on one word each day that captured my takeaways from this incredible adventure. Here are some of my field notes.
Our first day in the village was almost indescribable. We were welcomed by the 20 families we would be helping over the next few days and they showed up with signs, drums, smiles and hugs. We aimlessly followed them to a large community building where they put on a welcome ceremony and thanked us for leaving our lives in the US to spend a few days helping them install latrines. They showed us in so many ways how grateful they were for us to be there. In turn, my heart was bursting with gratefulness as well, not only to be in Guatemala with these people I have dreamt of meeting for months, but to also work for a company that practices what they preach and doesn't just send money, but sends people. That first day I realized that we were showing the people of San Sebastian Beleju that they matter.
Our second day was our first full day in the village. My team got the pleasure of taking a hike to the highest latrine location and to the home of a man named Richardo, Director of Water and Health in the village. It was at those first two latrines that my team got to experience the essence of a Guatemalan family. A happy, giggly, group of kids (Richardo's grandchildren) watched as we fumbled through hammering and mixing concrete. The admiration and love in that family was obvious and was extended to us in a way I wasn't fully prepared for, but instantly felt. The connection with Richardo, his grandchildren, his wife and daughters was by far the most fulfilling connection of the trip for me. I will never forget their hospitality, smiles and love, regardless of our language barrier.
The third day in the village was also a full day. With at least 12 latrines (out of 20) already built, our team was tired but still ready to work. During our lunch break we had the opportunity to connect with the village's Mother Counselors, Nutritional Team, and Health Community Commission leaders. We got to hear about the education the women were receiving from Medical Teams International. I realized for the hundredth time in a couple days how privileged we are to live in an area where we have easy access to clean water, a bathroom and a place to wash our hands. These pieces of my normal routine are a privilege I didn't know I took for granted. I listened to the women talk about how excited they were to be able to wash their hands and one day install a water filtration system. Their excitement to learn more, to improve their village, and their desire to keep the ones they love healthy made this entire trip worth it, and made me appreciate the work that Medical Teams International is doing in villages all over Guatemala.
The final day in the village was bittersweet. My word for the day in my reflection was humbled. I felt honored to be part of these individuals' lives for a few days and I was truly impacted by the generosity, love and acceptance my team received. We each got up to speak at the closing ceremony, thanking them for letting us into their lives, their village, their homes and their families. We hugged and we danced, just like we had a few days earlier. But this time it was as if we had been there for a much more than four days. Our team left the village that day not crying or sad, but smiling, laughing, and filled to the brim by 20 families that showed us what it is like to welcomed with open arms. We will always be their friends in the United States and if we are lucky, someday see them again.
To learn more about Medical Teams International and the work they do both at home and abroad, visit www.medicalteams.org. For more about how your Superfeet purchase helps shape strong foundations, visit the Superfeet Giving page.