Reflections on Giving Back in Guatemala

Ashwaree, Billy, Bo, Erica, Evan, Gage, Julian, Manny, Marcella and Pratik –

Guatemala Group
Learning in and out of the classroom

These may just be ten names to many people, but to us, these are a group of ten exceptional young adults. These individuals make up the Rising Sun Energy Center 2012-2013 Youth Council. They come from all walks of life and different cities around the SF Bay Area, from Antioch to Oakland to Fremont. Prior to participating on the Youth Council, some had never been on an airplane; others had never left the state before; some only saw jail or worse in their future, but they all shared a desire to look beyond their personal lives and make a difference on a larger scale. This urge placed them on a journey together to build healthier, more fuel-efficient stoves for indigenous families of Xela, Guatemala.

Team Sifting Sand
“Teamwork brought us together”

The stoves they built drastically reduce the burns and respiratory disease that many Quiche villagers experience from the open pit fires they traditionally use. The stoves also burn more efficiently than open flames; thus decreasing the impact on deforestation and increasing family time that would have been spent collecting wood. This service-learning project challenged the Youth Council to plan a project from start to finish, delegate tasks, communicate effectively and successfully work as a team. They also connected and encouraged each other to new heights through demanding team excursions, and interactions with the local people and culture pushed the edges of their comfort zone.

But the most life-changing aspect of their expedition was witnessing the positive effect they had on other people, even those living thousands of miles away. Externally, they constructed stoves and altered lives, but internally, being empowered to make change on their own transformed them into leaders and citizens of the world. Their experience was shared last month with family, friends and community members during their report back presentation. We invite you to view this video, which chronicled their service abroad:

The Youth Council will continue its service locally by building an aquaponic garden for the West Oakland Senior Center on June 8th, from 11 am to 4 pm. The system will allow the center to grow its own organic fruits and vegetables, which can then be enjoyed as healthy snacks and meals by the seniors. West Oakland is commonly known as a food desert, with little or no access to grocery stores that offer the fresh and affordable foods needed to maintain a healthy diet. This project will not only provide healthier food options, but it will save the center money and be more sustainable than purchasing from stores that must transport their produce from farms that may use pesticides or hormones.

The Youth Council’s projects are bettering their communities, the environment and Youth Council members, thus empowering these individuals to achieve environmental and economic sustainability for themselves and their communities. You too can help give back by either donating to the Youth Council here: via PayPal or by volunteering to help with their aquaponics project on June 8th. If you are interested in taking part, please signup by entering you information in the comment field below. Thank you for your support!

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