For a final blog post, trip leaders, Sheryl Koyama and Hardy Gieske ask students to reflect on the following prompt: You are writing to a Deerfield student considering taking this same trip next year. What qualities of heart and mind should they bring or hope to bring? What can they expect to bring back?
As you prepare to travel to Colombia, there are a variety of qualities you should bring and prepare to advance your time here. One key quality is leadership without tyranny because building a house requires everyone to work together and lead each other while maintaining another essential quality: the ability to function as part of a team. You should also enter the country with an open mind, free of any preconceptions. This is because, as you are here, you will learn a lot about the history, culture, and people of Colombia which go against common stereotypes. Finally, you should be willing to talk to the families that you are building houses for because they are able to give you insight into a unique perception of Colombia and offer you a look into their lives.
After learning about Colombia from a variety of different perspectives, you will leave with a new perception of the country as well as a newfound gratitude for what you have. You will realize the importance of communities and the strength they give the individuals within them.
Make sure that you bring an open mind. You will face discomfort, triumphs, and challenges on this trip and it is incredibly important that you experience all of the above with flexibility. You will also meet amazing families with children. Be sure to connect with them and leave your impression on them so they remember this experience. Expect to break down language barriers between the kids, the volunteers, and the employees. Embrace this as a learning opportunity to strengthen your Spanish skills. Have so much fun above all!
You will bring back a new appreciation for seemingly everyday items. You will feel an obligation to help, so embrace it. Do what you can, large or small, to further help the community you just benefited. Don’t just let this experience boost your ego.
Before going on this trip, make sure you are open-minded about Colombia and try not to arrive with preconceptions about the country. Additionally, be prepared to be flexible and get dirty and/or wet from the activities or the weather. Most of all, make observations during your time there. Take in the people, the culture, the buildings, etc.…
You will come back with a new perspective on Colombia and you will realize how privileged we are as Deerfield students.
Though packing steel-toed boots and painting clothes are quite essential for building a house in Colombia, one must also bring along an open mind ready to gain new perspectives about Colombian culture and the meaning of “home.” You must be willing to step out of your comfort zone in order to build relationships and embrace new experiences whether that be through conversing with locals with whatever Spanish-speaking abilities you possess, eating a bocadillo for the first time, embracing the discomfort that comes with learning about the Colombia’s internal armed conflict between guerilla groups, or simply learning to hammer a nail (not your finger).
Additionally, through having the opportunity to build homes for families who need them, you will take with you the connections you built with the families and your classmates as well as strong leadership and teamwork skills, since you and your peers must not only build the house but also divide the work among yourselves, communicate and coordinate effectively, and organize how the construction process for each house will be completed from start to finish. I wish you luck and sunny weather in your house-building endeavors!
It’s important to come into this trip with an open mind. Many people have preconceptions about Colombia, but in order to get the most out of this trip, you will need to leave this behind. You will also need to persevere through difficult conversations and hard work. Things will not always go to plan, so flexibility and patience are necessary.
You will return with a deeper understanding of Colombian culture and customs. Expect to form meaningful connections with the families that make it difficult to leave and which you’ll carry home with you.
Enter the trip with a mindset of not expecting anything. Everything about the trip will likely be different than anticipated, from the building process to the group dynamic.
You will leave this trip with a deeper appreciation for the things we so often take for granted. You’ll work with people and a day’s work from you means the world to them. The resources you have through Deerfield, like three meals a day and a roof over your head, or at home, like a support system, will be foreign concepts to many people you’ll encounter.
For your mind, it is important that you bring a clear head from which you have removed all preconceptions of Colombia so you can engage fully in the program and gain new understandings of the country. For your heart, it will be essential to keep it open so you can form connections with the families and everyone you meet. It will also be important to prepare your heart to hurt when it is time to say those hard goodbyes.
After this trip, you will return with a completely new perspective of Colombia. Along with this, you will bring back an expanded intellectual capital, with new information about Colombia and the peoples’ way of life, which will make you realize just how privileged you are.
While spending full days exploring the city and doing hard work, it is important to learn how to work well with everyone in the group. Many tasks on worksites would have been impossible to accomplish alone, so learning early on how to collaborate will make work go much faster. Off the sites, we spent a lot of time reflecting on experiences. By communicating well so that everyone’s perspectives could be heard, the group can learn more collectively. If you can be caring, helpful, and a good listener, you will get so much from this trip.
After the time spent exploring and helping out in a new country with your team, you will bring back an understanding of Colombia, the desire to make changes in your life to make the world better, as well as a very close group. A graffiti tour on the first day brings up conflicts that artists in recent years have felt need to be “spoken about” publicly, giving you an understanding of current issues in a very engaging way. Working to improve the living conditions of people in extreme poverty shows you how much you have to be grateful for and how easy it is to make a big impact on someone’s life. Through working together to help communities and reflecting with one another on experiences, the group will come back extremely connected. Gaining a better understanding of the world you live in while improving it with people you grow close to makes it an amazing trip.
While there’s no perfect person for the trip, the demanding work and broad consideration of living conditions favors an open-minded, willing student who wants to make the most of their time. In many ways, these abilities to adapt to the ever-changing situations of families seeking help from a foundation such as Catalina Munoz are most vital. The nature of service on a trip such as this is providing the best help one can, given the requests of families, not one’s own hopes. Of course, this flexibility leads a student to a malleability in their world-view, the real takeaway from the trip.
You should come with the ability to be flexible at all times as things are bound to change during any point of the day. You should also come with an open mindset so you have space to consume new ideas. Be prepared to form connections with peers and other volunteers that will be incredibly hard to say goodbye to, but know that these connections will be long, long lasting.
You will bring back a huge variety of perspectives that you would never be able to find anywhere else. You will have a new work ethic, new perspectives on your home life, and a developed mindset on how to face challenges.