By Asa Brown and Andre Stendahl
Every two years, Catlin Gabel and OES lead a trip out to rural Guatemala, with Tna being the adult from OES that goes. Here’s a short rewind of what the trip was like, and the main project that we did there.
The Guatemala Winterim was a trip centered around service to local academic communities located in and around Chajul, a small town in the mountains. The people there speak Ixil and some Spanish. We were able to see many houses, stores, and schools. Some houses had running water and electricity, but some did not. And almost all homes had dirt floors. Most used an open fire for cooking which created a lot of smoke and pollution. The streets were lined with garbage and there were stray dogs and chickens all over. It is a poor and rural community.
Our main objective during this time was the Photovoz project, which we initiated in partnership with Limitless Horizons, a non-profit organization concerned with the academic development of kids in Chajul. For this project, we brought around ten cameras with us to Chajul (along with a ton of other things to be donated to the schools and medical center in Chajul.) Once we had met the students involved with the Limitless Horizons organization, we were split into 6 groups. Each group consisted of two OES and Catlin Gabel students and two Limitless Horizons students, as well as a chaperone. For the first phase of the project, each group walked around the city of Chajul and took pictures of just about anything we wanted. We had to ask people whether they wanted their picture taken or not. Each group had two to three hours each day for three days to take pictures. After this, all groups pooled their photos together and we printed them using the printers and paper that we brought. Each group needed to pick three photos from this cache and had a couple of hours to decide which photos they wanted to talk about in the final presentations. After deciding, each member of the group formed an idea about the photo and what it represented in relation to the city of Chajul; ideas which would then be presented to the community of the rural town. The last stage of this project was when each group presented on their various photos in an event where the Chajul community could come to look at and interact with the photos taken. Each group picked a photo that would be shown on a projector screen to the audience, in which each student would describe a certain idea they had about the photo in a sort of group presentation. The audience would then break down into smaller groups to which each group of students would present their second photo in a less formal fashion. The third photos of each group were hung up on the wall museum-style for everyone to see.