PLP Passport Project: Partners in Development Service Trip – Guatemala

Partners in Development in San Antonio, Guatemala

Over the summer of 2016, I had the opportunity to travel to the impoverished area of San Antonio, Guatemala to work alongside local residents and a branch of Partners in Development (PiD), an organization whose mission is to give back to underprivileged areas of the world.  Upon my arrival, I was thrown into the rush of things almost immediately to help a group of college students construct an emergency home for a family before the rainy season picked up in the early August.  This home, due to it being an emergency house, was to be constructed halfway with cement blocks and with wood for the remainder of the construction period.  This was one of the three homes I helped to construct in my short five weeks that I was there.  Of course, these were not your typical home found in the United States. The families that were benefitting from these constructions were typically poor sugarcane farmers, mothers who sold tortillas down in the center of San Antonio, and even local teachers in the school that PID helped construct about 15 years ago.

While the construction of the homes became the primary reason for my internship in Suchitepéquez, it evolved into a mission for myself to acquaint the village people with the concepts of banking and loans.  Due to their lower than low economic class, many guatemaltecos find themselves unable to pay off or even take out a loan from a national bank since they do not have proof of a business, a NIT (identification cards), or even a steady paycheck.  Alongside a fellow intern, who happened to be majoring in economics, we travelled around the local towns and city to go into these banks and find out the criteria for their loans to determine which bank would be the best for families to take out housing loans or even ones for small businesses.  Due to my previous lack of knowledge on the subject, I served as the translator for my fellow intern to find the best fit for the community PiD was located in.  By the end of my time in San Antonio, we had set up a banking program for people who were continually paying off their debt through PiD and moving them into national banks.

The other, and main reason why I went to Guatemala this summer, was for experience in the clinic, which was held two days a week.  I was able to assist the lab technician and even sit in on consultations with the doctor to help diagnose anything from a common cold to a parasitic infection in children and adults.  This part of the trip was not as enduring as I had expected coming into it, but nonetheless was a good experience to have all while making a difference in the third world community that was San Antonio.  I can say with all my heart that this was the poorest area I have ever seen and lived in, and it is amazing to see how one people can make a difference in these families’ lives.  Overall, I am extremely grateful for receiving the Passport Fund as it allowed me to open my eyes up to the fact that people in the community I lived in lived off of less than a dollar a day.  This internship is something I will never forget and has created a lasting impact on how I want to approach a career in medicine.

Post written by: Ronald Berry III

This project was made possible through the awarding of a Passport Grant made possible by the generous contributions of PLP Alumni and Friends. Thank you to all who empower PLPers to do amazing things!

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