By EMILIE NELSON
Messenger staff writer
Students at St. Edmond High School recently had the opportunity to see one of their own at home service projects put to work thousands of miles away in Guatemala.
In January, students packaged food for Kids Against Hunger as a service project for Catholic Schools Week. In March, seven students, five parents and teacher Judy Champa traveled to Guatemala with 15 suitcases filled with their Kids Against Hunger packages to be distributed to the hungry families living in the slums of San Felipe, near the city of Antigua.
The weeklong trip was part of the God's Child Project, an organization which helps children living in poverty receive food, housing and education. While in Guatemala, St. Edmond representatives were paired up with other teams to help build homes and distribute food at a mother's club.
The groups helped construct three 12 foot-by-16 foot houses for families in the village. Two of the homes were built for a brother and sister and their families, who had been displaced when their homes were washed away in a heavy rain. The land for their new homes was donated by the community's mayor.
"It was neat being at the building sites and seeing the children there," St. Edmond senior Sigourney Seltz said. "They were so happy, always smiling, singing and playing. They were singing songs about thanking God and being happy, even though they were poverty stricken."
The level of poverty in San Felipe was a memorable part of the trip for the students as well.
"Antigua was a beautiful city, there wasn't much poverty there, said senior Marti Dencklau. "It wasn't until we were outside of the city that we began to see it everywhere."
Dencklau and Seltz said that many of the homes in San Felipe were small, with no floors, no power and no running water. Residents had to walk several blocks to a community faucet to get water.
The group also visited a homeless shelter and the Casa Jackson Malnutrition Center. The malnutrition center takes in hungry, undernourished children to get them back to health, and returns them to their families. Students witnessed 8-month-old baby Robin's reunion with his family after spending four months at the center. Robin went back to his family just in time for them to move into a newly constructed home.
The students' Kids Against Hunger food was distributed at a mothers center where more than 400 mothers and children receive food twice a month. Before they can receive food, the mothers must take a class and receive a coupon that allows them to take the donated food back home with them, Champa said.
"It was cool to see our project put to work," said Seltz. "It was something different than what they usually receive."
Contact Emilie Nelson at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org