A spring trip to Guatemala has given Mortonite Brittany Burk a new perspective.
Burk, a student at Augustana College, joined a group in her major that took the trip.
“Augustana College gives about $2,000 to every student for a study about trip or intern experience. So, I knew that I wanted to do something like that,” she said.
After taking a course called “childhood in the developing world,” the group spent 10 days in the country seeing what they just studied about.
“We saw a lot, and it wasn’t always easy stuff to see. We visited The Dump,” she said. “It’s basically a pretty famous area in Guatemala where individuals are living in a city dump.”
Burk, a graduate of Bethel Lutheran School and Morton High School, also visited some schools that helped give children — that were currently street workers — an education.
“Guatemala has a very high number of children in extreme poverty,” she said.
Burk said that almost half of the children in the country under the age of 5 are chronically malnourished.
However, it was what the group saw at Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan, a village struck with poverty, that stuck with them the most, Burk said.
“It was a very small village. We were there to actually just drop something off,” she said.
During the drop off, Burk said that almost the entire village came to the bus to welcome them, complete with a marimba band.
“We were their honored guests,” she said. “We were only there to drop something off, so it took us by surprise how welcoming they were to us.”
The village has been hit by two hurricanes and a tropical storm. During the government assistance, some residents didn’t want to move and the government abandoned help.
While Burk and the others were there, the villagers told them of a foundation they had started called Good Scholar.
“Their goal is to raise money so that they can help feed the children in surrounding villages that have more poverty than themselves,” Burk said, adding that the poverty level of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan is at less than $1 a day in U.S. terms.
The villages asked for the group to go back to the United States and retell their story and their plight.
“We didn’t think that was enough, so we took it to the next level and set up a fund in their name to send money back to the organization so we can help them,” she said.
The fund, available at http://www.gofundme.com/7r4cuo, was set up to raise $10,000 to help the children. Burk said that a little more than $12 can feed a child for a month in Guatemala.
“We have raised $2,375, and we got back at the end of February/beginning of March,” she said.
Burk said that while she plans to become a speech language pathologist in a hospital setting after going through graduate school, she already has strong feelings about making a return trip to the country.
“For us, what we took away is that our education can help set them free in a way. We can’t just ignore it anymore,” she said, adding that the group’s slogan is “education destroys the prison of power.”