High Point University

Alternative fall break volunteers go to Guatemala

High Point University student Aleah Hayes poses for a picture in Guatemala with some of the children from the community. Photo submitted


High Point University student Hannah Gellar plays with children after a break from building. Photo submitted

By Julie Burkett

Organizations Editor

Alternative break trips provide an opportunity during fall and spring break to provide to a community in need. Students can sign up for break trips through the High Point University volunteer center. This year, a group went to Guatemala from Oct. 12 through Oct. 19.

Shauna Zupan, resident director of Caffey, takes a group of students to the country every year. She organizes events with Max Kern, of Oak Ridge United Methodist Church, who has headed the program for over 13 years. Kean has been a partner of HPU for the last 10 years. It started domestically, with students helping the city of High Point. Eventually, Kern moved into the picture and suggested that the school partner with him and send students to Guatemala.

The students worked directly with a Guatemalan community and built stoves inside the people’s houses to help them cook food easier. Working directly with people allowed students to see the impact that they can have. They constructed a total of 181 stoves for the community in the one week that they were in Guatemala.

During the trip, the group also hiked up mountains to reach these rural communities. This was a holistic experience that allowed them to see the beautiful rural countryside of Guatemala while having a positive impact on the world.

“This past week, we hiked up mountains and hills and through the rain and to actually be in these people’s homes and build the stoves directly in the person’s house,” said Zupan.

Zupan reported that the people were already grateful for what they had, but they also greatly appreciated the new cooking equipment.

She explained that working directly with the community was a powerful experience for her and the students. The cultural exchange was a particularly satisfying aspect of the trip. The community puts a great deal of emphasis on religion in their daily lives.

They express thanks to God for their lives and all the support they receive. Even when HPU students and advisors tried to thank the community for welcoming them, they were told to thank God that they traveled to their home.

“The experience was humbling and powerful. It feels good to see a person’s quality of life change because of something we did,” Zupan explained.

Zupan and Kern plan on doing more trips in the future. During spring break, stu- dents will be traveling to Costa Rica, while another group will be returning to Guatemala trip next fall.

Students interested in getting involved should know that spots for the trips are advertised a few weeks before fall or spring break via Campus Connection emails, or you can sign up through Campus Concierge. Since most of the trips are out of the country, a passport and updated vaccinations are required. Aspiring volunteers can contact the volunteer center at highpoint.edu for more information.