Guatemala, not beyond our help

Approximately 28 percent of Latin American immigration into the United States comes from Guatemala. It is the second largest group of immigrants after El Salvador at 41 percent. While we can spend a lot of time analyzing statistics, it is impossible to know what these people face on a daily basis that drives them to seek refuge in America.

Last summer my mom and I signed up to volunteer at a rural school in Antigua, Guatemala.

Upon arrival, we were immediately faced with some culture shock. I began to realize how much help was really needed in this country. The natural landscape of Antigua is absolutely breathtaking and there are very few places in the world that possess such beautiful history.

However, it is a sharp contrast to the way of life most Guatemalans are forced to experience. The poverty in many areas of the city is overwhelming. Fifty-six percent of Guatemalan families are currently living below the poverty line. One of the many devastating effects of such poverty is lack of funding for schools and education as a whole. This is why we were so determined to help.

Upon meeting some of the children from the urban school where we would be volunteering, we were heartbroken to find the conditions of their situation.

While walking back to our hotel one afternoon, we were forcefully mugged and the experience is one that I cannot even describe. As much as I was grateful that my mom and I ended up OK, it gave me an awareness to the type of crime that occurs on a daily basis.

The same evening as we sat in our hotel contemplating the extremity of the situation in Guatemala, we heard a woman screaming from across the alley. A downstairs neighbor called for the police, but when they had arrived it was too late. The woman had been murdered over a dangerous drug deal. It felt like a horrible nightmare. How could this be a way of life?

It was so shocking we could not understand being in these conditions every single day especially as a child.

Sadly, Guatemala also has one of the highest rates of homicide per 100,000 people. It is a tragedy that so many people in the world are forced to witness and be victims of crimes like these.

From this experience, I have truly obtained a much better perspective of the world and hope to help refugees immigrating into the U.S. in any way that I can.

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