Editor’s note: According to Volunteer Canada, International Volunteer Day takes place every year on Dec. 5 to shine a light on the impact of volunteer efforts everywhere. The Chronicle is proud to tell the story of community volunteers.
Two Durham College (DC) students describe their volunteer experience with children in Guatemala as “mind-blowing” and “heartwarming.”
Valentina Barros, a student in the Broadcasting-Radio and Contemporary Media program, and Valentina Suarez, a Public Relations and Strategic Communications student, were involved in a program offered by Canadian-based organization Students Offering Support (SOS).
The two Valentinas were involved with different aspects of the SOS project during different time periods.
Barros travelled to Las Arrugas, Guatemala in February, 2020, along with other DC students to conduct video interviews to tell the story of the Guate Groundswell Program.
Suarez served as a translator in another component of the program in October, 2020, that was affected by COVID-19. SOS couldn’t take another trip to Guatemala due to the pandemic, so DC students worked virtually with students in Las Arrugas to create, edit and compile podcasts.
“It was mind-blowing (the experience in Las Arrugas),” said Barros of her five days in Guatemala, adding the community was very welcoming and always looked after its guests.
Barros described the environment in Las Arrugas as a jungle in the mountains.
Barros and DC volunteers, along with students from other colleges and universities, helped teach students in Las Arrugas how to record and use software on an iPad. The Guatemalan students came up with ideas and themes for relevant topics such as poverty and appreciated the help of the SOS volunteers.
“They gave us little baskets with souvenirs. All of the kids were thankful for us because we taught them how to use the iPad,” said Barros.
“It was so heartwarming.”
The group woke up at 6 a.m. and conducted interviews and filmed additional footage (called B-roll) until 7 p.m., she added.
Barros said anyone offered the opportunity to go on a SOS trip should take it as it is an unforgettable experience.
Meantime, Suarez, the translator, moved seamlessly between English and Spanish, playing a huge role in a podcast project between DC students and students in Las Arrugas.
“They (students in Las Arrugas) were needing more explanation,” said Suarez.
“It was not just ‘this is English, and this is Spanish’ and that is it. I wanted to feel the same things that you (DC students, SOS staff, and volunteers involved) were feeling in that moment, in English, I wanted to do the same in Spanish.”
The best memory of the translation experience for Suarez came during “the last week when I saw the results of the podcast of every group in Las Arrugas.”
“They put a lot of enthusiasm in this project,” Suarez said.
Suarez added the people of Las Arrugas are very passionate about life and very welcoming to anyone.
As a volunteer and first-time translator, Suarez would never trade the experience gained by being part of SOS.
“I will always remember this opportunity. I would like to work with future programs and more organizations that do these kinds of things because I really enjoyed that part (seeing the result),” said Suarez.