Latin America represents a lot to me. While diverse, many countries share values of family, solidarity, and hope. Half of my own family originates from Latin America, El Salvador in particular. Many left the country to flee dangers of war, something many countries in this region have in common. Since then, they have established residence in Los Angeles area, creating opportunities for their family and enacting a testament of joy and resilience that I’m honored to be a part of. Such a heritage has attached me to Latin America and allowed me to journey there on a couple of occasions.
In the past, I have been privileged to learn more about Latin America and some of its triumphs and tragedies. On a couple of occasions I was able to visit the Salvadoran countryside, where the strengths and struggles I alluded to were witnessed. Families, friends, and neighbors provided for each other in spite of dangers found in the environment. Such dangers included interpersonal violence from growing gang activity as well as dangers from polluted and scarce water. In addition, I was fortunate to travel to Yucatan, Mexico. Here I learned of the historic Mayan presence in the area, along with the pride and dedication that remains to preserve and celebrate the historic culture. Many families, including my host family, made efforts to preserve their version of the Mayan language, proudly identifying as Mayans of Mexico, as opposed to exclusively Mexican. Such experiences have drawn me to and primed me for the opportunity offered by Grand Valley.
Grand Valley’s Social Work program works to explore a variety of social environments in their annual trip to El Salvador and Guatemala. In both countries, individuals and communities have been interviewed to learn of the extent of issues such as immigration, human trafficking, and gangs. In addition, the aforementioned water scarcity is more closely examined, as public health authorities offer their perspectives on how to provide clean drinking water to people in El Salvador. In Guatemala, students have the privilege to explore indigenous communities, their distinct culture, as well as the women who have established noteworthy business ventures in an area often associated with poverty. The trip counts towards school credit, as it encourages students to engage with these diverse populations and social problems. In doing so, students can come away with an expanded view of the social landscape, learning how to become more dynamic in their abilities to understand and address complex, international problems. Due to the trip’s professional and personal intrigue, I’ve made efforts to save as much as I can for the trip.
While I’m happy with the strides I’ve made towards establishing a budget, help is needed to get me closer to my goal. The trip is around 5,000 dollars in cost. While I have used plasma donation and sought advice from financial aid, I believe that fundraising is a valuable avenue in allowing me to reach this goal. I think all of you for the patience to read through my story and engage with me on this journey.
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