In sixth grade, my school led a trip with a handful of students to Belize. We were to spend the first week of our trip building a cafeteria for a school, and the second week touring the beautiful country. Before leaving, I was very nervous. I was traveling to a different country without my parents. Not only was that scary, but the thought of building a cafeteria was daunting as well. The trip turned out to be amazing.
We all met at the airport and did the usual, going through security, catching our plane, and flying to Belize. The minute we stepped off the plane, I was hit by the humidity. It was so hot. Nonetheless, we collected our bags and got on the bus to where we were staying.
The first week, we mainly focused our energy on building the cafeteria. We worked in shifts – half of us would build while the other half spent time with the kids from the school, either in classrooms or on the playground (which was really more of a field of dry dirt).
The builders mixed cement and set the cinderblocks to make up the foundation of the cafeteria. It was grueling work, especially in the heat of the day. The group that was resting and spending time with the students from the school would get a chance to know an amazing group of kids, until it was again their turn to start building.
Despite the hardship and poverty that the students at the school lived in, they were happy. They had fun learning how to do handsprings across the field of dirt, or just sitting and talking with us. They were unbelievably appreciative of what we were doing for them. It’s not as if we were building a state-of-the-art cafeteria. It was made up of three foot walls of cinderblock and poles that held a rood up above it. But to them, it was beautiful. I have never met anyone as appreciative as they were, especially at their age.
The second week was spent touring the country. We first drove up to a small lodge up in the mountains, and spent a couple days exploring the rainforest and caves around us. We then drove down to the coast and took a boat to a tiny island, where we explored and went on prolonged snorkeling excursions.
After the amazing couple of days we spent at the island, we packed up our bags – for good this time – and headed back to the airport. The trip was amazing. It was fun, educational, and rewarding all at once. The experience will remain with me for a long, long time.