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Courtney Collingwood - Guatemala

This past summer, I returned to Guatemala (my second trip) to work for a program called Los Patojos. I was awarded an internship scholarship from the Honors College to help pay for my flight and homestay. The funding they provided allowed me to make the trip possible after working extra hours and saving for a year.

Los Patojos is a nonprofit that helps the children and youth of Jocotenango and the surrounding communities stay off the streets and away from drugs and violence. The project is run out of the home of its founder and services around 200 children. It has four main focuses: alimentation, education, health, and art. The impact this program has on its community is remarkable. They are currently building a new facility that will serve as a certified school in the mornings, the after school program in the afternoons, and a restaurant/café at night and on the weekends. The plan for the restaurant/café is to teach the youth how to work outside of peddling or dealing, in hopes they will want to work a job that contributes to society when they're older.

The first time I walked through the doors of this program, I knew I would be returning as much as possible. Last year, my project was a video promoting their program and reaching out to possible sponsors and volunteers (www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10151502558827553&set=vb.114266995284788&type=3&theater). This year, I spent my time volunteering and offering English help. I translated documents and for visitors. I helped groups with cultural projects and English lessons. This time, my project extends past my time in Guatemala. I am currently trying to develop ideas for promoting the program and educating communities across America on the problems down in Guatemala. I plan on returning a year after I graduate to help with their health program and work as an instructor in their school for 6 months.

During my trip, I also had the opportunity to go caving in Semuc Champey. It was very "Indiana Jones" style and definitely would not be legal in the United States. We traveled under natural pools in caves that were ancient. Our only source of light was a candle, and we had to swim, climb, and hike through these caves while keeping the candle lit. The trip was full of adventure. I ended the weekend with a full body bruise from cliff and bridge jumping into the Semuc river. It was an eventful and tiring weekend and one I will never forget.

I am extremely grateful to the Honors College, Dean Pat MacCorquodale, Rachael Ronald, and David Allen for this wonderful opportunity. I would not have been able to travel to Guatemala this time or the previous without all of their help, guidance, and encouragement