DALLAS -- Three Dallas High School graduates went to Guatemala this summer to improve the quality of life for people living in the mountains of the Central American country.
Hilary Broadus, Ian Keck and Jordan Boustead said they came back with a gift of their own.
"We went down there and gave them tools to live a better life, but the experience may have been more beneficial for us because of the perspective we brought back," said Keck, a 2010 DHS grad now studying pre-med at Seattle University.
Broadus, Keck and Boustead went to Guatemala with Medical Teams International, a Portland-based nonprofit global aid and health organization. The trio was part of a group including Broadus' grandparents and longtime MTI volunteers, Dallas residents Curt and Marie Davis.
The mid-August trip's mission was to build sanitary latrines for residents of Chitix, a village that sits at about 7,000 feet in elevation in the San Juan Chamelco region. It was about an hour drive from the team's base in Coban. The only access was a steep, narrow, one-lane road winding into the mountains.
Keck described the landscape as an "expanse of jungle all scrunched up" to form mountains. The village was nestled between mountain peaks.
Chitix residents, mostly descendants of Mayans and among the poorest people in the world, also seemed to be some of the happiest, said Boustead, a 2004 DHS graduate. Compared to people living in richer countries with a higher standard of living, Boustead said the difference in perspective was shocking.
Broadus, a sophomore studying nursing at George Fox University, spent time in Oaxaca, Mexico, helping install a water system in a village during her freshman year in high school. That experience prepared her for seeing how life is lived in rural Guatemala.
Still, the friendliness and open-armed acceptance of the villagers made an impression.
"I'm still astounded at the hospitality they showed us," Broadus said. "They were very grateful and very generous people."
That in the face of deplorable conditions for many Guatemalans, especially those living in rural regions. According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, more than half of Guatemalans live in poverty. Marie Davis said even fewer rural residents have running water, and fewer still have electricity.
Homes in Chitix were typically one-room houses with a curtain separating the kitchen from the living area.
"The homes were twice the size of my college dorm room and families of seven were living in them," Keck said.
Prior to the team arriving, the village had been given seminars on proper sanitation and avoiding illness. The trio was part of the group that would build facilities to further improve sanitation in the village.
Team members and the villagers had to work around a language barrier. A few members of the team spoke Spanish, which helped when talking to young people in the village. But many of the elders spoke Qeuch'e, a Mayan dialect, which isn't related to Spanish.
"It sounds like nothing you have ever heard," Broadus said. "There are no Latin roots. It was very cool to listen to."
For four days the team and Chitix residents worked side-by-side, installing latrines.
Keck said he wished the team could have offered more time and assistance.
"I definitely felt like I could have been there longer and done more," Keck said.
He said the experience inspired him to want to take more trips in the future.
Broadus and Boustead have similar plans.
Broadus said she would like to travel to Africa on her next trip, but would like to return to Central America in the future as well.
Boustead, a recent Linfield grad, would like to continue working with MTI.
"If I didn't have to earn a living I would do this year-round," Boustead said.