Our mission trip began early this morning, with a prayer Fr. Dan  Reim, S.J. led in the chapel at Casa Veritas. His message was about healing, something central to our goal for this week in Guatemala.

We first headed to WalMart to shop for two families as part of an experiment. Our goal was to feed two families of five for a week, each with only 100 quetzales–about $12 in U.S. currency. Though we went a little over budget, delivering the food became our first encounter with poverty in Guatemala, and the humanity behind it with the smiles and thanks of our neighbors.

After shopping, we entered a cemetery in Guatemala City that served as our viewpoint for our first glimpse of the city dump, where hundreds of Guatemalans make their living. On the other side of the dump is a preschool, funded by International Samaritan, that serves children ages 6 months to 6 years with an education and support services while their parents work in the dump. After a quick tour, we headed to another IS school, Francisco Coll, which educates students from first through sixth grade who can’t attend school elsewhere due to the low social standing of their parents. Through support, some of those students go on to attend secondary levels of school after sixth grade. The students and their teachers welcomed us with a song.

Nearby was our first project: construction on the house of Luis, David, little David, and others. Some of us mixed and poured concrete, and others worked on plastering the new walls underneath their sheet metal roof, but the hard work was a fulfilling and enjoyable experience for all of us. Even through our trial and error, the homeowners smiled and laughed along with us.

Our first day was a thorough exposure not only to the kindness of Central American culture, but to economic injustices that can be shocking to see firsthand. Our most prominent memory of today, however, will be the people we encountered, and will continue to get to know throughout the trip.