by Nicole Griet

After building homes and volunteering in Guatemala, members of Teenagers Inc. returned home from another successful service trip.

The 18-member group was able to learn about another culture and make a difference while in the Central American country for the third time. Teenagers Inc. not only volunteered at food banks and clothing distribution centers but also built homes while on the weeklong trip.

The Teens Inc. team in Guatemala.

“It was great – it was wonderful,” said Marianne Dwyer, director of Teenagers Inc. “The kids worked hard and loved the culture.”

The teens built three homes for families, some of which had up to six children sharing a single room. One man for whom the group built a house earned the equivalent of $25 a month. Many of the families didn’t even have beds to sleep on, something that changed by the end of the trip.

This year, after fundraising to offset the costs of the trip, Teenagers Inc. was left with an additional $1,500 that they put toward bunk beds and stoves for the newly constructed homes.

“We got to deliver the bunk beds and stoves to all the families,” Dwyer said. “It was a very emotional time for them. It was different from all the other years when we didn’t have the fundraising to be able to do that. Normally, they would have to sleep on a piece of foam on the floor.”

For some members, this was their third consecutive year doing volunteer work in Guatemala. Others had never done anything like it before.

“Many want to volunteer long-term after college for six months to a year,” Dwyer said of the teens’ newfound sense of service. “That’s the thing you hope to instill in the kids.”

Dwyer said that despite all they had done while in Guatemala, not one of the teens ever complained about the hard work. She added that one of the teens on the trip said he “loves the people down there, loves doing the work and loves helping out and how he feels when he comes home.”

On the last night in Guatemala, the teens went through a de-orientation program. They were told not to go home and feel guilty about having an iPod or other gadgets, but to just be grateful.

Through living with their host families, the teens were able to immerse themselves in the rich culture and become more appreciative and aware of the things they have back at home.

“I think it’s an awesome project,” Dwyer said. “They gave us more than we gave them with just their appreciation and love.