-by Kieran Kobell '07
In the dark, early hours of 10 March 2007 a small group of Hampden-Sydney College students, staff, and alumni departed for the College's ninth trip in conjunction with Rivers of the World (ROW). This particular trip, however, was different from all others before it.
Normally when H-SC and ROW team together, there is a foundation to a church, a roof to a building, walls to a hospital, or something tangible that we can take a picture of and show to the world. It was not the case this time around. The group came back with plenty of pictures but they cannot capture what our group accomplished.
Taking part in this adventure was Clint Askins '07, Ron Johnson '08, Trey Keeler '08, Kieran Kobell '07, Berkeley Leonard '07, Sean Lindsay '08, Andrew McGowan '07, and Zach Rucho '07. Alumni James Miller '05, McKennon Shea '05, and Nick Beazley '03 (who now works for ROW full time) came along to help the senior trip leader Assistant Dean of Students Wes Lawson '04. For a couple of us, this was the first time out of the country. For a few, this was the first ROW/Beyond the Hill trip. For most, this was the first foray into Belize. For all, this was the first time to our target village. Our goal was to get to know the village and people of Dolores in the Toledo District of Belize. Until 10 March only Nick had been to the Toledo district at all. So for most of us, this was a trip into the unknown and unexplored. The leadership expressed this as bluntly as possible-there would be very little, if any, predictability to the trip. We were not disappointed.
As a group we got to do a lot of things that fall outside the range of the typical college spring break. Our trip encompassed the activities that mark any great adventure. We did everything from incredibly long bus rides to iguana hunting to bartering with local craftsmen for handmade trinkets. As individuals though, we all brought something back in our souls that made the trip portentous. For Ron, it might be learning the language Kekchi. For McKennon, it might be delivering a sermon to the villagers of Dolores. For Zach, it might be taking a 45-minute stroll into Guatemala just because we could. For Clint, it might be playing with and teaching the children in the villages thereby enriching their lives. I do not mean to speak for those gentlemen or anyone else on the trip but I saw a change in each and every single person on the trip. It was not any sort of grand epiphany but instead a gradual realization that change is possible. That bringing a smile to the faces of children and their parents because you put yourself out there and made the effort to learn and understand their language and culture is a noble and gallant pursuit.
The journey, however, is not over. We spent a week building relationships with the people of Dolores, Crique Sarco, and other villages and now we must spread the word. Perhaps the most urgent need is a cement structure church in Dolores. It will be the only cement structure in the village and thus serve as a hurricane shelter. The estimated cost is $15,000 USD. There are other needs that can be met such as providing clean water throughout the village or helping to purchase schoolbooks for the children. To learn more about how you can support these projects and more, please visit www.row.org.