As you may know, for a number of years DownEast employees have partnered with CHOICE Humanitarian, a non-profit working in rural villages in developing countries. Our DownEast team recently returned from its fifth CHOICE expedition! This time, the team traveled to the remote Seococ Chulac village in the mountainous Polochic region of Guatemala to help build new classrooms and establish family gardens for improved nutrition. Breeana Hawkes, clothing manager at our store in The District in South Jordan, Utah, participated in this latest expedition. We talked to her about her experience on the trip and how it has inspired her in her own life.
Was this your first trip out of the United States?
As a child, I went to Mexico for a few family vacations. But as an adult, this was my first trip outside of the States.
What did the CHOICE expedition mean to you personally?
I wanted to go on the expedition to give back and make a small difference in the world, and to gain a new perspective on how truly blessed I am. This trip accomplished that and so much more! In the end, what I walked away with was a determination to better my life by focusing on the things that really matter. In this world we live in, we’re taught that bigger is better, that we need more and need it now. The villagers were a genuinely happy people, who, when it came to worldly possessions, had very little.
Did anything surprise you about the village?
It was so interesting to see how they lived and how resourceful they were. They cut down trees and used the wood to make tools we used that very same day! The village water supply was gathered from the daily rainfall. They used soda can lids to make bags and purses, and they were super cute! I was also surprised by how welcoming they were. They were so happy to see us – they threw a big parade with dancing and music when we arrived, and on our last night they held a party with fireworks to thank us, which was a sacrifice for them. I was expecting the children to be welcoming, but I was surprised by the hospitality of the adults and elders, too. Their smiles were unforgettable!
What can others do in their everyday lives to help end poverty?
Give! Find an organization such as CHOICE and give a little each month. These villagers make about $140 per year, working full time. Every little bit helps! Thanks, Breeana! Visit the CHOICE Humanitarian website for more information on its work in developing countries and ways that you can get involved.