Boys' Latin students and faculty complete another week of community service in Puerto Rico.
Only three days after final exams, 18 students and three faculty members traveled to Puerto Rico. This marked the second year that US Dean of Students Mac McDonald, US Math Teacher Joe Bailey, and Accounting Manager Jenn McDonald led a group of students to Las Marias, Puerto Rico to work with small communities still recovering from Hurricane Maria.
Coordinated by Walking Tree Travel, the Boys’ Latin group reunited with CAMBU (Centro de Apoyo Mutuo Bucarabones Unidos) in Bucarabones who provided meaningful ways for the boys to work with and provide support to various communities. Every step of the way, the boys and leaders worked alongside local community members performing a variety of jobs, such as painting homes, landscaping work, farming, and light construction. Despite working hard, in sometimes blistering heat, the students were determined not to let the conditions slow them down.
For most, working closely with members of the community was a new experience, but for seniors Jake Sims, Joey Lorenz, and Jack Erwin, it was about expanding and solidifying relationships that gained footing last year. Sims mentions, “Being back in Puerto Rico felt like my eyes were being opened for a second time. It felt good to reconnect with a family that I had been apart from for too long. I love being in a part of the world that isn’t always on the forefront of our minds, but it is so amazing and beautiful.”
Like Jake, many of the boys came away from the trip with a new sense of gratitude and perspective. “The experience impacted my views on society and work. I learned what it meant to work for something more than yourself or money,” said rising sophomore Teddy Davies. “After this tragic catastrophe many people lost everything, but everyone continued to have a good attitude and work to rebuild their community. From the moment we got here, we were treated like family and everyone was nice to us. If we all learned at least one thing in our time here, it’s that no matter who you are or where you live, you can still make a difference in your community."
Between work assignments, the boys did find some time for leisure. They played basketball on the community court, swam in local rivers during the day, and played plenty of spikeball and manhunt at night. Sophomore Gavin Proutt states, “During the trip, I grew so much closer to my classmates. This trip was a great experience for everyone, and I hope that more people participate next year because I definitely will be taking part. Everybody on the trip had fun and grew closer with other Lakers, our leaders Antonio and Paola, and the community.”
Many of the boys enjoyed the food, which consisted mainly of empanadillas, rice, beans, tostones and, of course, tropical fruit. Throughout the week, many of the students recorded their experiences, reflections, takeaways, and images as part of a blog. On the last night in Las Marias, CAMBU hosted us for a party celebrating many things - our time with them, the birthday of Ramon who was our chef for the week, and Omar, the founder of CAMBU, who missed his graduation from law school to spend the week with us. It was a festive evening as we shared in the celebration of the community and their accomplishments.
Faculty leader Jenn McDonald summed up the experience best in her blog post. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of this group. They worked hard, they tried new foods, they got dirty, they used their Spanish, they met new people, they learned new skills, and they fully embraced their experience here in Puerto Rico. They learned what it was like to be welcomed into a community that has very little, but was willing to share it all with everyone. They learned a lot about themselves and that we can get a lot done when we all work together. What a great trip for all of us!”