As a freshman at the university of Florida studying International Development, I wanted to spend my spring break volunteering abroad to make a difference. I joined Florida Alternative Breaks and was assigned to work with the Highland Support Project (HSP) in Guatemala for a week. HSP uses innovative development models to break the cycle of poverty in Mayan villages. Specifically, my group worked in homes to build stoves designed to prevent repository illnesses by reducing exposure to smoke from cooking over open fires. I loved spending time with the families and learning about their lives while building the stoves piece by piece. I remember talking with the HSP director about how proud I was to be building stoves for these amazing people. He then told me something I will never forget. You are here to have your eyes opened. To understand how millions of people around the world live, to get to know them, and from now on advocate on their behalf.” This Guatemala trip changed my view of international development and my future career. My job isn’t to help save people, feel good about myself, then go home. I have a responsibility to listen and create sustainable change that breaks the dependency on charity. My trip with Florida Alternative Breaks and the Highland Support Project showed me how I can effectively apply my degree to empower people and alleviate poverty internationally.
Rachel Estess, FAB at University of Florida