When I decided to go on this humanitarian trip to Pachuca, Mexico, I knew that I would learn many things. However, I was astonished by how much I learned in such a short amount of time. Through the students and staff at the University Campus Hidalgo, the Mexican community, and the children we worked with, I have learned more than I could have ever imagined; and I know that I am not just speaking for myself.
One major lesson we learned on this trip is what giving truly means. Generosity does not just mean sharing things; it’s about sharing love, exhibiting selflessness, and leading by example. Giving is also a loving action which makes us feel happier about ourselves. On our last day, I had the blessing to chat with a group of kids from a primary school. A young girl, Fernanda, sat beside me the entire time, and although she could not speak English, another boy would translate bits and pieces for me. Fernanda and the kids asked me many questions and we taught each other words and phrases in our different languages. However, that was not all we taught each other. Fernanda asked me about Canadian money, what color it is, and what it looks like, so I checked my bag for any loose Canadian change to show her. All I had was a five dollar bill, which I put in her hands and told her to keep. The look of sheer joy on her face was absolutely priceless. She held onto the money as if it was the most beautiful jewel in the world while other kids swarmed to see.
I knew that giving those five dollars to Fernanda made me feel happier than I would have felt spending it on myself. When we help others we get a positive feeling that releases endorphins in the brain, giving what is known as a “helper’s high”, which is exactly how I felt. As I was leaving that school, a little boy who saw me give to Fernanda tapped me on the shoulder with one hand. He had his other arm fully stretched out with his palm open and facing up. On top of his little palm rested ten pesos (about one Canadian dollar). He gave me the ten pesos. I learned firsthand that when you give, you are more likely to get back. For all I know, ten pesos to this boy may be worth much more to him than five dollars is to me. Yet, he saw the action of giving and he wanted to experience that for himself. He made me smile like I made Fernanda smile.
At the same school, one of the teachers, Carlos, shared an old legend with us. The symbol of death is portrayed as a woman in his story, and death wanted to take Francesca away. So death hops on a train to Francesca’s home town and has a certain amount of time to take Francesca before she has to catch the next train. Death knocks on Francesca’s door, but she is not there, as she is off helping a boy with a hurt leg. Throughout the story, death goes to numerous places to find Francesca, but Francesca is always somewhere else helping someone. In the end, death has to catch the train and leaves without taking Francesca’s life because she could never find her. The moral of the story is that if you help others, you avoid death. This story shows that by giving, bad things in life will not burden you. I also learned that giving makes us happier, it is contagious, and that it is love.
Another thing we learned is that we are awful at Spanish; the language barrier was a major obstacle that we all experienced. Each one of us were forced to find creative ways to communicate to people who knew little English, and therefore, it pushed us to stretch our boundaries in order to converse. For example, Anna spent a few hours with a boy who spoke no English. Since Anna and the boy could not understand each other, they were able to find other ways to communicate by running around together, playing games, and using physical gestures. The language barrier was conquered in Anna’s situation as she connected with this boy and she claims that she will never forget what they shared.
A method we used to connect socially was through the amazing game of soccer. No matter who we played with, we felt closer to those people. Soccer is a connecting game no matter where you come from, the color of your skin, your age, or what language you speak. Soccer is the same game everywhere.
We learned that there are many negative perceptions of Mexico which do not represent the positive aspects experienced on this trip. Mexico is a giving, cultural, and downright amazing country. For instance, a group of mothers from one school we visited spent two days preparing a meal for us. The people are full of passion, love, history, and community. I saw an overwhelmingly significant passion for change by the people we spent our time with; they have remarkable drive to enhance Mexico. I recognized a pattern that everyone we worked with has such strong beliefs in enriching knowledge in children to improve each child’s life, which in turn will grow Mexico into a nation filled with more knowledgeable citizens. Our stereotypes of Mexico have been completely erased. Deanna even claimed during the trip, “For every bad person in Mexico, there are way more good people”.
The community’s drive for change in Mexico is amazing and I am so proud that we flew all the way to Mexico to be involved in these projects. Helping another nation has been such a great experience, do not get me wrong, but I recognize that what I did there, I can just as easily do here. In Regina, there problems and poverty as well, and there is always a need for people who want to gernerate change. I want to improve my involvement within Regina’s community and help others to make the city in which I live a better place. This is a test for all of us who went on this trip. We agree that it has been a life changing experience and that we learned so much, but the test for us is whether we bring that home with us. I believe it is something we can all do.
On the day before we left Pachuca to return home, we had a meeting with the University staff to share our thoughts and feelings regarding our experience in Pachuca and in our social projects. Everyone came up with phenomenal answers which blew me away at how mature and wise my own team mates are. One of the main ideas included how a small action, such as love, patience, and generosity can make a difference, even if it seems small.
Although you would think that our egos would boost from all the autographs we signed, we have actually become more humble. I learned a great deal about myself, my team mates, and Mexican culture. I learned what it means to give and what it means to love where you are from. The friendships made on this trip, from the people who helped us along the way, the women’s soccer team, and other people on campus, will never be forgotten. Photos will never capture the richness of the memories we experienced and we will hold them in our hearts forever. The lessons learned will challenge us to bring them back to Regina and share with our community. We will bring these lessons into our everyday lives which have shaped us to be different people than we were when we first arrived. Visiting Pachuca, Mexico has been an unbelievably moving experience which we shared together, as a team, as one.
Carly Dueck, #9