This past summer was full of many wonderful experiences for our family. My children have reached ages where they are expanding their horizons and spending extended time away from home. Between sleepaway camp and traveling to Ohio for a visit with cousins, the house was a lot quieter.
Out of all the trips my family members took, my fifteen-year-old daughter traveled the farthest. She flew to Guatemala with our church’s high school youth group to do humanitarian work.
As we shared about this opportunity with friends and family, we answered some questions they had.
You were okay with letting your daughter travel out of the country without you?
This is a question I have been asked a lot. I’d be lying if I said letting her go was easy. I had my share of concerns and fears, but I knew she was more than ready for this experience. I wasn’t going to let my desire to keep her at an arm’s length hold her back. We knew and trusted her group leaders to look out for her. Their accommodations were very safe, from purified drinking water to local guards assisting them.
What did the students do while they were there?
The group split their time between building a preschool for local children, visiting an orphanage, and packing food bags for local villages. Everything they brought in their suitcases was left with the children for them to keep. Seeing the excitement those kids had for new clothes, shoes and toothbrushes was something the high schoolers will never forget.
How did they communicate with the Guatemalans?
A translator was with their group and helped them communicate with the children and locals. My daughter studies Spanish in school and was able to practice her skills. She now has a greater appreciation for the language and sees the value in keeping up with it.
What was the biggest takeaway your daughter had from the trip?
My daughter returned with many stories, including a deeper understanding of what it means to serve the poor and needy. She realizes how fortunate she is to live in America, where clean water, healthcare, and basic necessities are easily accessible. She met teenagers who would love to come to America to find work and make a better life for themselves but can’t. It was eye-opening for her to see how fortunate she is, and it’s softened her heart towards others.
As a mom, what did you gain by letting your daughter travel so far from you?
I’ve gained many insights, but I would say trust is the most important thing. By allowing my daughter to travel to another country without me, she felt the freedom to experience life and make decisions for herself. She came home a better person for it by respecting and trusting when we say “yes” to things and when we say “no” to things. I learned to trust her a bit more too.
I know my daughter and was confident she was fully capable of handling this kind of trip. As I said earlier, it wasn’t easy to let her go, but I’m so glad I did. She was happy to come home and share her experience. She wants to return to Guatemala and even other countries to continue doing this work on a greater scale. I fully trust that she can do it!