Spreading the Word About the Life-Changing Value of Service Trips


Every week, students attend Chapel for an opportunity to talk about leadership, character and belief. It’s also a venue for students to report back on leadership and service trips to their fellow classmates. Chapel allows students to focus not so much on what they did, but how that trip or event now shapes who they are and how they look at the world. Through Chapel, our larger community draws from one person’s discovery to inspire our wider thoughts and approach, making the most of our learning experiences.

In late January, students Megan Harrison and Zach Zwicky spoke to Senior School students about their 2014 spring break Service Trip to Nicaragua, and just how life-changing that experience was.

I traveled last year to the community of Jiquilillo, Nicaragua on our school trip, along with 19 other students and three teacher chaperones. This trip to Nicaragua was one of the best trips I have ever gone on. I’ve traveled to many places and seen many different things, but this trip was different from all of them. Even though almost a year has passed since the trip, I can still remember the memories made in the sun and on the beach. I gained so much from exploring the many things Nicaragua had to offer. However, what stuck with me most was the impact the people of Jiquilillo had on me and the new viewpoints I gained.


During the trip, our group was able to spend a lot of time with the kids in the local community. We visited the local school during recess. While there, we were able to see the structure of the school and the classes. Even though they barely knew us, the kids were so energetic and happy to teach us games and jump on our backs for piggyback rides. In the afternoons, we were fortunate enough to teach English classes at the local community centre. Many of the kids who had just spent five or six hours in school came to these classes eager to read books with us, while some of the younger kids played with the toys. Seeing the kids of Jiquilillo so happy to come to English class (even after school) revealed to me their determination and excitement towards learning.

The future of many of these kids’ education is unsure, as the majority of students drop out of school by the age of 16. Much of the time, it is because the parents are unable to pay the daily bus fare of 50 cents to the high school. Many of the households in Jiquilillo make approximately $1 a day. Sometimes, students drop out because they cannot afford a uniform, and feel out of place.

Despite the uncertainty of what their future education might hold, I looked at the kids of Jiquilillo and saw genuine passion and happiness in their everyday doings, whether it was getting a piggyback ride or getting to learn more in an English class. This excitement towards the small things – whether it was school or everyday doings – was something I find that many of us, including myself, have lost.

The people of Jiquilillo showed me the value of enjoying what we have today. … They showed me what true happiness looked like.

We are constantly caught up in the stress of school and the worry over the future – whether it’s a test or an application. We fail to be excited – and most of all, grateful – for the opportunities we’ve been given and that are ahead of us. The people of Jiquilillo showed me the value of enjoying what we have today, because nothing in the future is ever truly certain. Most of all, they showed me what true happiness looked like. Socrates said, “The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” That is what I saw in those kids when they read books during classes or played small games – the ability to be happy with what you have, without worrying about tomorrow.

It is hard to find this type of “happy” in a society where we are constantly worrying about the next step. However, I find contentment in knowing that there are children who are happy with so little. I don’t know when I will return to Nicaragua, but I know that when I do this happiness will be waiting for me.

Last year, Megan and classmate Siri Knudsen co-wrote a blog recapping the service work they did in Jiquilillo, Nicaragua. And in 2013, Claudia Wheler (now in Grade 12) wrote about the impact her service trip to Nicaragua had on her life.

In less than two months, SMUS students will leave campus and fly to Mexico, Kenya, China and Vietnam to participate in service trips during spring break. Stay tuned to the SMUS Review blog to read about these life-changing experiences.


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