The 2010 Kenan-Flagler Business School’s Habitat For Humanity Global Service Project team safely returned to the US on the evening of March 9th after a very successful nine days in Guatemala.
Our work project was in the town of Puerto Barrios, on the far east coast of the country. This industrial town is rife with the poverty that is common throughout the nation- with 51% of the population below the poverty line and a housing deficit of 1.2 million homes. The team included 13 full-time Kenan-Flagler MBA students including three students who returned for their second Global Service Project (last year was in Honduras).
The team was split into two groups and we worked on houses for two separate families. Each family had been pre-screened by the local Guatemalan-staffed Habitat for Humanity affiliate and was cleared based on their ability to make home mortgage payments (valued at US $4,800, 0% interest) and their ownership of the land (land ownership inequality is a serious problem in Guatemala). Both families had young children and our team got to know them very well over the course of the week. The houses consisted of cinderblock construction with rebar and cement, all of which we became intimately familiar. With our Guatemalan masons as instructors, the teams dug in and worked extremely hard to make progress on the houses.
The systematic issues that underpin poverty in Guatemala are daunting and our contributions on two houses seem statistically insignificant in the face of millions in poverty. However, the perspective that our team gained by working alongside our Guatemalan partners is truly a unique and valuable experience. Also, seeing Obi, Carmen, Carlos, and Marjorie go to school each day knowing that they will grow up in a house as we did makes the statistics seem somehow less important.
It truly took a team effort to stay motivated through a strenuous week of work and the leadership shown among the MBA team was amazing. For our two-day R&R period, we stayed at a rustic hotel on the Rio Dulce, a very isolated part of the country surrounded by rainforests and accessible only by boat. We also briefly visited the Mayan ruins at Quirigua and the former colonial capital of Antigua, Guatemala.
Thanks to the MBA Program and the Habitat for Humanity Committee for supporting this project. We look forward to sharing our trip with the Kenan-Flagler community at our upcoming slide show (to be scheduled). I sincerely believe that this experience has helped each team member understand his or her potential as an individual along with the responsibility to make the world a little better place to live.
Dan Sowder, MBA 2010
Net Impact President