A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and MA in Nonprofit Leadership and Management, Desiree Del-Zio:
The University of San Diego provides a plethora of unique and diverse opportunities to experience the world both domestically and globally. During the Intersession of 2015 I was able to participate in one such experience as a student enrolled in the Nonprofits and Civil Societies course in Guatemala (LEAD 518). Ten students accompanied by our professor headed down to Central America to experience firsthand the needs of the people, the work of their leaders and the opportunities for change that exist in this remarkable country. Students personally witnessed both this country’s struggles and strengths, observing the challenges facing the people of Guatemala and the tremendous energy being put forth by astonishing citizens from every aspect of society. Our class met with leaders of the government, directors of foundations, university scholars and public servants. Moreover, we had the opportunity to interact with citizens of this country living and working in the challenging conditions of a society emerging from a 36 year civil war that concluded less than 20 years ago and with no victor of which to speak. These struggles and challenges of the past fuel the leaders and citizens developing this country, who embrace their national maxim “Guatemala esta Adelante” (Guatemala is moving forward.)
The opportunity to study abroad with a focus on civic and social engagement was incredibly eye opening and a powerful reminder that struggle is remarkably relative, as is success. We learned of ordinary citizens accomplishing extraordinary tasks, rising to the level of hero including a simple Mayan woman, widowed during the war, who united 15,000 widows in service and dedication to one and other. We watched as people lived out their lives with tremendous pride in their work and faith in God. We spoke with government officials who battle against all odds to bring to their citizens living conditions which meet the basic necessities of life, such as clean water, access to healthy foods and a developed and cutting edge education system. There can be no doubt that Guatemala has many years of work ahead to accomplish their current hopes. Moreover, they are laying the foundation to create a space which permits those hopes to evolve over time. The journey to independence and social freedom has begun for this country and it was an honor and a privilege to witness that journey in its infancy.
I find myself, at the conclusion of this course, once again changed. The University of San Diego continues to enhance my life both academically and personally. I am genuinely moved by the experiences this coursework offered, grateful for the tremendous efforts of the university staff and professors, motivated by the ambition and dedication of my classmates and truly proud to count myself among such an elite group of thinkers and doers. The University of San Diego, like Guatemala, esta Adelante and so much good can and will come from that.