Apr 25, 2023
By Jan Haeg, Community Relations Manager
Earlier this year, the Lifetouch Memory Mission traveled to rural Guatemala. While the 38 volunteers of employees and school principals were prepared for the physical demands of helping a community build a school, what they did not expect was the outpouring of smiles, hugs, and helping hands – A universal language of love and kindness.
The Welcome Mat
The rural community of Agua Escondida is nestled in the mountains of Guatemala, about three hours northwest of Antigua. This is not a destination for tourists or visitors from North America. In fact, we were among the first! Beth Houf, a school principal and volunteer from Missouri summed it up this way, “We were greeted with a welcoming ceremony filled with music and dance. After the ceremony, we were asked to dance along. And we showed up! I was overwhelmed with the sense of joy.” Filled with pride and gratitude, the families welcomed us into their homes. We were not viewed as strangers. We were embraced as family helping the community shape their future through education.
One Bottle at a Time
Lifetouch partnered with Hug It Forward, a non-profit organization that helps communities in Guatemala build schools using plastic bottles filled with inorganic trash. The community had prepared 10,000 bottles prior to our arrival. By the end of the mission, we had installed all the bottles, which act as insulation for three new classrooms. Each of the volunteers found themselves surrounded by helping hands, as the local children enthusiastically wanted to work side by side with their new friends. They took great pride in building THEIR school; we were there to support them.
The Gift of Photography
During the trip, Lifetouch photographers hosted the school’s very first picture day. We uploaded the images that evening to our Shutterfly facilities in Plano, Texas. The pictures were printed within 24 hours so that our Lab Manager, Chris Mooney, could travel to Guatemala with a 50-pound suitcase filled with picture packages. On our last day in the community, the volunteers distributed the pictures to the students and their parents. Lifetouch volunteer, Cory Amundson said, “This was the first printed picture they had seen of themselves. It was amazing to witness. Something we take for granted is such a precious gift to others.”
The Mission is Simple
More than 500 volunteers have traveled to over nine different destinations around the world since the Lifetouch Memory Mission started 20+ years ago. We bring hope through serving others, building relationships, and inspiring others to do good. That unfolds differently for every person on the trip, but one thing is certain – after the trip volunteers are filled with gratitude and view life through a different lens.