Written by Sadie Bender Shorr
It’s 9am and I lace up my concrete-spackled hiking boots, generously coat myself with sun screen and bug spray, grab my backpack, and start my stroll down to the Hub. This was how I started my mornings as an OG Hub Volunteer.
A number of challenges greeted me each day as I entered through the front gates of the Hub site. I looked to my right and saw the road that I needed to finish outlining. Looking ahead I saw the participant dorm site that needed leveling. To my left would be the veggie patch that needed tending. As a volunteer your work is never “done.” But what you leave behind at the end of your time, whether finished or unfinished, will nonetheless leave an important mark on what the Hub will become. This is something I learned and will never forget: everything is a work in process and must be respected as such.
The great thing about being a volunteer is the creative independence that accompanies the job. You are a part of the Hub Team. You gain a feeling of pride and ownership through the hard work you put into it. If you have an idea, go with it. If it doesn’t quite work out, play with it and try again. Flexibility is key and determination is essential. While participants have things planned out for them and can almost count on a certain kind of experience, the volunteer experience relies on the volunteer. It is a journey well worth the work.
I am proud to say that my comfort zone was obliterated. Every task was new for me. I had never, say, chopped down a tree, or mixed concrete by hand, or built a bottle brick cistern—but I had to be okay with that in order to fully appreciate my time as a volunteer. What helped me the most was learning how to value my mistakes and not look at them as failures. In addition to obtaining some sizable biceps, I obtained confidence in my inabilities.
Aside from the daily Hub life, a volunteer is exposed to the Guatemalan way of life. A volunteer lives in Guatemala first and foremost. I learned how to not get scammed on a chicken bus and what was too much to pay for a pound of ground beef at the market. I got to tutor a young woman at a local coffee cooperative in English. I was able to build great friendships with the two Guatemalan workers at the Hub. The local Mayan community taught me much about their language and culture as well. This cannot be read in a book; one really must see it firsthand.
As a Hub volunteer, challenges became opportunities to me. Embarrassing question-asking built meaningful relationships. Mistakes became lessons proudly learned. Most of all, it became obvious that nothing should ever turn out exactly the way you expected it to, because if so, not much could have been learned along the way.