Intern Shares Her Experience Volunteering in Guatemala

By Purnell T. Cropper | April 13, 2010

Brita Krempasky ’12, a Fine Arts major with a concentration in ceramics, writes about her experiences volunteering in Guatemala over spring break, March 13-21, in the April issue of Raíces Culturales Latinoamericanas. The weeklong service trip to Guatemala was part of her ID 181.4 International Experience Guatamala class, in partnership with the Hearts In Motion program. Krempansky also interned at Raíces.

In her article, Krempansky writes about building benches for a rural school building and zip-lining through mountains and hiking to Pacaya, an active volcano. But “one of the most interesting experiences I had while volunteering in Guatemala was at a medical clinic. It hadn’t occurred to me that a daily habit in American society such as brushing your teeth was unknown in other parts of the world. This experience was certainly eye opening, and I came back to school with a new appreciation of what I had taken for granted before.”

Krempasky, who is doing additional experiential hours in local Latino communities to complete her Global Connections Experience, says she is “proud to have been part of a group of students from different backgrounds, beliefs and ways-of-life who came together to volunteer one week of their lives in rural Guatemala and give something back to the amazing people we met there.” Read her story.

Krempasky’s internship at the Raíces community center on North Fifth Street in Philadelphia exposed her to an area that “is very richly diverse with a lot of Spanish, Latino, and Guatemalan people who all are very proud of their back grounds. When I drive down I see performers playing Spanish, jazz type music on the side of the streets.  There are a variety of murals around the area all showing brilliant colors and beautiful drawings of the culture. Also one day I had to set up chairs for flamenco dancers that were going to teach young children how to dance in that style,” she says. “While I was in Guatemala, a lot of the music I heard during our stay I also heard at the community center [here in Philadelphia], especially the flamenco dance music.  One thing I planned at Raices was an African-Dominican jazz music concert. This was a live performance of authentic music featuring very popular/famous artist in the area.”

This was the fourth spring break in Guatemala with Hearts in Motion organized by Dr. Erica Davila, Assistant Professor of Education, and Adjunct Professor Terry Greiner. This year’s experience included undergraduate students as well as graduate students in the Physician Assistant and Physical Therapy programs. “We work with the people of Teculatan and Gualan in Zacapa, a department on the eastern side of Guatemala, close to Honduras. With feedback through Hearts in Motion, centered in Indiana, we have been able to assist at medical clinics and are now also working in schools, day cares and nutrition centers. What sustains the program is primarily word of mouth. It is a life-changing experience and students as a whole love it,” says Greiner.

Another trip to Guatemala is being planned for Summer 2010 for graduate students in Education, and students should contact Davila ( for more information.  The next trip being planned for undergraduate students is for January 2011, and students should contact Greiner ( or Davila for more information.

The  mission of Raíces Culturales Latinoamericanas is to support, promote and increase public awareness of the richness, beauty and diversity of Latin American cultures and their roots through performing and visual arts, and dynamic educational programs. “Raíces seeks to give voice to those who are often not heard within our society, to challenge stereotypes and to empower, stimulate and inspire individuals and communities to explore diverse cultures and seek common ground,” according to the group’s Web site. (Photos)