At Southridge, teaching the importance of giving back and making a difference in the world is central to our mission. While our students are regularly engaged in service opportunities that benefit others locally, the school offers immersive international service experiences that focus on building meaningful, enduring, global relationships.
In 2011, Southridge began a very special partnership with Project Somos, a Vancouver-based organization that supports an eco-sustainable community aiming to break the cycle of poverty in Guatemala by providing quality education and healthy food to families in need.
Southridge organized our first service trip to Project Somos in 2012 and since then, has sent student groups to Guatemala in 2015, 2017, and 2019 (plans to visit in 2021 were cancelled due to the pandemic). Typically, Southridge students spend 10-12 days in Guatemala, with one week spent at Project Somos, and the other days touring sites, absorbed in the culture and history of the country.
While visiting the Project Somos site, students do everything from manual labour (harvesting quinoa, building structures, and preparing meals for the children and the staff), to teaching preschool and elementary-aged children English, Math, games, and activities.
This past school year, while considering their legacy at Southridge, our Grade 12 Grad Committee chose to make a $1,000 donation on behalf of the Class of 2021 to support Project Somos.
“The most important thing I learned from this experience was that the poverty and struggle that many Guatemalans faced were not only the result of a lack of resources and education, but the particular treatment of women in the country,” says Stephanie Petallano, Class of 2021, who participated in the 2019 service trip. “Because of the stigma surrounding women and the mistreatment they face, they are less likely to receive an education and equal opportunity, which directly affects the endless cycle of poverty that many families experience,” says Stephanie.
“One thing I will never forget about this trip is seeing the eagerness the children of Project Somos showed towards both learning and sharing. While we helped teach them basic Math and English, they were equally as excited to teach us about Spanish and share with us the different parts of their lives. I believe that I learned the most on this trip through the children than I did from anyone else,” reflects Stephanie.
Typically, when our students visit Project Somos, they bring athletic, educational, and monetary resources to donate. The Class of 2021 recognized that just because they couldn’t physically visit Guatemala this year, they could still make an impact – donating $1,000 of their grad fundraising dollars (originally intended for their own celebrations), to Project Somos. This is a fitting and thoughtful way for this remarkable group of students to leave their legacy of making a difference.
Mr. Jones, Assistant Head of School, has accompanied our students on this service trip and has seen firsthand the impact it makes not only on the Guatemalan children, but on our Southridge students too. “This gesture honestly doesn’t surprise me,” says Mr. Jones. “It’s the perfect example of our students making a difference in the world. We couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Originally published in Spirit Magazine - Summer 2021