Going to Guatemala: One Project Manager Shares His Story

By: Patrick Harrington

This is my third time volunteering with From Houses to Homes in Guatemala. My previous two trips were back in the summers of 2011 and 2012. A lot of people ask me, “Why do you keep going back?” The answer to this question is difficult to put into words, but I’ll give it my best shot.

From the second I step off the plane in Guatemala City, I know I have been transported into a different world. The cars are older, the traffic seems to have no rules, and the pollution seems to be a little bit stronger. As I try to find a taxi labeled “Antigua” and a driver that can understand my broken Spanish, anxiety begins to grow and I start to ask myself, “What am I doing here?”

That moment of doubt quickly fades as I begin to remember the reasons that bring me to Guatemala. At first it’s the natural beauty of the country. The three volcanoes that surround Antigua are a constant reminder of the earth’s strength and power. The cobblestone roads and multi-color houses that make up the city remind me of a time that seems lost in most places back in the U.S. The ruins that scatter the country fill me with amazment as I imagine the ancient civilization from which they came.

But what truly keeps bringing me back to Guatemala is the people.


Today, I met the family that we are helping: it is comprised of three boys (ages 17, 10, and 3) and their two parents. In typical Guatemalan fashion, they also introduced us to their entire extended family and group of friends. It didn’t take long for the kids and family to warm up to us. The language barrier dissolved as we used our poor Spanish and hand gestures to play games with the kids (try to throw the rock in the bucket, toss the soccer ball off my head, etc.); we were quickly rewarded with laughter and smiles—a reminder that we are all connected.

While it is easy to look around and see everything they don’t have, it is the happiness they share with us that keeps me coming back. It is in these moments that I realize life is truly not about what I have, but rather the people that make up my life.