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Going into the Helping Hands Grateful Hearts trip to Guatemala to construct homes in just 3 days, I had a huge mixture of emotion. Tons of excitement around finally being able to see this beautiful country I’d heard so much about and finally meeting the incredible Techo crew I’d heard even more about. But I was also nervous. Although I was fluent in Spanish, I was nervous about whether or not I really knew enough to converse with the Techo crew during the build. More than that, I was nervous about the build itself. I’d never put up a tent, let alone build a house! I’m also a fairly flaca young lady who hits the gym to zone out on the treadmill, not to become the next Arnold Schwartzenager. Would I even be able to dig a hole for the pilotes or hammer the clavos into the wood? 

Turns out, none of my fears came to fruition and none of that even mattered. Every member of Helping Hands Grateful Hearts and the Techo crew was so warm, patient, and supportive during not only the build, but every moment we spent together during the tourism portions of the trip. With their unending and genuine support, I ended up doing things I never thought I’d be able to do. One of my favorite moments was when I first went up on the roof to work on the support beams. I’m not terrified of heights, but I’m definitely not comfortable being more than 4 ft off the ground. Sofie Fernández, my build leader, and Diego Matta, one of Techo’s regional managers, spent the few moments it took me to get up there motivating me to try this new experience and calming my nerves the higher I climbed. Once I got up onto what was then the skeleton of a roof, I began hammering nails into the support beams of the roof. However, my lanky arms weren’t very successful at getting the nail all the way in. Instead of taking the hammer from me and getting the job done a little faster, Diego sat by my side and patiently encouraged me to keep trying, coached me on strategies that would help, and never stopped telling me how well I was doing, even if it was taking me much longer than if he would’ve taken over. Eventually, I got the nail fully hammered into the beam and felt awesome having done something that I was so close to giving up on. It was so empowering to have someone believe in me more than I believed in myself at that moment. 

That was only one instance of many when a Techo crew member encouraged me and lifted my self doubts. Every member of Techo, especially my site leader Sofie, held the same attitude and belief that Diego did: I’m here for you, you are fully capable and competent, the only limitation is your mind. It was so much fun not only getting cheered on as I sawed through large planks of wood, but also cheering on others as they dug holes for the pilotes, broke down huge boulders, and lifted up walls. I loved this environment of empowerment! It was so infectious and the aspect of the trip that makes me want to return for every build that I can!

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