Imagine being locked in a school building, behind metal security doors, with no power, no swept floors, and no means of protection. In the small town of Esquinela, Guatemala, there aren’t any signs of modern American life.
Yet, within the building, local children dance in the dark with foreigners who come from hundreds of miles away. Together they sing, they laugh, they pray, and they cry.
This was how senior Caitlin Dahlin spent her 2017 summer. Along with her church, she traveled to Esquinela on a mission trip to help build roads, buildings and bridges.
“It’s a town where there’s no electricity, we had to have a police escort just to get in because it’s so dangerous,” Dahlin said.
But the danger never stopped her from wanting to help those less fortunate than her. This last mission trip to Guatemala was the second she has participated in; but Dahlin has done more than build up small towns.
“A lot of what we’re doing is loving on children that don’t get loved on at home and feeding bellies,” Dahlin said.
She doesn’t have to leave the country to make a difference either.
Dahlin volunteers in Grand Rapids between two and five hours each week. Much of her volunteering consists of helping tutor children in English at the Refugee Education Center, but she also keeps her eyes open for opportunities through her church and the National Honor Society.
“I’ve really been an outlet for a lot of kids,” Dahlin said about working with local children.
And she’s not stopping there. Dahlin has plans for the future, including volunteering through World Mission, and a mission trip to Haiti over spring break. She is also heading to Australia in July in order to obtain her Primary Healthcare Certificate. Dahlin will then put her training to good use in Papua New Guinea, giving basic medical care to the many people who need it.
While in Australia and Papua New Guinea, Dahlin won’t see her friends or family for a whole year.
“I know that this is what I want to do. I’m ready,” Dahlin said. If everything goes her way, she plans to eventually become a PA and live outside of the US, bringing care to third world countries.
“You’re never too important to help people,” Dahlin said. “If you knew me freshman year, I was not the best person, and [the children I’ve worked with have] definitely softened my heart.” This is exactly why, even while working a part time job, and taking some of the most difficult classes in the school, Dahlin always puts her maximum amount of effort into her volunteering.
“Always remember that just 30 minutes can really help someone,” Dahlin said.