From the time I was young, my parents always encouraged me to help others. I believe that is a big part of the reason why I fell in love with Girl Scouts. I started as a Daisy with my troop in San Antonio and worked my way up through Cadettes earning my Bronze Award in my final year. Unfortunately, high school band took over much of my life and I had to leave Girl Scouts. However, I never lost the love of helping others that I got from my time in Girl Scouting. It stayed with me and I always made an effort to volunteer or do whatever I could to help. When the opportunity came for me to join my church family on a mission trip in Belize, I jumped on it.
Having an experience such as this one had always been a dream of mine and I was finally ready to make it happen. The invitation to participate was one of the greatest moments of my life, but little did I know that this week-long trip would have such an impact on my life. Before this trip, I didn't know where Belize was on a map and I had never done anywhere near the type of construction work that was going to be asked of me. From my years as a Girl Scout, I knew I could learn a lot from this experience and that I would be successful in my journey.
I learned so much about Belize and saw both the beauty of the area and the poverty of the people. Being able to work with ‘Hand in Hand Ministries’, an amazing organization, allowed us to learn and be successful in our mission. The trip also had a great effect on me as an individual. I learned so much about myself and it changed my outlook on life. There is no greater feeling than immersing yourself in a foreign country and helping someone you have never met before. My team built a home for a woman named Margaret and her family and my heart filled with pride and joy on that last day when we handed her over the keys. We had created a home for someone from nothing. Our team rose to the challenge and within three days, we made it happen.
With the utmost confidence, I can say that I am ready to take on the world after this experience. I would encourage all fellow Girl Scouts to volunteer – whether it be for your local community or one abroad. There is no time like the present so be sure to always be looking for ways to help others! Experiences like this one will forever hold a place in your heart.
-Ileana Isabel Barrientez, Spring Public Relations Intern