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SCOTIA: Trip yields big lessons

As many Capital District residents compete to get the best deals on holiday gifts, it is easy to get lost in the meaning of giving and being generous. Two Scotia-Glenville High School students said their summer trip to Guatemala is causing them to take a reality check this holiday season.

Jess Hohenstein, 16, and Kyle Coombs, 15, said they have been speaking with fellow high school students about their trip in hopes of shedding light on how fortunate our society is, and to share how lucky they feel to live in America. Their mission trip was part of the Trinity Presbyterian and Albany Presbyterian churches, and the two say it was a valuable lesson in life.

As soon as I arrived in Guatemala, I realized how lucky everyone in America is. It is amazing how much we have in comparison to those in Guatemala, and yet what I was most amazed at was how so many of the people in their country seem happier than in the U.S. I will never forget that, said Hohenstein.

Hohenstein said she and Coombs made the trip to the Third World country with 10 other people from around the region. Hohenstein said it was mind-opening to see how hard the people work for very little income. She said luxuries like accessible hot water are not an option for most of the people living in Guatemala.

She was also struck by how different their education system is. Education is not necessarily available to everyone and it pales in comparison to the education that Americans receive.

While in Guatemala, Hohenstein and Coombs worked with a youth group in the small town of Huitan. They helped build chicken coops, which will help many of the families who live in the town. Hohenstein said while working in Huitan, she met a woman who felt ashamed that one day she had "only" managed to do laundry, prepare meals for her family, and care for her children and animals.

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