Hi, my name is Tobie Spears, founder and director of Guatemalan Humanitarian Tours. If you have ever asked yourself, “Why should I go on a service vacation?” I am going to help you answer that question. We specialize in service vacations that will change your life. Let me tell you a story that really exemplifies the concept for me.
During the summer of 2016, a kind, hardworking woman named Doña Lydia worked as our housekeeper for over 3 weeks while my group of volunteers stayed in a small town in Guatemala. Each morning while I was eating breakfast, we talked and brainstormed about different ways she could improve her financial well-being. Doña Lydia was working 8-hour shifts, 6 days a week, and traveling from her home to work took her over an hour each day. She had two children at home and her husband also worked full time. The only day the family was able to be together was on Sunday while they did their own laundry and cleaned their own home to prepare for the upcoming week.
After much thought, Doña Lydia told me that she loved to sew and that if she had a sewing machine she could make extra money. She and I talked about a plan that would allow her to sew a few hours each week and sell the items that she made. With her additional income, she would be able to buy more food and start a savings account for her children’s education.
Although Doña Lydia thought we were just brainstorming, I was fishing for information so that I could help her make a better life for her family. I asked a friend if I could catch a ride with her to the market so we could buy a sewing machine. After picking up all the food we needed we spent time looking through the sewing machine options and we picked out the best one! A brand-new high-quality Brother sewing machine.
I was told that the typical housekeeper’s monthly wage was $200 for an 8-hour shift. If I made what a housekeeper made in Guatemala it would take me 2 months’ worth of wages (working 6 days a week and not spending a dime) to buy this sewing machine. It sounds so crazy to put it in that perspective, but that is the reason that Doña Lydia couldn’t buy one herself.
After returning from the market I walked into the kitchen with her new sewing machine in my hands. I put it down in front of Doña Lydia and told her it was hers. She couldn’t believe it was actually for her so I reassured her multiple times that it truly was a gift. She thanked me profusely with tears rolling down her cheeks. This sweet lady and her reaction just made my entire trip.
A few days later Doña Lydia gave me a beautiful purse that she had sewn using her brand new sewing machine. A true gift from a gift. Travel has always been about meeting new people, seeing new sights, and exploring new lands. I think it’s important that travel can also be a way that we improve someone’s life and leave that person with tears streaming down their cheeks with gratitude and appreciation. This is what a service vacation is all about. Want to join us on one? Click or tap here to learn more.