A One Week Service Trip in Tecpán, Guatemala

My Week in Guatemala - An Overview

As I alluded to in my most recent Video Entry: Drover Charity - Live from Guatemala, I spent a week this month in Tecpán, Guatemala on a service learning / leadership building project. My trip was sponsored by Alexander Hamilton Scholars -- an incredible scholarship I was blessed to receive my junior year of high school that connects a cohort of 30 students from across the country each year. Last summer, my cohort and I went to Seattle for a leadership conference, and this year's adventure was a week-long service project in Guatemala. I went with 22 of my closest friends -- no, just kidding, you can't even hope to be instant friends with 22 people. However, we all really bonded and grew close over the course of the week, and if for nothing else, it was a week of tremendous community building and learning more about myself through learning about others. 

Now, you may be thinking, what does this have to do with Drover Rideshare? Well, Drover, as you may know, places a HUGE emphasis on charity, community service, and giving back to the community, as explained on our Drive for Charity page and my Drover Fares Benefit Local Charities blog post. As such, we love sharing the stories of service projects and non-profits that we are involved in. Though Drover doesn't currently have the capacity to do so, perhaps one day we will be able to sponsor our employees to do their own projects in the communities we operate in. Until then, stories of the cool community service projects we do in our own time will have to suffice :). 

Throughout the course of the week, we volunteered at a local school, saw cultural demonstrations on pottery and weaving, planted trees, went hiking, played volleyball, learned a bit of Mayan, painted, and ate local cuisine. Our days were structured as follows: in the morning, we volunteered at a local elementary school where we painted a couple hundred feet of wall solid colors and also a specialized 20 ft wide mural. We also taught English and played with the kids at recess (my personal favorite part). In the afternoons, we engaged in some sort of Mayan/Guatemalan cultural experience, such as a pottery lesson, a Mayan ritual, or visiting Mayan ruins. There are so many stories to tell from that week, however for this blog, I want to focus on two that loosely relate to Drover as a technology company.

The Principal's Office

On our first day at the school, the principal explained to us (through a translator) that the students use specialized XO books that basically run off of Android and are virtually indestructible. The administrative office, however, uses five PC computers. When I heard this, I offered to work in the office to fix or enhance their computers in any way I could; these five computers are the administrative staff's sole way to connect with the outside world for lessons or materials, as well as their only access to word processing software to develop their own materials. 

As I explained in the Meet Patrizio blog, I have significant experience with fixing computers, so it occurred to me very soon that I could serve them and help support the work they do for their 250+ students by taking a look at their computers. Circling back to Drover, I think it is cool that I, as a member of Drover (a technology company), was able to connect with people thousands of miles away and help them make their technology more efficient and productive. One step closer to Drover becoming international I guess! 

The second I walked into the office, I was aware of the various challenges I would be faced with beyond the normal ones faced when diagnosing a computer. To start with, all but one of the computers' operating systems (Windows XP or 7) were completely in Spanish. I do not speak Spanish fluently, and I only know what I gleaned from a couple years of studying it in high school and at Vanderbilt. So, I more or less had to rely on my memory of where things within the Control Panel were from English Windows, which was especially challenging with Windows XP (which I haven't touched in years). Moreover, I really haven't seriously used Windows for over a year after falling in love with Chrome OS. Anyway.... I made it work, and one of my friends on the trip graciously volunteered to translate for me until I got the hang of things. The next problem I encountered was trying to figure out through translation what needs the admin staff had. After some Spanglish and help from my friend translating, I ascertained that the computers were lagging, and they were paying a lot of money for a paid antivirus software. 

Long story short, I installed CCleaner on all the computers to perform regular maintenance, installed a licensed copy of Microsoft Office from my student account at Vandy on the assistant principal's computer, changed the principal's copy of Windows to read fully in Spanish (I am so impressed she managed to use it before that considering she doesn't speak English at all), and most notably, installed Avast! Free Antivirus (if you don't use Avast right now on your computer, you need to) on the four computers connected to the internet. Previously, they were paying 1,000 Quetzales (roughly = $140) per year for Antivirus... when you consider that the average person in Guatemala lives on $1 or less per day, that is a significant amount of savings. 

Before I go further, I do not list these accomplishments to bring glory to myself here at all. What I would like to instead point out, is that this trip represented the confluence of this school's need and the blessings I have been given in my knowledge of fixing computers. I thank God that I was able to be there and serve them in that capacity, and I hope that this story shows you not how cool I am (though I am pretty cool) but instead how amazing things can happen when you least expect, and how your unique skills and talents can be used to serve others when you least expect. 

Again, as Drover is a tech company, I hope that our employees can go out into even local communities and share our knowledge with non-profits and people in need from today forward. GoDaddy does a great job of encouraging a culture of volunteering within their company, and it is my sincere hope as one of Drover's early members that we can achieve something similar within Drover. 

Señor King Kong


Ok, this I admit this is just a fun one, but during recess, I played tons of games with the kids and it was SOOOO fun. I love kids and hope to have 10 (just kidding, more like four) of my own one day. Also, as I said, it was an elementary school, so they were all much smaller than me; I work out a decent amount, so the kids were all really impressed by how strong I was, and this led to a whole new folder of games. 

They had me spin them around, run with them on my shoulders, and my personal favorite -- act like a gorilla with one of them on my back. For as long as I could do so without passing out, I crouched down like a gorilla on my feet and closed fists with a four-year-old desperately hanging from my neck, snorting and pouding my chest, making 'scary' gorilla noises, while some of the other young boys pretended to shoot me with machine guns to save my 'hostage'. It was so fun! After a couple of rounds of that, the kids called me "Señor King Kong" whenever they saw me in the halls :). 

Music, Video Editing, and Display Cables

Loosely back to technology, I downloaded some offline music and brought a Bluetooth speaker with me on the trip for us to jam out to. Most of our activities involved a long bus ride, so my speaker really came in clutch and was well appreciated throughout the week! Perhaps the most memorable moment from this was about 15 of us all singing "Someone Like You" by Adele at the top of our lungs inside the bus one night. 

Additionally, at the end of the week, a friend and I collaborated to make a 12-minute video celebrating the best moments of the week as a gift to the incredible staff that made it possible throughout. In about 4 hours total, she and I sorted through over 10 hours worth of video and more than 300 photos to make what I think was a wonderfully touching and heartfelt video. At the end, we had to transfer the file from the Mac we used iMovie on to a PC because the projector only had VGA input. If you didn't understand that sentence, it is not your fault, it is the technology industry's for not creating standardized display cable technology :/

So, enjoy knowing that Drover's Web Developer -- an employee in probably the most exciting technology company right now (in my humble opinion) had his hands in some way in pretty much every instance we used any technology throughout the week. Hopefully, that is a positive thing LOL, I think it was because every aforementioned use of tech was to facilitate a better experience for everyone to the greatest extent possible. In a way, that is the philosophy Drover lives by as a technology company also -- using technology to deliver a better rideshare experience to the greatest extent possible. 


Patrizio Murdocca is Chief Web Developer at Drover Rideshare, a student at Vanderbilt University, and President of Interfaced Ministries