Photo/Katherine Smith

Smith served as an English teacher with the students of ANADESA’s afterschool class in the communities of Panabaj and Chuk Muk.  MCC partner, ANADESA (New Dawn Association of Santiago Atitlán) is an organization that works with women and offers educational programs for children.

Through MCC’s Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program, young adults from Canada and the U.S. are immersed in another culture for a year and serve in fields such as education, agriculture, health care and more. Meet one participant who just returned home after serving one year in Santiago Atitlan, Solola, Guatemala


Name: Katherine Rosa Smith

Age:24                                                                                                                               Hometown: Seattle, Washington

SALT location and assignment: Santiago Atitlan, Solola, Guatemala.                     Human and community development assistant at ANADESA Atitlan

Why I applied to SALT: I applied to SALT because I wanted to gain experience working and living outside of the U.S.  After I graduated from college I didn’t want to go straight into a job, but wanted to continue learning in a different way. I applied to SALT because I liked how MCC offered positions at sites that were run by local staff, offered host families, and offered a combination of serving in a position alone but at the same time being part of a country team.

Typical day during SALT: My days are usually filled with tortillas, packed pickup truck rides, beautiful volcano and lake views, coffee, visiting with women in the community or assisting in workshops, tortillas, lesson planning and teaching English, visiting the cathedral chapel, playing with my host siblings, more coffee, and more tortillas.

Smith practies and learns how to roll fresh tortillas..Photo/Katherine Smith

The biggest challenge for me: The biggest challenge is not being able to communicate with those around me. I came into this experience thinking that Spanish would be more widely spoken but the majority of those who live in my town and with whom I work speak an indigenous language called Tz’utijil, which makes communicating with people, such as my host family, more difficult.

What brings you the most joy: I find a lot of joy in hosting visitors and groups that come to learn about where I work and history of the town, as well as participate in different workshops and activities. I love interacting with the visitors, and enjoy being able to help them communicate and connect with my coworkers and community members, helping them to understand and interact with a culture and context that is not their own.

Smith visits the city capitial with ANADESA co-workers for a team retreat.  Photo/Katherine Smith

I will never forget…..Walking through my neighborhood every night with my youngest host sister Leah to the “Molino” or mill to grind corn for tortillas.

What I am learning about myself: I am learning that I do not necessarily need words to convey who I am, and to relate with others. I have been really surprised by the insight or comments people have made about me while being here, when I thought that because we cannot communicate well that those things were not seen. People have picked up on my personality and character and have encouraged me through words of affirmation, which has been a pleasant surprise.

What I am learning about faith from this experience:. I am learning that my faith is more constant than I realize. I think I am always searching for the next bit thing, and especially things that will “help me grow closer to God” when in reality I need to focus on the here and now. I am learning that there is no experience that is going to totally change who I am and my relationship with God, and so better take it day by day and focus on deepening my relationship or faith through the small things instead of hoping or searching for grand experiences that I think will expand my faith.

To anyone considering SALT, I would tell them….Don’t focus too much on applying for a specific position based solely on the job description, choose a position where you are interested in learning about the language, culture, and history of the location as well.

What I am going to do after SALT?..... The only set plans I have after SALT are go going to backpack in Glacier National Park… after that I have no idea. Apply for jobs.