Name: Jenna Downs
From: Mendham, NJ
Grade: Junior in High School
School: West Morris Mendham High School
At the age of 13, I was the youngest volunteer in a group that served in
the Guatemala City Garbage Dump Community. The people we supplied aid
to live in corrugated tin huts with dirt floors, surrounding the
city’s garbage dump. People there scavenge through garbage, searching for objects they can clean
and sell in order to survive. This experience forever changed my
outlook on my education.
Education can be used as a tool to discontinue the poverty cycle.
And receiving an education is the way I can help to free others from this
horrid cycle of poverty.
Therefore, I wish to pursue a degree in International Relations so that I may
fight against injustices against basic human rights. All should have
the “certain unalienable Rights” that
are given at birth. All should have the right to an education. All
should have the ability to put enough food on the table at night to
feed their family. I am fortunate enough to have grown up in a
country where these rights are protected. Now I wish to to help those
not as fortunate as I. Education is the key to unlocking a brighter
future. I hope to share that key.
Ever year since my first experience in Guatemala, I have
returned to Guatemala and have made volunteering a critical part of
my life. The malnutrition of the children in Guatemala City was
something that broke my heart, it brought me to tears. This is why
when I returned to the United States after my first trip, I brought
this mission of fighting hunger back with me. A group of friends and
I started a group to cook meals on a monthly basis for the families
who use our town’s food pantry. One Sunday a month, we spend four
hours preparing and driving meals to the houses of the families whom
we cook for. As well, I combat hunger through a yearly World Vision
Fundraiser called the Thirty Hour Famine. As a part of the Thirty
Hour Famine experience, I fast for 30 hours in order to comprehend
the way that many starving children feel every day, raise money to
combat hunger and volunteer at a local food bank. At the local food
bank I package boxes of food that are to be sent to families in need
and send out fundraising letters. Moreover, as the president of my
school’s service club, I help to organize food drives for our local
The biggest challenge I encounter as a volunteer is saying goodbye to the people
that I love serving. Saying “Adios” until next year to the
Guatemalan Community I serve is heart wrenching. I know that I can
still be a part of their lives by donating money and writing letters,
but something is lost in not being present. The greatest satisfaction
I receive from volunteer work is witnessing the smile of a child.
Improving one life is enough to keep me serving for a long time.