Castleton freshman Markell Nault recently went back to El Salvador for two weeks to help build a house for underprivileged families.
Nault is a member of a group called Epilogos, which consists of about 20 students, who travel to El Salvador annually during February break.
Nault joined this group on a whim, not knowing what exactly it consisted of.
“A few students had gone and they gave a presentation about it in class. It looked like something I was interested in, so I went to some of the informational meetings and decided to commit to it,” she said.
She said it is mostly high school students and adults who go, but it is encouraged for college students as well.
“I think it’s a fabulous idea, but it cannot come from the faculty, it has to come from the students,” said Castleton Spanish professor Ana Alexander when asked if this would be a good idea for college students.
Alexander is an advocate for studying abroad at Castleton and encourages all students to travel.
“It allows students to broaden their minds and see things from a new perspective,” said Castleton freshman Danielle McLaughlin, who recently got her acceptance letter to study abroad.
Alexander has been on a mission trip similar to Nault’s and said what she learned about the people is incredible.
“It’s amazing how people with so little can live happily and respect each other and try to improve their community,” she said.
In Nault’s first trip, she spent most of her time with the kids. While some students were building the house, others were helping out at the local hospitals and schools.
“I helped out at the local school where I got to teach lessons in Spanish about Science and Art,” said Nault, an education major.
Spending time with the kids was something that Alexander could relate to from her past trip to South America.
“There was dirt and the kids didn’t have toys like we do so they created games playing with little rocks or sticks,” she said reminiscing as if she was back in South America watching the children play.
“They used their imaginations so much because they didn’t have anything else,” she said. “Here we have all kinds of computers and gadgets, and there kids are playing games that they just invented.
“We have a lot that we take for granted.”
Nault was affected in similar ways during her first trip to El Salvador. She said her dream was to be a translator in America because they make a lot of money, but spending time there has made her realize something life changing.
“You don’t need money to be happy,” Nault said.
Now her goals are more happiness-oriented and her new dream is to make a change and contributions to an underprivileged country.
“It was surprising how eager those kids were to get to school,” Nault said after explaining that they have to walk up to five miles to get there in scorching heat.
“And here I am complaining about walking across campus to get to class,” she said. “It made me realize that we are really lucky here and it makes me no longer take my education for granted.”
Nault said that these experiences have changed her life for the better and she feels privileged that she got to go back to El Salvador to help again.