Take a group of students to the cities, jungles and mountains of Guatemala,
and what could go wrong? Malaria,
dysentery, snakebite, robbery; I better not
go on for fear of never being allowed to take
students again. I mention this not to alarm
you but to inform you of the challenges
these students faced.
journalism class can best be characterized
as the most daring students in the university,
an elite group of broadcast, print and photo
journalists willing to test their abilities
outside of the California comfort zone, the
affluent bubble known as Orange County.
These 12 students went to one of the poorest
countries in the world. A place where toilets
cannot be flushed with paper.
A land that lacks clean water. An area where
few tourists ever wander. At one point in
the trip, for example, we were in a village so
remote that the only access is by water. There
are no roads anywhere – just dirt paths.
Yet despite these discomforts, the students
Abraham, Gurajpalpreet, Kaleigh, Kristen,
and Megan produced stunning videos.
Elizabeth, Ethan, Kym, Nereida and Yvette
wrote magnificent stories displayed in this
issue and Alvin and William documented
the trip with penetrating photos. Their
work is about the people of Guatemala and
Refuge International, a Texas-based group
of dedicated physicians, nurses and dentists
that operates several clinics in the mountains
and jungles to treat and relieve the suffering
of indigenous Guatemalans.
The students assisted in the mission and
served as a communications team to record
and tell the story of Refuge International. They
surprised the group with their early morning
yoga, led by Kym, and their enthusiasm to
take on any project. I was so proud to see
them work 12-15 hour days.
They put in shifts packing pills, translating,
assisting the medical personnel and then
worked on their journalism, often editing late
into the night.
I never heard one complaint about the food;
the living conditions, the cold showers, the
heat, the humidity or the grueling bus travel.
Loaded with equipment, they often carried a
third of their weight. No one grimaced when
they were told after trekking through a muddy
field to visit a rural school that they should
probably take medication to combat intestinal
They didn’t because they were in pursuit of
stories. Stories that wouldn’t be told without
boots on the ground. They were learning
how to be foreign correspondents and the
less glamorous but most important aspects
of reporting. They had to reach the women
in pain and in need of hernia repairs and
hysterectomies. They had to see the children
who needed medication to rid themselves of
parasites and worms, and visit the villages
that Refuge International aided by digging
wells to produce clean water. In this website, you will see that they
accomplished this mission.
Our thanks go to Deb Bell and Nancy
Neuman of Refuge International who served
as gracious hosts. The team that they have
assembled from all over the United States
is truly a remarkable group of dedicated
medical personnel and volunteers. Their
altruistic nature is an inspiration, their
dedication to helping the poor is outstanding,
their willingness to travel to a distant land
and work without pay in grueling conditions
is praiseworthy. They served as an example to
At the end of the day, the students not only
learned to be better journalists. They learned
to be what is called in Yiddish, a Mensch, a
person of integrity and honor, a person of