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Mitchell Tech construction students trek to Guatemala for a mission to build a home

Grace Bultsma, MTI construction student, right, holds a local Guatemalan on her shoulders during the construction of a new home she helped build with her MTI classmates on March 5 in San Raymundo, Guatemala. (Submitted)1 / 2
Shown here is the group of MTI construction students standing in front of the house they built for a Guatemalan family on March 6 in San Raymundo, Guatemala. The nine person group led by instructor Eric Schramm built the home during spring break last week. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

Rather than spending their spring break on a beach, a group of Mitchell Technical Institute students used what they've been learning in the classroom to build a home for a family in need.

Last week, nine students studying architectural design and building construction at MTI trekked nearly 2,700 miles south to a Central American country, where they spent a week building a home for a Guatemalan family.

"Seeing how grateful the family was to have just a small house that we would view as a shed in the United States was a special thing to see," said Owen London, one of the MTI construction students that traveled to Guatemala. "It feels great knowing we made the world a better place together."

Leading up to the trip, the group of students put in a year's worth of planning and fundraising to make it all happen. The initial destination to build the home was in Haiti, but due to the ongoing civil unrest and conflict facing the impoverished nation, the group rerouted and collectively decided on San Raymundo, Guatemala.

Eric Schramm, ADBC instructor at MTI, spearheaded efforts for his students to make the mission trip a reality, helping coordinate fundraising campaigns that reached just shy of $34,000. To find a family in need, Schramm used Casas por Cristos, which is a nonprofit organization that specializes in helping groups of people seeking places to do missionary work.

"It was a special experience to be a part of, and I was very proud of our students," Schramm said of the mission trip. "They worked hard at making this happen, and it was awesome to be a part of it all."

The first-year ADBC MTI instructor served as the chaperone of the mission trip and assisted in building the home, forming an even closer bond with his students.

"Having Eric there pushed us to help change a family's life, and we got closer through it all," London said of his instructor and classmates.

The seven-day trip began on Monday when the group of future construction prospects leveled the ground, poured concrete and built the foundation of the home. Over the next two days, the crew put in nearly 20 hours of labor, installing the walls, roof and windows.

From using Guatemalan pine tree wood to local concrete, utilizing the resources and materials made available created a unique challenge for the students.

"The wood was not evenly proportioned, and it was wet and dense, so my students learned to be grateful for what they have back home," Schramm said. "It was a challenge to use those resources, because they were not up to a standard that we have in the United States."

By Wednesday afternoon, the group finished the 11-by-20 house, fulfilling their goal to provide a new home and better life to a widowed Guatemalan mother and her son.

To celebrate the completion of the project, the MTI construction crew gathered outside to take part in the dedication ceremony delivered by a missionary pastor.

"Seeing the family's reaction was so cool, and their faces just lit up when they got the key to the home," said Grace Bultsma, a first-year MTI student in the ADBC program. "Being down there made me realize how much we really have and that there are people in the world who are just happy to have a roof over their head."

Despite the language barrier and culture shock, Bultsma said she connected with the Guatemalan locals and the family she and her classmates built the home for.

Matt Kayser, a first-year ADBC student at MTI, was humbled by the mission trip and gained a new worldly perspective during the meaningful construction project.

"Around here you would never see a house built like that, but to them it's not a house, it's a home," Kayser said. "You could just feel how proud the family was when the home was ready for them."