Every summer, Chi Omega takes action with the VIDA Volunteer program to help provide medical aid and services to various communities in the country of Guatemala. Chi Omegas have served as the campus coordinators for The University of Iowa for the past few years to encourage other Hawkeyes to join the trip as well. Madeline Lawrence, one of the coordinators for the summer 2017 trip, told us some more information on the program. "Vida Volunteer is a nonprofit organization that takes groups of students interested in health related careers to Central America for service learning clinics," she said. "There, we set up clinics in areas that do not have access to regular health care. The volunteers work with and learn from the doctors. It is a very hands on experience. We also are able to learn a lot about the culture while we are there as well!"

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Each Chi O that takes part in this trip comes away with life-changing stories and the desire to promote volunteering at home and abroad as much as they can. Chi Omega seeks to spread our light into the lives of others - no matter the borders. Here is what a few of our sisters had to say about their time in Guatemala.

"Nothing in my life has come even close to impacting me as deeply as these 2 weeks did. There is no way to describe the complete change my heart went through from the conversations I had, the things I saw, and the experiences I made. Never have I ever met such amazing men and women who are so overwhelmingly kind and grateful for everything that they have, even though they have next to nothing. Never have I ever had an opportunity feel so rewarding than to see a women breakdown in tears over receiving a months worth of medication, free of charge. Never have I ever received a sweeter hug than from a child who was just showered with chalk, stickers, and bubbles as though it was Christmas morning. This trip completely changed my life, and will continue to impact me forever. My heart is now dedicated to serving others, and I cannot wait for the years to come with Vida Volunteer. Thank you for the best 2 weeks of my life."

- Hayley Stunkel, Class of 2020

I knew I was going to Guatemala to help people, but what I didn’t know was how much it was going to help me. Through VIDA Volunteer, our group was able to improve the lives of over 900 patients. From spending time with our homestay families, to zip lining 1200 feet high through the mountains of Antigua, Guatemala has taught me to never take anything for granted. In this life we are often so materialistic, always paying attention to the ‘next best thing’ and comparing ourselves to others. This trip has given me the strength to realize that above all, our friends, family, and relationship with God are all that truly matter. When taking a step back I was able to see with clear eyes how lucky each and every one of us are. This is not because of the things we have, but because of the opportunities and gifts God gives us. Sure, it opens your eyes to the reality of how life differs in other countries; however, I’ve learned that whether we have nothing or everything, as long as we have a heart full of love and God by our sides, we will forever be lucky.
— Meredith Hickerson, Class of 2020
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"Traveling to Guatemala opened my eyes in so many different ways. Being able to serve multiple communities and hundreds of people is a wonderful feeling. Not only did I come across the kindest people, but I got to learn so much about Guatemalan culture as well through a home-stay. That home-stay is something I will always remember. It showed me that you don't need luxurious items to live and be happy. The family I got the honor to stay with took me in like one of their own children and showed me their way of life. Guatemala was an experience of a lifetime and it truly taught me above and beyond what my expectations were."

-Kelsey Wroble, Class of 2018

"Vida Volunteer has given me the courage and knowledge to not only grow in my medical skills, but to also grow as a person. The lives I have touched and memories I have made will last me a lifetime. Not only did I have the amazing opportunity to learn from experience and test my medical skill; but I also learned to look with compassion, speak with courage, and to be grateful for the life I live. I was able to experience new cultures and see the joy in simplicity. Thank you Vida Volunteer for opening my eyes and taking me on this wild, life changing adventure. These past two years will stick with me forever."

Kathryn Lorenger, Class of 2019

I am so thankful for all that Vida has brought me. I have learned so much more than I expected over the past year working as Vida’s Campus Coordinator. To start, the Vida staff is incredible. The doctors promoted such a positive learning environment and confirmed my passion to work in healthcare. Their vibrant energy was truly contagious. Aside from my passion of healthcare, Vida has made me realize my passion for service. It sparked something huge for me and I cannot stop here. This program has completely changed my perspective on the idea of service to others. A little goes a very long way. I cannot wait to see where this takes me and share this with others.
— Madeline Lawrence, Class of 2019

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