College Students Fix Venezuela After 2-Week Service Trip
By Edward Cho
VENEZUELA—This past Spring Break, fifteen UNC students went on a two-week long global service trip to Caracas, Venezuela to improve the living quality of shoddy neighborhoods, with all costs covered by the University. On the first day, the students visited a rural neighborhood consisting of shacks and wooden lean-tos. One villager lived in a cardboard box, and by Venezuelan law he wasn’t considered homeless and still had to pay property tax. “I think I saw that villager,” said first-year volunteer Brandon Detter ‘19. “He was eating the corner of the box because it probably had more nutrients than the rats.”
After scouting out the neighborhood, students began painting the shacks. “We were very thorough. We painted every single home, even the half-eaten cardboard box,” said volunteer Lisa Winters ‘21.
According to trip leader Chad Chaddington ‘20, the team went through great lengths to provide the villagers with the highest quality paint. Our group spent over $5000 in paint on the first neighborhood alone. “None of that Home Depot stuff,” said Chad. “We used the best paint because we want the villagers to forget they live in a shithole until they enter their shacks.”
The volunteers encountered a couple setbacks along the way. Many villagers were extremely rude and ungrateful. According to Lisa, “one villager was especially rude. After we did half his house, he kept shaking his head and arms and yelling ‘don’t paint the ventanas, idiotas.’ We couldn’t understand him because none of us speak Venezuelan. Eventually, he got violent so we had no choice but to call the local police. I heard he got put in a prison in the middle of the jungle. Not everyone is appreciative of all the hard work we put in, but that’s part of the job.”
The volunteers also started a new Clean Water Initiative in all two villages they painted, taking a non-traditional approach in raising local clean water awareness. Instead of giving the villagers filters, the team gave each child an empty water gun. “The water gun policy is ingenious, actually,” said Chad. “Because no one likes getting sprayed with syphilis-infested river piss, the kids will take the initiative in finding clean water.”
This trip has made a lasting impact on all members of the team. “I definitely feel like I’ve changed the world,” said Ainsley Tanner ‘23. “After this trip, I can’t rest knowing that there are so many more injustices out there which I can prevent.”
On the second week of the trip, the volunteers toured all of Venezuela and took pictures with drugged tigers so that they could post something on instagram with the caption: #service.