Raise a Glass to These Mission Minded Locals

Local volunteers travel annually to South American communities to help provide clean water and build shelters.

What started as a project to bring clean water to communities in need has grown through the years into annual trips, camaraderie with a sister parish and most recently, four newly constructed homes.

Each year, college students come home to Edina to spend their downtime between finals and summer internships with family and friends. A few local college students from the Church of St. Patrick’s college ministry travel to Guatemala on summer break to bring a helping hand and share some fellowship with the Guatemalan people. This year, 29 students and six adult leaders took the trip to Central America.

Organizing the trip were faith formation and youth ministry coordinators Nicole Stecklein and Jaclyn Parell. The pair have taken part in this annual St. Patrick’s trip since 2010 and this year was their biggest effort yet.

A fundraiser for the 2018 trip raised over $16,000, which was used to build four homes for people in Coban, Guatemala. Called Pubs for Pedro after the late Father Pedro of the Coban community, the trip sought to honor the work done during his lifetime.

“When we started [in 2010], we left the week feeling we could have done a lot more,” Stecklein says. “We’ve always had the willingness and people to do more.”

To begin their six-month long fundraising effort, the team put together a Pubs for Pedro event. Starting at the new Wooden Hill Brewery in Edina, the fundraiser traveled from its initial destination to other popular Edina locales – thus the fundraiser’s name, Pubs for Pedro.

“There are so many generous people in the Edina community,” says Stecklein. Fundraising also included a gala event which raised money for 250 water filters for the Coban community.

“Both Jaclyn and I have worked in Edina for a number of years and we’re always aware of the extreme generosity in Edina. I was still surprised by how quickly things spread and how quickly we reached our goals,” says Stecklein.

Father Pedro lived by a “my home is your home” motto, says Parell. Honoring his life became a priority, which supercharged this year’s mission.

“This year was one of the biggest crews we’ve ever taken. This particular building project was more work and more physically demanding,” says Parell. “All of the communities have been so amazing and humble and hospitable.”

“So much of the trip is beyond physical,” adds Stecklein. “Students realize that when we come home and they’re able to reflect.”

In addition to building four cinder block homes and delivering the 250 water filters, the crew also painted a church and helped build a foundation in other communities. Everything the students accomplished was documented on the group’s blog. (See below for a link to read the blog entries and follow along on the group's activities and view many more photos.)

For the American students, a few of their favorite memories predictably revolved around food. The group made tortillas and meals and even had a special lunch made by four local women. Despite a language barrier, one of the indigenous words the group learned was duck. By the end of the 10 days, the students had said duck in the indigenous language so many times that they were greeted by 4 local women who butchered and prepared dead ducks for lunch.

“We’re so grateful for the support,” Stecklein says. And they’re already looking ahead to next year’s goals. Those goals recently received a boost from the Rotary Clubs of Edina in the way of a grant awarded for the 2019 trip to provide even more water filtration units.