Olivia O’Malley ’22 spends summer building playground, classrooms at Guatemalan school

By James McEvoy
Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child rising sophomore Olivia O’Malley ’22 spent a week of her summer helping to build a playground and three classrooms at a school in Guatemala.
O’Malley, of Summit, raised more than $10,000 to facilitate her trip and support the work she and others performed at a school in Santa Cruz del Quiché through the organization School the World.

Each day from July 25, 2019, through, August 2, 2019, O’Malley and students from other schools made cement, painted and dug holes to install playground equipment. They also spent time playing games with the Guatemalan youth – a highlight for O’Malley.

“The children were ecstatic that we were there to help their school and would all come up to us with hugs and presents every day,” she said. “The hardest part of the trip was saying goodbye to the children. Everyone in our group was crying and we all vowed that we would return to the school one day to see how the kids are doing.”

O’Malley said the trip, during which she visited a one-bedroom home that housed 11 people, helped her gain a new perspective on life.

“Being there made me realize how privileged I am to have a school five minutes away from my house that provides a very strong education,” she said. “It also made me appreciate the small things in life that I often take for granted like clean water to drink, food and even pencils.”

She also appreciated the bonds she made with both the Guatemalan children and her fellow volunteers.

The week’s activities, which also included a visit to Mayan ruins and a hike up a volcano, culminated with a dedication that included the community’s mayor, she said.

“I wish I could give this community everything that I have and more, and that is why I am definitely going back on this trip next year, and hopefully, many years to come,” she said. “I also want to encourage my friends to go on this trip as well. I made so many memories on this trip that I will never forget.” 

O’Malley, who was accompanied by her mother Vanessa, learned about the organization through Oak Knoll students Elsa Maurizi ’20 and Christina (Nina) Maurizi ’18 who, along with several classmates, have served with the organization in Guatemala in
2016, 2017 and 2018.

Founded in 2009, School the World has built more than nearly 100 schools and 50 playgrounds, I addition to training nearly 400 teachers in Guatemala and Honduras.
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Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child is a Catholic independent school coeducational from kindergarten to grade 6 and all girls in grades 7 to 12. Oak Knoll was founded in 1924 and is one of 10 schools in the Holy Child Network of Schools that provides independent Catholic education across the United States.

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