Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Still raining.....

This is an article from the Latin American Herald Tribune.

Rains Leave 5 Dead in Guatemala

GUATEMALA CITY – At least five people dead, eight missing and hundreds of homes damaged and flooded made up part of the harm done by a weather system that hit Guatemala over the weekend, authorities said Monday.

The disaster-response agency, Conred, said in its latest report that one person died, four were injured and three have gone missing in the western province of Sacatepequez.

Meanwhile in the eastern province of Chiquimula a strong current of water caused the death of two people, and another four have disappeared.

At the same time in the northern province of Alta Verapaz a mudslide caused the death of two minors last weekend.

In the southern municipality of Villa Canales one person went missing in the rain-swollen river.

Conred said that the incessant rains that have affected the entire country made a bridge collapse Sunday that spanned the Montagua River providing a crossing between Guatemala and Honduras.

The agency said that the rains have caused some 30 mudslides and sinkholes on several highways and have flooded more than a score of communities in the nation’s interior.

More than 650 homes have been damaged by the rains and 3,614 people have been evacuated to 54 shelters, which have been supplied with some 250 tons of food and humanitarian aid.

Conred warned that due to the amount of water soaking the ground and the continuous rains in Guatemala, floods and mudslides are likely to continue throughout the country. EFE

Friday, August 27, 2010

10:00p.m. Emergency Call in Guatemala.

It is pouring rain here in Panajachel, absolutely pouring!

We were all sitting around after having a wonderful farewell dinner for the folks from Mayan Families Canada, Robyn, Leigh, Tyler and Sofia.

Sharon's cell phone rang, it was one of our people telling Sharon that the road up to Solola was blocked by a landslide.
Then we received another call from Oscar, our driver, who is in the Mayan Families old Toyota 4x4 Pickup and is stuck behind a different landslide blocking the only other road out of town, the one going up to San Andres.
He called because he can not move the truck and Glendy who works for us was so scared from the landslide that she fainted and passed out. We called the Bomberos, the first responders. Dwight went up with Julio to check out the situation. It is late, pouring rain and as Dwight went up he took with him our donated wind up flashlights for light that got passed out at the scene. When he got there Glendy was being carried to the Ambulance on a stretcher. They couldn't get the folding legs of the stretcher to actually fold, so they tried three times until they worked.
The Bomberos Ambulance went off down the hill back to Panajachel's Centro Salud, the towns medical clinic, which Mayan Families helps out with Medicines and other assistance.

Dwight got into our 20 year old trusty Toyota 4x4, locked the hubs, put it in 4 wheel drive low range, and drove through the mud pit area where the road has almost washed away going up to San Andres. He parked the truck behind two Giant Caterpillar Tractors that were blocking the road on the other side, to prevent others from driving on the bad section and came back to Panajachel with Julio and Oscar. It is now raining even harder and we are awaiting sunrise and hope the road is able to be cleared.

Glendy went to the Centro Salud and was released in good shape. She is now resting at home.
We will keep you all informed as the sun rises tomorrow morning on what happens next!

1st year Anniversary of the Panajachel Pre-school, Guatemala.

Yesterday we started the celebrations for the one year anniversary of the Panajachel pre-school. It was a really wonderful event. The mothers had hired costumes for the children, we had been lent a painted background for the play that the children performed. They did a performance of "Sleeping Beauty". The children had been practising for weeks and it was just so much fun.
The girls bringing in the Guatemalan flag at the beginning of the ceremonies.
Valeria was crowned Miss Carita Sonadoras 2010/2011. Carita Sonadoras is the name of the pre-school and it means little faces with big dreams. Valeria did a fantastic speech and we were so proud of her! The teachers did a huge amount of work to get ready for this celebration. It is a custom in Guatemala that schools celebrate their anniversaries.
Later in the evening a Torch marathon was held. We will post the photos later. Today we are having a parade in the streets with all the children in their traditional clothing ( for the girls) , blue shirts and black pants for the boys. Then back to the pre-school where the festivities will end with chuchitos, tostados, gelatina and we have a clown coming that will make it so much fun for the children.
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Jody in Guatemala.

Our dear friend, Jody, who works very hard to help the children of Guatemala came to visit this month. Jody has several children she sponsors and it was fun for them all to meet. Jody brought ice cream cake for the afternoon tea and the kids thought that was pretty wonderful!
Jody came with several friends including Aida who works in Guatemala city. Aida has been helping children and families find medical care for many years now. Jody and Aida work together through C.O.T.A. Children of the Americas.
We have been very fortunate to have their help. Jody also brought three newcomers to Guatemala. They worked building a house in Santa Catarina for Laura's family. Laura is the little girl who is having medical treatment on her eye. She is suffering from glaucoma and has already lost the sight in one eye.

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Melvin celebrates his birthday in style!

Melvin lives in San Jorge la Laguna. He had his birthday this month and he turned 5 yrs old.
Melvin attends the Mayan Families San Jorge pre-school.
His family is very poor and they were finding it very hard to have enough food for the family. Fortunately for Melvin and his family, his wonderful sponsors have provided the family with food. They have also very positively affected the family's life. Before they did not have a water filter nor did they have a table and chairs. The family sat on the dirt floor either on a woven straw mat or on broken cement blocks. Thanks to their sponsors they now have a table and chairs, a water filter that gives them clean drinking water daily. They have sponsored Melvin to go to school. As a very special treat this year for his birthday Melvin received a birthday cake and a Hope Chest. These Hope chests were designed by volunteer builder, Michael. Michael has visited many homes in Guatemala and was always saddened by the fact that there were often no beds, no tables, no chairs and no where to keep clothes and possessions. Michael taught several of the Mayan Families youth how to build these boxes and now we are able to make them available for sponsors who would like to give this multi purpose gift to a student. The box comes with a covered sponge mattress which can be placed on the top and used as a bed. The Hope Chests cost $80 US.
This was a birthday that Melvin will not forget!
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Orphaned family in Solola, Guatemala.

Mayan Families Canada bought beds for the two young boys who have recently lost their father in a bus accident.
The two boys, Ricardo and Victor, and their sister, Juana Estela had lost their mother approx. 16 months ago. They are now being cared for by two aunts and an uncle who are living in the house with them. The family was unable to keep the children and had told us that they would have to find someone who would be willing to take them. The family is very poor and they could not afford to feed three more children. Mayan Families offered to sponsor the children to go to school and to find people who would be willing to help with the food so that this family can stay together. The aunts and uncles were very happy to have the children remain with the family if they had help to support them. So far we are delivering food to the family every two weeks. Thanks to Mayan Families Canada for buying this generous amount of food for the family.

The little girl had already received her own bed and now the two boys each have their own beds thanks to the kindness and generosity of Mayan Families Canada. They also bought blankets and sheets for them.
We still need more sponsors who would be willing to commit to sending a little money each month to help out this family. If you can help, even just once, it would really help us keep this family together. To donate please go to this link.

Dilson Family Aid #FA35

Rina Acencio is a single mom in great pain for her son.
Rina (b. 23-Apr-1978) was only able to study until 6th grade.
She has a gastric ulcer and needs about $76 per month for medicine, but is
asking for medical aid for her son, not for herself.

She only has one son and is willing to give up her own kidney to save her son's
life. But it still takes more. It takes money she doesn't have. She works as a
house cleaner, and washes clothes, making about $51 per month.

Dilson Andre was born December 28th, 1997. He would have been in 7th grade if
he was able to study. He studied hard in 6th grade as an athletic, smart,
successful student, playing soccer every recess and every free moment he had. He
has not been able to play soccer for over a year now.

In 2008, his skin started changing colors, becoming paler and paler, and he
started vomitting violently, repeatedly. He was taken by a fever in April 2010
and he was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure.

He needs $1215 for dialysis in Guatemala City and treatment every month.

What has made this even more painful, is that Rina was abandoned by Dilson's
father around 2005, and has formed another family with other children. But with
no where else to stay, Rina's mother in law is offering her a place to stay out
of pity for her grandson's situation. But Rina has no security there.

They live in one room made of cement block, tin roof, cement floor.
They share a gas stove from her mother in-law.
She shares her mother in law's pila.
They do not have a water filter.
They have a bathroom.
They have electricty and water in the home.
They pay $32/mo for electricity.
They have 4 chairs, one table, one closet,
They have one bed.

Rina has learned a lot since her son's condition. She has had to be strong for
her son. When she saw the doctors in the public hospital running around,
dividing their time among various patients, she took it upon herself to learn
how to do the dialysis for her son, herself. Knowing the situation was life or
death, she has done things to help the both of them survive that she never
expected to be able to do.

Please give a small donation to help Dilson get dialysis. With your help, he
can get back to doing homework and being a kid. Your gift could literally save
Dilson's life.

Best wishes,

Donor Relations Manager

P.S. It is possible for him to have a transplant but first the mother who is willing to give up the kidney, has to find out if she is a match. Then we will have to find a way to cover this operation, the mother's time off work, ....because she is the only breadwinner in the family. Then we will have to keep our fingers crossed and hope that the kidney will not be rejected and that this young boy will have a chance at having a longer life. Ely is making calls to find out how much this may cost and what the chances are of it working.
Thank you so much for wanting to help, it is particularly hard to hear this story after having just lost little Silvia to kidney failure.

I spoke with Dilson's mom just now. The doctors told her that since he just started dialysis (in April), they can't even consider a transplant for a year. He's actually having dialysis weekly, not monthly as I stated before, but the cost per month, is about the same.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mayan Families new office in Guatemala.

The best part of our new offices in Panajachel is the fact that there is a playground for children. This is a source of great joy for all the children waiting to be attended to.
We are presently sharing a space with a private school that has greatly reduced their numbers. They used to have elementary children but now have only senior high school students. They are definitely not using the playground and the Mayan Families kids are getting a great deal of enjoyment from the swing and slides.

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Laura in San Antonio, Guatemala.

Little Laura is receiving treatment for glaucoma. The clinic in Guatemala city is using a freezing treatment on it to reduce the swelling in her eye. She has lost the sight in her eye but the swelling needs to be reduced. She just received the treatment a few days ago and it appears to be irritating her eye. Laura's family is very poor. There were 13 of them sleeping in one tiny room. Thanks to Jody Greenlee and the wonderful group of people that she brought down with her, their house has now been increased to two rooms. They now have a cement floor rather than a dirt floor and their roof is not leaking anymore!

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More flooding in Guatemala.

From the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Rains Cause Flooding in Coastal Areas of Guatemala

GUATEMALA CITY – The torrential rains deluging Guatemala have flooded several communities along the southern coast and 13 families have been evacuated because of the danger of a mudslide in the country’s southeast, officials said.

At least 13 communities in and near the port of San Jose, in the southern province of Escuintla, have experienced flooding due to the downpours.

At least 24 houses have been damaged from the flooding, Conred national emergency management office spokesman David de Leon said.

So far, however, it has not been necessary to carry out any evacuations there, but officials have prepared several shelters to house people, if need be, De Leon said.

The flooding was caused when the Achiguate River overflowed its banks and also because the sugar refineries divert river water to supply their operations, San Jose councilman Aquilino Estrada told Guatemalan radio.

In a community in the southeastern province of Santa Rosa, meanwhile, emergency management officials evacuated members of 13 families because of the risk that a nearby hillside saturated with rainwater could give way.

The residents were taken to a school, where they were housed and received other assistance.

Both Conred and the National Seismology Institute are continuing to monitor the rise of river waters nationwide so that they can alert communities of any danger, De Leon said.

A weather alert was issued Friday in Guatemala because of the presence of a low pressure system along the country’s Pacific coast.

Forecasters expect the heavy rains to continue on Sunday, with heavier downpours along the southern coast and in the central plateau, which includes the capital.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The end to a long journey to the U.S.

This is unfortunately, the end for so many people's dreams. The exhaustion and danger of the long journey and then to end in this kind of brutality.

click here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Reflections from 2010 Trip to Guatemala – Mayan Families

It always takes me some time to process the experiences from our trips to Guatemala – so now that we have been home for about a week and are beginning to talk about them – I think some of the feelings are able to be put into words…

As a recap, Matt and I made the choice to go to Guatemala to work with Mayan Families – we would have the chance to do service work, figure out some of the logistics for the trips we would be leading, and… we got to celebrate our 15th anniversary. J A group of 32 individuals from Cincinnati allowed us to join them on their trip. It is amazing how you can join a group where you don’t know anyone – but find individuals with a similar desire to serve others and develop friendships along the way – just another added benefit! So here goes…

This was the first time we had spent so much time in the Panajachel area (Pana) around Lake Atitlan. There are similarities to Antigua, but at the same time it is much more traditional and indigenous in culture. We witnessed the beautiful traje (clothing) on many more of the people that we came into contact with – women, children, and the men. Spanish was spoken frequently, but Kaqchiquel was spoken by many in the villages surrounding the lake. As I have always said though – a smile, friendly word, direct eye contact, and a gentle touch can speak volumes across all of the language barriers.

On our first full day in Guatemala we traveled to El Barranco, a small community of approximately 350 families. Some of us traveled in vans, while others opted for a very traditional mode of transportation – in the back of an open pick-up truck with a metal “cage” for support. Though I don’t recommend this choice of transportation on a normal basis J, it was an experience in itself. The colors were that much brighter; the sounds of life that much clearer; the interaction with the people on the street that much richer – and the bumps on the little dirt road that we turned onto which ran through the corn field that much “bumpier.” Occasionally we even picked up a passenger, normally a child going the same way we were that was sponsored for school through Mayan Families supporters.

We traveled to the community of El Barranco for a “cultural event.” In my opinion that description doesn’t do it justice… Our group of 34 volunteers was treated to a joyful morning of dancing and interaction with the families of El Barranco. As we walked into the community center - after walking by houses where mothers were washing dishes in the pila, pigs were walking in the “yards”, turkeys were scurrying amongst the cornstalks, and children sheepishly smiled at us – I had a moment where I got quite emotional. As I looked around, I met the eyes of another man on the trip, whom I had just met the day before. We exchanged a couple of quick words and recognized that for both of us it was a very moving moment that still can’t necessarily be put into words.

The adults and children were all very gracious to us – spreading pine needles on the ground in a sign of respect and greeting. Two volunteers in the community have taken on the responsibility to teach traditional dances to the children – in an effort to carry on their rich heritage. We were lucky enough to be treated to the traditional dances. I was reminded of watching the recitals of my own children – sometimes the kids are “on”, sometimes they are “lost”, and the clothes are brightly colored – however here it is their normal traditional clothing. We laughed and interacted with the children as they performed 6 or 7 dances – including the Corn Dance, Monkey Dance, and Hunting Dances. As I experienced a profound joy – I imagined the emotions that Melanie, Becca, and Lauren would feel watching these children experience joy through dance – and getting the opportunity to dance for them and teach them. I imagined how it would be to see Jake, Hollie, Jonah, Cora, Joey, Jonah, Allison and the many other children dancing with the kids at the end.

I loved this event as our group came in not only to give them donations of shoes and clothes, but in reality to receive a gift from this community. The camaraderie and pride amongst the children is something that continues to amaze me. Matt even met two special friends (Daniel, age 7 & Katarina, age 6) – they were his “buddies” while we watched the dances. Daniel was very inquisitive – and we learned that his mother was working in another town, Solola; his father wasn’t “in the picture”; his uncle was one of the two volunteers teaching the dances; and that he goes to school one day a week. The little girl kept putting her head down on Matt’s shoulder…

We spent the afternoon at the Nature Reserve next to Lake Atitlan. Remember we are in the Highlands of Guatemala – so the elevation is around 5,000 ft. The reserve is a beautiful area of lush green plants. I would have liked to have more time to just explore, but once we were fitted in our harnesses for ziplining – off we trekked – straight up a mountain. On the way we passed waterfalls, spider monkeys, and landscapes that made you believe you were hiking in the Smoky Mountains. We traversed hanging wooden bridges – no jumping allowed! J As we got to the top, I remembered I have this fear of heights and don’t quite feel comfortable about stopping myself on this zipline…uh oh. Though I made it across the zipline – it was not a graceful stop at all – and I don’t think the guy liked me running into him! I can’t say I was too fond of it myself. L Though most of the children and adults were able to master the “stopping” – there were a couple of us that decided to go harnessed with a guide. The nice part was that I got to just hang out and enjoy the experience (and the occasional big leaf) as the guide did the work. We went on 9 ziplines across the beautiful ravine – the waterfall on one side and the lake on the other. It is definitely an experience I can “check off” on my “Life Experiences List!”

On Monday, the work began…. donations sorted, training on how to build the ONIL stoves, and the construction crew out working on building rebar forms. Throughout the week, one of my favorite memories is watching the children of our group go into many different schools and settings to fit the Guatemalan children with new shoes. There would be clothes, underwear, and shoes available – but there was no doubt where the Guatemalan children would head – to the shoes table. It is no surprise after you see and experience the climbs that these children experience each day. There are many surfaces – rock paths, ditches, mud ravines, cobblestoned paths, broken concrete stairs – and they go on and on as you travel up the mountain or through the town. Shoes are vital….

The Guatemalan child would be put in the impromptu chair of honor or on the table. The children from our group would remove their shoes, there would be some decision-making on the style desired and size needed, the foot would be brushed off, and the new shoes would be placed on the child’s feet by “our children.” The adults helped too – and I found it a very humbling experience to perform this very simple, but important task. What a moment for these children to connect too…

Speaking of walking – we did a lot of it! (Though there are tuk-tuks available in Pana to get around - quite a treat for 5 quetzales per person. I know the kids loved it – but after 6 trips I still have never traveled in one.) I love that Mayan Families works in so many communities all around the Lake Atitlan area – Panajachel, Solola, San Jorge, Terra Linda, San Antonio, El Barranco, San Pedro… We got the chance to visit several of them (and would have experienced more except for those torrential downpours). We also drove through Santa Catarina and visited Santa Cruz by boat for an amazingly relaxing breakfast overlooking the lake. Matt & I could have hung out there and just relaxed in a hammock for a couple more hours. J We spent two days in the town of San Antonio Palopa. We had visited this town in the past for a “tourist” experience, but this time I felt like we were able to immerse ourselves more directly into the community. This town, along with many others, was directly affected by Tropical Storm Agatha. Mudslides buried individuals, homes, and damaged one of the two schools. A brand-new preschool was opened in a building above a store that we had visited on a previous trip. It provides a safe place for these children to begin learning in. Many have had their first experience with brushing their teeth in the past two months. They have the opportunity to have beans, tortillas, eggs, and other nutritious food twice a day. There was no bathroom in this temporary preschool – and now that I think back on it – the kids (4-6 years old) never clamored to go to the bathroom. However, our group needed to find one. J There was one – it was literally under the stairs that led to the preschool, covered by a shower curtain. (Just a tip, the people of Guatemala are much shorter than their American counterparts – so there wasn’t much room!)

We spent time with the kids & watched them transform into children as the bubbles and balloons came out. They opened up as we sat on the floor – eye level with them and began to play with them. Whether it was asking simple questions, “Cuantos tienes años?”, “Como se llama?”; doing simple charade animals; or taking their pictures and letting them see the “results” - we watched the “walls” come down. As Sharon, of Mayan Families, explained this simple interaction and “fun” is so very enriching to the children. It is amazing the difference you can make by just interacting with a child and the gift to us is seeing the smiles and hearing the giggles!

There were many more experiences in San Antonio … We watched “our children” join into an impromptu game of soccer with children out at recess at the local school. The goals were five gallon buckets and cinderblocks. The field was a rock, sandy area just above the lake. The background was the glorious lake with three majestic volcanoes overlooking it. You looked down at the lake’s edge and saw a group of women washing their clothes. We looked up and saw the town of San Antonio Palopo overlooking us. We heard the laughter of kids, the grunts of determination, and the shouts of teamwork…

We had a woman share her child’s toys with us… For no better of a description, they were water balls that started as beads and grew over time as placed in water. The woman dressed in traditional traje shared the playtime of throwing them against us and watching them splat. The smiles and laughter was universal. When they ran out, we understood through basic translations and hand gestures that we could get more for 1 quetzal. So, off we went – though we didn’t know where… She sent us off with her daughter, who couldn’t have been more than 4 years old. I was hand-in-hand with her, while we had 5-6 other “American” children going on the journey with us – though we still didn’t know where we were going – figuring it couldn’t be too far…. After walking for several minutes, we weren’t too sure that our 4 year old guide knew where she was going – or maybe she was just awestruck by all of these big strangers. J Eventually, a woman caught up to us and laughingly redirected us onto the correct path to the little tienda. Once we were back, they were gracious enough to find old water bottles and fill them with the water and beads for each of the children. Again, just another gift that the Guatemalan people gave to our group…

We walked the main street of San Antonio Palopo – looking into the church; watching women walking along the street talking and going to the one room local marketplace; observing clothes and seeds drying on roofs and in small courtyards; being approached by many vendors to sell their beautiful textiles; watching the few trucks try to maneuver their way through the one lane main road; and hearing the sounds of music, voices in conversation, kids yelling, and people working. We were guided up “paths” to homes to install ONIL stoves. We gasped for breath and felt our muscles tire as we watched indigenous women and men seemingly effortlessly carry cinderblocks, children, 50+lbs bags of sand, wood, etc. up the mountain. When we reached our destinations – homes we would be installing the life-changing stove – we took a moment to look around and see the beauty of the landscape. Then it was time for work…

First, shy hellos were exchanged with the family of the home. Then we needed to be sure the area designated by the family would work to install the stove before leveling the area off. Next, 11 cinderblocks purchased by the family were built up for the frame. Sand & precast concrete forms added to the base. The children in our group were able to help put the sand; ash (for sealing the sand and keep it from burning); the brick pieces (aka “the twins”, “las botas”, and “la cama”); and the wire mesh protective shield together for the stove. During the 1-2 hour long installation process, some of the volunteers would get to know the home owners – utilizing the translators & the common language of smiles, hand motions, and basic Spanish. As everyone knows – I love taking pictures and capturing memories! J There were many times that the children and adults were shy about pictures – but is amazing what digital cameras have conquered that the old film versions couldn’t. The children and adults love looking at their pictures after they are taken – some of my favorite pictures are capturing their smiles and laughter after looking at their picture! It is even more amazing when you give the children and women the chance to take a picture with your camera – and to then view what they have captured. In the end, I think that something (aka the camera) that could put up barriers – actually can be used as a tool to break down barriers …

During our first few installations – I would look around and realize the woman of the house had been gone for a while. During this process of the stove installation, the woman is asked to wash the metal plates that will go on top of the stove. Many times the washing consists of a small bowl (normally about the size of a large dog bowl) with water collected from the daily rains done on the dirt floor; but, these women will polish these metal plates with pride for 20-30 minutes.

At some point I will ask if I can see their home. It is normally a couple of small rooms with the walls made of lamina (corrugated metal sheets), concrete blocks, or branches and mud packed in between. The roofs are normally tarps or more lamina. The floor is often dirt. The items are sparse, but pride is taken with the possessions that they have. At one home, I see corn soaking in a bucket of water. In some I see a bed – others there are none. A bed is a wonderful item to have – even if there are 5-6 people that sleep in that one full-size bed. Sometimes, there will be a plastic cup nailed to a wall – filled with a toothbrush and washcloth. Occasionally, I will see a wooden table or a dresser to hold items. In one home, there is a wooden loom used for weaving. Many times there is one lightbulb hanging down in a room. What I don’t see are lots of knick-knacks, books, toys, kitchenware, clothes, a pantry full of food, a refrigerator, a washing machine, a bathroom, pictures of family members…

There is simplicity to life on one hand – but on the other it is not so simple to not know where your food is going to come from; to have to collect water from the rain, the lake, or puddles; to need to hike to the woods to collect firewood… There is pride in their homes – though we as Westerners may see only poverty. Someone once told me – their home (just like for us) is their palace – and always keep that in mind as you are a guest in their home. Look for the richness and what we can learn from each family…

There were several times through the week that we got poured on – not just a few sprinkles, but an outright downpour. We put in stoves in the rain, rode in the back of pick-up trucks getting soaked, waited for our clothes to dry out in our hotel rooms (to no avail), and waded through ankle high puddles. I can’t say that part was “fun” – but once again, how could I complain? This was in reality just an adventure for me – I wasn’t trying to sleep while rain poured down on the metal lamina over my head and seeped in on the dirt floor that other families slept on. My clothes would eventually be washed and dried in the luxury of my 15 year old washing machine and dryer. It was still an adventure to sing in the rain in the back of the truck – vs. just a nuisance that could soak the firewood needed for dinner or create a very muddy climb to my home. I knew I was “safe” from the mudslides and though it wasn’t fun knowing that mud and boulders covered the road that would keep us from visiting some of the villages we hoped to – I didn’t have to worry about climbing up and down the mountain to get to work (to help these volunteers here from the states put in stoves or get around) or to worry about a mudslide claiming my home.

During the week there were the light-hearted moments also. We weaved through the passageways that made up communities until we came out into a dirt soccer field. We watched a former Guatemalan National Team futbol player lead a warm-up and soccer game between the Guatemalan children and our children. I envisioned Blake, Jacob, Emily, Mekiah, Addison, Riley, Josie, Trevor, Baker, Trent, Tom, and Matt all playing or enjoying this experience… We played “charades” with children as stoves were installed in their homes. We watched the children in our group overcome fears of catching a chicken out of a crate and put it in a family’s woven basket to take home. Again, something that seems so simple can be life changing for a family. These pollos’ eggs will become much needed protein for families and even potentially a source of income if they can be sold at market. We watched the kids play with the baby kitten that had just been taken in by Mayan Families. They played with 20+ dogs that roamed at Sharon & Dwight’s old home – reminding me of our days volunteering in college at the Humane Society Animal Shelter in Auburn.

We watched as “the active American children” all became fixated on watching the women from San Jorge create beaded bracelets for them. One even got the hang of making them herself. We watched individuals new to Guatemala feel more secure just walking around and exploring the beauty and life of Guatemala. We laughed about the fact we sometimes took cold showers and the fact the water turned off at a certain time in the evening (leaving one nameless individual all soaped up and no water to finish the shower…). I heard more than a couple of raves about the tasty beans and tortillas served at almost meal. We tried new foods – one being a bright pink fruit called pitaya… and I got to eat my favorite Guatemalan foods – tamales & pepian!

We met awe-inspiring individuals – Sharon, Dwight, Patti, Ely, Susie, Julio, Gloria, Carlos, Rodolfo, Willy, and on and on. We heard stories of how Mayan Families started and the ways it was making a difference in children’s and family’s lives. We witnessed the hard work of the 43 Mayan Families employees even if we didn’t meet each of them. We heard laughter, learned patience, and realized a new understanding of a different way of life. We all fell in love with Mayan Families worker, Carlos, and were in awe of the issues he has dealt with in his 20 years of life. Many families determined to continue the work of Mayan Families agreed to sponsor a child – and thus gave a gift, but received an immeasurable gift upon meeting their sponsored child and hearing their story. Some individuals on the trip figured out ways they could go home and find a solution to a need presented by Mayan Families.

Matt and I talked lots and even struggled with the idea of us coming in and “changing” their way of life. Their way of life is different, and we have introduced new elements into it as more and more Westerners have come into it. There are pros and cons to this… We have come away with the fact that many of the things we are hoping to do help their basic survivability – food, basic shelter, clothes. Education & skill sets will be the one sustaining source that gives a chance out of poverty and the negative elements that derive from it (i.e., depression, abuse, hopelessness). Many of the children will go to school only through elementary school, but that may be more than what their parents experienced – and hopefully each subsequent generation will get that much further in school. Others will have the chance to attend school because they will have shoes – a requirement to attend school which does truly prevent some from attending. Some will have the chance to continue on in their education and hopefully help another generation in some way. All in all, these are still choices for families. Some will not feel it is in their best interest to improve their lives with ONIL stoves or even education. We need to respect that choice. For others, the ability to have this choice based on our actions and deeds can be a wonderful new path in life…

For me, it resolved my desire to continue building Nuestros Niños, fundraising for the children of Guatemala, and bringing groups of individuals to experience the joy and beauty of Guatemala. I can completely imagine the ladies of the group playing with the children at the preschools – helping them to make blankets, taking and printed coveted pictures of the kids, doing dance and motor skill projects with the children – or painting the concrete walls with bright colors and murals. I can imagine them weaving through pathways to deliver stoves with the men hauling the heavier items and leveling off the floors for the installation. J I can imagine the hearts opening and the understanding growing of a country filled with poverty but prosperous with hope and beauty of the individual…. It makes the time and hard work before the trip purposeful. I can’t wait for July 2011 and the many trips to follow….Angela...Summer 2010.

Mayan Families Canada in Guatemala.

The Mayan Families Canada group arrived in Guatemala laden with school supplies, shoes, warm clothing and ready to give lots of hugs. The group makes an annual trip to Guatemala to visit their sponsored students. The students love to see this group every year and they have become friends with all their sponsored students and families.
Each year they select a student to renovate or rebuild their home. This year their student in Santa Catarina will be getting a new kitchen.
Yesterday they gave out egg laying chickens to 20 families. They also distributed some of the many donations that they brought. The warm jackets were wonderful and the shoes were a real joy for the children who received them.
The group will be staying here for 10 days. They will be visiting their students homes, having a back strap weaving class from the mother of one of their sponsored students. Today they will start installing the 12 stoves that they have purchased to give to needy families.
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Little Silvia.

Hi friends,
I pinched a nerve in my back and have been out of action for the past few days.
I want to thank you all so much for your kindness and consideration for Silvia's family.
I called Susie when she was at the home waiting for the coffin to be delivered. She and Gloria were very upset, the family was devastated of course, and all the children crying. Gloria was upset to see blood coming from the little girl's nose and was worried for the siblings to see this. This family is very poor but they gave everything that they could for treatment for their daughter. The father lost his job and they do not have an income right now. So the money that you sent them will not only pay for the funeral but will also be enough to give them food this week . Hopefully, the father will find a job quickly.
Gloria told me that the little girl passed away on the public bus coming back from the hospital in Xela. I cannot imagine what an awful situation that was.To be on a public bus with a lot of strangers and have your precious child pass away.
Gloria was also concerned where the children would sleep the night of the funeral.
They had only one room and one bed and that was where the viewing would be held.
We hope that we will be able to give this family a stove this week. We have had a few donated and hope that this family will be able to have one in their rented home.

Yesterday we also had the very sad news that the father of two of our sponsored students was found dead at the local market. Elisa 10yrs old and her sister, Lesly 16yrs old have been living with their grandparents. Their mother died a few months ago of uterine cancer. Their father was an alcoholic and since the death of his wife, his drinking had increased. Elisa and Lesly do not have a bed nor a stove .
We are hoping that we can help them with a donated stove this week as well.
Thankfully, Lesly and Elisa are sponsored to go to school. This gives them a sense of security for their future. Without sponsorship, these girls would not be able to go to school. I want to thank you all for the help you give the families here. Many of them would not be able to stay together without the help you send.
Thank you for all you do.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bio sand waterfilters.

Mayan Families has been constructing Bio Sand water filters and we are hoping that they will be well received. These water filters are supposed to provide clean drinking water for ten years!!!
This would be absolutely fantastic. The water filters are made of cement and they are very, very heavy. We have so far, under the direction of the organization, Wuqu' Kawoq, S.A.. We have made a 100 to distribute.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Medical clinic in Santa Catarina Palopo, Guatemala.

These are some of the photos from the medical clinic held in Santa Catarina Palopo.
We are so grateful to the wonderful people of "Healing Hands" who every year come to help the people of this area.

Many of you who have visited Panajachel will have seen Juana who is photographed here. Juana is 82yrs old and still walks the streets of Panajachel every day selling her little bags she makes and usually has a guipil or two to sell. Juana is getting hard of hearing and has lots of pains in her knees but she always has a smile. She was very happy to get new glasses!
This little boy had an injury that wasn't healing. His family also was very malnourished and was very happy to come back to Mayan Families and receive food to eat for the next few days.
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Culan family home in Guatemala!

The Culan family home is finshed and the family is happily living there! This was one of the worst, if not the worst, house that I have ever seen a family live in.This house now may seem just a basic block house but to this family it has to be a palace. They now have a dry, clean, warm home to live in. The children are now no longer covered with blankets in a futile attempt to keep them dry when the water poured in from the holes in their roof. The dirt floor now does not exist. Before it was just a dirt floor that was mud most of the time. The wet season was terribly miserable for this family. The children were wet all the time, they were always sick. Life is still not perfect for this family, they do not have enough food or possessions but their life has changed dramatically and for the better from the kindness of strangers who helped to build this home. Thank you to everyone who made this possible....what an incredible gift!!! To see photos of what the house looked like and the terrible conditions this family lived in ...please go to this link

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Gifts of food in Guatemala.

These are some of the families that received gifts of food this week. The two families in the upper photos received this food from their sponsors. The two families below are from Santa Catarina and we came across them during the medical clinic. Neither of these families had eaten all day nor had food at home. All the children were malnourished and one was so weak the doctors had to give them pedialyte. If any one would like to sponsor either of the families below for food, they would be so grateful. If you would like to make just a one time donation for food for either of these families, that will really them .
To make a donation go to our website and click on the donate now button. There are so many families needing help with food and any amount will help them.

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