Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Our Donor Gift Cards are ready for Christmas

Instead of buying gifts for your loved ones this Holiday Season, why not consider a Christmas Gift Card,  and make a donation in their names to benefit less fortunate Mayan villagers in Guatemala. This would mean a world of difference to the poor of San Antonio and other villages on the shores of Lake Atitlan. Our four cards give you a choice of donating to buy eco-stoves, to provide much needed social programs, to assist in a dental project, or to educate children. You will receive a Canadian tax receipt for your contribution. If you would like to give a donation and have cards sent to you, or sent directly to the gift-recipient, please contact Susan: susangage@innovativecommunities.org. The four categories of cards (Stoves, Community, Dental, and Education) appear below. 




Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Scarf Sales - just in time for Christmas

A new shipment of our gorgeous GUATEMALAN SCARVES has arrived in time for the holidays.

Many of you have generously supported (by donations and by purchasing scarves) our Scarves for Stoves Project. We are a small group of committed volunteers who work in small impoverished villages in Guatemala, where we are having a very positive impact on the Mayan villagers' health and on the environment through the distribution of safe, fuel efficient stoves to replace open hearth fires, which cause major health problems such as respiratory illnesses, eye infections, burns to children - as well as massive deforestation.

Please pass the following scarf sale information on to all your friends.

1. THE CRYSTAL SINGERS HOLIDAY SHOPPING FAIR at ST. PETER'S CHURCH, 3939 ST PETER'S RD, (off Quadra near Reynold's Road) on NOV 19th from 1PM TO 3.30 PM

2. VIDEA FAIR TRADE FAIR at the First Metropolitan United Church Hall, 932 Balmoral Road (off Quadra)
on Saturday November 26th from 10AM until 4PM.

3. SUNRISE WALDORF CHRISTMAS FAIR, Sat. Nov. 19 from 10AM to 3PM at 4344 Peters Road, Cowichan Station (in the Cowichan Valley). Check here for more details.


4. COURTENAY FIESTA, held  at the Filberg Centre on December 3rd from 10AM to 3PM. Largest Fair Trade Fair in Canada.

VIDEA's Fair gives you a chance to support more than 35 local fair trade vendors, make your holiday purchases with a conscience, enjoy great live music and food from the International Women’s Catering Co-op, good friends, and lots more! Admission is by donation; there are lots of door prizes. More information at www.videa.ca

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Weaving is vital to the livelihood of the people of San Antonio Palopo. Lucien tells here of how much his family depends on the sale of his family's weaving products while some of his family demonstrate how the products are created.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Scarf Party a Success

The Gorgeous Guatemalan Scarf party was a resounding success. More than one hundred people arrived to see and purchase the beautiful scarves displayed in Carole Sabiston's lovely heritage home.

When all was said and done, we had met our goal of $2,200, which will buy 20 Onil stoves, and had also banked an equivalent amount to pay for the next order of scarves. This is good news for the weavers of San Antonio, who are always desperately seeking markets for their beautiful weavings.

Thanks to everyone supported or assisted the sale in any way.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Scarf sale in Victoria - an Invitation

GORGEOUS GUATEMALAN 
SCARF SALE
SATURDAY, MAY 7th, 10:30 TO 12:30
1648 ROCKLAND (corner of Terrace)
limited parking
 
Carole Sabiston, the artist, is co-hosting, along with the ICO Guatemalan Scarves-for-Stoves Team, a Scarf Sale in her heritage home. This is a great opportunity to buy yourself or any mothers in your lives a Mother’s Day gift that makes a difference!

Many of you, especially if you have been reading our blog, are already familiar with the work we’ve been doing in small impoverished Mayan villages, replacing open hearths (which are so bad for the health of families and for the planet) with clean-burning, made-in-Guatemala stoves. When you buy a handwoven Mayan scarf for $20 to $40, you help provide a living for a village weaver, and also contribute towards a stove. And every penny we make goes towards the project: we pay all our own travel costs.

Our goal for this sale is to raise enough for 20 stoves - $2,200. Please join us and pass this on to any interested friends.
  
Please pass this Internet URL on to any of your friends who you think may be able to come.
www.icoatitlan.blogspot.com

Mary Lynch





                       

Monday, April 18, 2011

San Antonio Palopo - a volunteer's typical day

Today was another typical day here in San Antonio Palopo, so typical, that it is worth telling you about. This morning I walked up to the markets to buy my usual pan frances (unsweetened rolls) at the small tienda owned by Julio and Rosa, plus a few plump tomatoes, an avocado, and a couple of small onions from the various ladies who regularly spend their days in the markets. Lunch! I splurged today and added a can of apple juice.

I then walked down the hill (north) to take a closer look at the area that was devastated by the mud and rock slides in September. One can only try to imagine what the terror of that tragic night must have been.  On the way I was stopped by a couple of the women who I know from the cooking and sewing classes at the Centro Qawinak, just to say Hi. Oh, well, one did want to sell me chalinas (scarves), but she didn’t push it. 

I made a decision to go down past the  man who sits most days on the steps that lead down to the lakefront from the church, not my usual route. I had an inexplicable urge to talk to him. He told me his name was Santos Sicay, and that he had been blind for about twenty years. His sign read (in English): Please help me out to survive. I’m a blind person and can’t no longer make a living on my own. Thank you very much and God bless you on your way. He said he went blind poco a poco and that he could now no longer see anything. He explained how he lived close by, and how it was difficult for him to traverse the complex, maze-like paths that link the dwellings in San Antonio Palopo, so he rarely ventured from this area. We chatted for about ten minutes about this and that. I asked him how old he was. Sixty-five, was his answer. Oh, I said, I’m almost sixty-five too. He found this strangely amusing and laughed his head off. Maybe it was my Spanish! Anyway, I pressed a few coins into his hand and left thinking: well, if all I have done today is to give a blind man a good laugh, it’s been a day well spent.

Later, after lunch, I went to the Centro Qawinak to see if Felipa (our project Director) needed any help with her Spanish class. As usual, the little boys and one tiny little girl (Karina) were causing havoc, seemingly unnoticed by their mothers, nor by Felipa. The women were there to learn Spanish. They are some of the many unfortunate ones who missed school, because they had to work for their parents, or because their parents could not afford the school fees Guatemalans must pay. The Centre is helping them catch up, and they are taking precious time out of their days to take advantage of what the program offers. I took the kids outside to the adjoining room and brought a bundle of crayons and sheets of paper with me; there was much laughter, but each of them eagerly sat quietly on a step and drew some wonderful pictures.

These kids are typical of the indigenous kids throughout Guatemala. Only today in the Guatemala Times there was article about the possibility of the Guatemalan government enacting a national food emergency in Guatemala. It stated:  About 49 percent of children in Guatemala are chronically malnourished according to the World Food Program—the fourth highest rate in the world. In indigenous communities the rate is closer to 70 percent. 
Little Karina (left) fits the picture to a tee. She is way too small for her age,  has an almost blank stare about her, and is an obvious victim of poverty and deficient nutrition. All of these kids today had runny noses and needed a good bath. None had shoes. One can only wonder at their futures. 

In the evening, I taught my English class to about 20 keeners. It’s such a delight to see the eagerness in these people – half of them adults, half of them kids of about 10 to 12 years old. The questions, the willingness to learn, it’s simply a wonderful experience. Tonight I decided to divert from the boring verbs we have been concentrating on lately (although they assured me that verbs are not boring) to do a class on food. I learned a few new words – for example, what I call a chayote (or choko in Australia) they call a guisquil (but with two dots over the “u” and sounding like whiskil). There was loads of laughter as they listened to me trying to pronounce it. To get back at them, I gave them the dreaded Homework! They have to write out a recipe using the new words they learned tonight – in English! Little Luis came to me after the class and asked if it would be all right if he just did the words in English, and did the description of how you make the recipe, in Spanish. He and his brother,  Alex, are two of my favourites. At the end of each class, they have the loudest voices when we all say: Are you ready? Yes! OK, let’s Go!, always causing the adults in the class to burst out laughing. And, as usual, before she slips out the door, lovely Reina hands me a note that always gives me such a warm feeling. Tonight’s note says: Tricia, te mando esta carta para ti, Tricia gracias porque estoy aprendiendo un poco Englesh. Reina, Buena amiga which translates, more or less: Tricia, I send this letter to you, Tricia, to thank you because I'm learning a little Englesh. Reina, your good friend. 

And so another day goes by in this enchanting little town.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Simple Pleasures

The Catholic Church above San Antonio Palopo
 Sometimes it’s the simple things that generate the greatest joys. Take, for instance, the trip I took to Sololá on Saturday with Francisco, the husband of our centre’s Director, Felipa. We were off to buy a whiteboard (pizarron blanco), which would be a teaching aid for programs in the Centre. Sololá (about 80 kilometres west of the Capital) is a mere 20 kilometres northwest of San Antonio Palopó – less as the crow flies. A trip that would be relatively easy in most countries is a little more complicated in Guatemala, especially in this tortuous, volcano-scattered, highland region. 
San Antonio from a lancha - note how the lake has risen!


To get to Sololá, Francisco and I first hopped into the back of a pick-up outside the large white Catholic Church overlooking San Antonio Palopó and Lake Atitlan, and, like Jack and Rose on The Titanic, we stood tall, with raised faces to the wind, taking in the sweet mountain air as we zipped past stunning lake views and crumbling cliffs, while thumbing our noses at the seat-belt laws of the western world. Seat-belt laws exist here in Guatemala, too, Francisco yelled in Spanish above the noisy gear-grinding of the “pick-op”, but it’s a bit of a joke. How else are we going to get there? And that was the truth. There are no buses to San Antonio Palopó, as the winding, treacherous roads are not exactly big-yellow-school-bus friendly. In Panajachel (Pana to the locals) we hopped on one such school bus and headed for Sololá. The buses pull up close to Sololá’s wide main plaza,
Main plaza, Sololá
where there’s a pleasant old park filled with families enjoying a pleasant weekend. I glued myself to Francisco’s heels as he hot-footed it through the maze of the busy, but relatively quiet market, down a steep back alley to a little libreria. We described what we were after to the owner, a humorous fellow, who proceeded to take us down a set of steps to a hideout under his shop. And there she stood – the most beautiful pizarron blanco in Guatemala! We bought it on the spot.
Francisco had a Calculus class to attend (he’s studying to be an engineer), so we parted, and I took off to explore Sololá. As well as its market, it’s full of farmacias and restaurantes, but what I was really looking for was a place to have a pedicure. I scampered up and down asking in sleepy tiendas where I could find a Salon de Belleza, and I did find a few, but being Saturday afternoon, most were closed – or they would return at 2.30PM, or some other such story. In the markets I found a little girl selling bright red nail polish, and another selling nail clippers, so that solved my glamour problem.

 Back to the libreria. Francisco arrived from his class, and we started the trek back home. He, being the gentleman that he is, insisted on lumping the huge board onto his back and heading uphill, through more precipitous backstreets to a pick-op privado. 
Francisco and our precious cargo
Our monster barely fitted, but it did, and after a little negotiating, off we sped to Pana, roller-coasting along while gripping the whiteboard for dear life as we turned this way and that, downhill the five kilometres to Panajachel, which sits 600 metres below, and where the temperature was a pleasant few degrees warmer. Another hike and another pick-op, but this one was not a privado! It was absolutely crammed with Kaqchikel  Mayan women dressed in their traditional San Antonio huipils which differentiate them from women in other communities. They had been selling their wares in Panajachel. They barely gave a glance towards the large whiteboard poised precariously between the passengers, and soon we were off on another winding, spectacular ride to San Antonio Palopó. Just outside Santa Catarina Palopó, we slowed down for a quarter-mile-long wedding party walking behind the veiled bride to a dramatic looking reception venue on the lake. We were soon back to the big white church that stands grandly overlooking the stunning lake. The whole trip there and back for the three of us (our monster had taken on its own personality) was a whole $6.50. But we weren’t finished yet. Francisco lumped our new friend on his back again (easier for one than two in the tiny alleys was his excuse for refusing help), and the gleaming whiteboard was soon standing in the ICO social centre, ready to be a teaching tool for the  many classes that will follow.  Last night, I christened the whiteboard when teaching my English class. Oh, the joy of the feel of those squeaky markers on the brilliant white surface.  It may seem an insignificant item to most, but in this part of the world where people have so little, our new whiteboard stands as one of life’s simple pleasures.
Another of life's simple pleasures!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Volunteering in paradise!

Learning English is not something that I had thought would be very popular in San Antonio Palopo, after all, many of the people, especially the older ones, speak limited Spanish and are often illiterate. Their mother tongue is Kaqchiquel (pronounced catchikell). But how wrong I was. I have been pleasantly surprised with the numbers arriving at the Centro door for lessons. To date, I’ve taught ten lessons, and with twenty lessons left before I leave on April 30, what a wonderful experience it is turning out to be. I teach for an hour and a bit every week night at 6PM.  There is palpable enthusiasm among the students, who range in age from 8 to about 48. My first class consisted of 9 students, for the second there were 19, and for the third, it was standing room only. The average, after two weeks, is about 17 students. I’m teaching conversational English – often simply things that they ask me to teach them, and things that I feel would benefit them in their daily work and lives. Julian, whose rooms we rent for the Social Centre, is one of my keenest students.  This is handy, as he has the keys! I see him most days outside of the lesson times, and he always tries to greet me in a different salutation in English. Luciano (the colectivo driver) comes when he can as well. He was delighted to learn: “Are you ready? OK, let’s go!” I have no doubt these words will be heard by tourists arriving in Panajachel anytime soon.  A wonderful side-effect of teaching English is that it has improved my Spanish. This week I am pricing an 8 x 4 whiteboard, as it would be a useful addition to the English classes, and to all the classes that are held in the centre. 

The English lessons are but a small part of my experience in San Antonio Palopo. Last Sunday night, I sat in on the Directivo's Board meeting. They're a group of local volunteers who oversee the running of the Social Centre. Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours at the basico school, helping to fix some of the computers that were non-functional.  The days are full and varied, and always interesting. 

Felipa and Angelica, our two employees, do a stellar job in keeping things running smoothly. On Mondays, Felipa holds a clase de alfabetización en español  (Spanish literacy class) which runs for three hours. Angelica runs a similar class on Tuesdays. On Wednesdays, Isabel from CONALFA, the government organization responsible for literacy programs, has a three-hour Spanish class, while Felipa holds a sewing class for women. Lately it has been embroidery and crochet lessons, but soon they are going to start a project (using the electric serger) where we will be teaching women to make washable sanitary pads. We are sharing fabric (and hopefully machines) with the school. Some of the impermeable fabric was generously donated by Fabricland at the Tillicum Shopping Centre in Victoria (250- 475-7501). The manager there was moved when I told her about San Antonio’s 2010 disasters, and what the fabric would be used for, and  she gave a substantial discount. Another regular project involves a class for mothers with toddlers, where they are taught good nutritional practices, and more. That’s the Thursday morning group, and then in the afternoon there are cooking and Spanish classes.

One of the most delightful days is Fridays, when the group lovingly referred to as the ancianas or, in English, the elderly ladies, come to the centre. They are given a healthy meal and do small sewing projects. Presently they’re making monkeys out of socks! There’s much infectious giggling filling the room as they try on various pairs of glasses (at times, upside down) till they find a pair that actually help with needle threading. Before their meal, they pray fervently, eyes closed, with profound sincerity. How I would love to have an entry into those minds as they pray, as they have no doubt experienced many sorrows throughout their tough lives.


On Saturdays, it’s a lively time at the centre, when the nine-to-thirteen-year-olds appear on the scene. Yesterday they were making fabric art pieces out of scrap material. There’s much hilarity as they dive into the mound of fabric on the floor, searching for the perfect piece for their artistry. Sadly,  many of their pictures are of the terrible mudslides that so recently changed this little town forever.


I had hoped to be blogging more regularly, but somehow the days are so full, that by the time the English lessons are over, the tropical tiredness sets in, and, well, you know how it goes.

Hasta pronto .... Tricia

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Adios from Jacqueline - until January 2012

As I leave Guatemala after three months I am thankful for all that has happened and the positive impact of our three new projects. The greatest joy was to watch the children in their non-stop play and laughter enjoying the newly installed playground equipment.
 





 
This project, sponsored by ICO and funded by Rotary Nelson, services close to 1,000 children and is in full use by the schools for gym classes and recess. It was very special to cut the ribbons at the opening ceremony on a day of great fiesta and sing together the national anthem with heart felt emotion. 

Our initiative for the elders that we are fondly calling our ancianos, has met a real need in San Antonio Palopo. The group consists of fifteen tiny women in their 70s and 80s that look forward immensely to the hotmeal provided on Fridays and an activity that follows. As we listen to their stories, often through tears, we begin to realize that this demographic group suffers deeply. The new generation of young families live in crowded spaces with many children and mounting expenses with no space or money left for the elders. In earlier years they would be part of the household. Yesterday I attended a first birthday celebration for the child of a single Mum, and later in the day the traditional wake around the coffin of Nicolasia, our anciana who sucumbed quickly to pnemonia. Such is the ebb and flow of life. Our excursion around the lake to San Lucas Toliman was a huge success and enjoyed by all the elders. 

Another first this year has been the dental clinic. I have a number of speaking engagements lined up to procure funding for the mobile unit which we realize is essential to aid these communities. The dental work linked with dental education will continue to make a big difference in the general health of those who cannot afford the service and are unaware of the importance of oral hygiene. It was a learning experiece to work with Dr. Juan Jose (John Snively) as I held the patients and he pulled the teeth under some very primitive conditions. We were able to present dental hygiene classes in all the classrooms in town and to many women's groups. This is the way to improve the dental health of the communities in the future.

In all these projects we are honoured to have young Mayan leaders doing an excellent job.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Freddy - Linda's experience in San Antonio Palopo.

Hola everyone,  I am home now from my trip to Guatemala and want to share some of my experiences while they are fresh. 
San Antonio Palapo is such a different world. The village is built on a steep slope, rising up from the lakeshore. A narrow road brings you to the centre of town, near the small white Church, and the Mercado. The rest of the "streets" are steep paths and steps between the jumble of adobe and cement block buildings which seems to defy any building codes or town planning.  The air feels thin up at 5000 feet, as you hike up and down the paths, visiting families. The poverty is shocking- in your face - overwhelming. Many homes have dirt floors, no bathrooms, no furniture, and open hearth fires which blacken the walls and the lungs of those cooking over the thick smoke.   Yet every house seems to have a million dollar view of the shimmering lake with three volcanoes standing guard.  I love watching these mountains form little cloud sombreros, as the heat rises in the morning light. 
 
The Social Centre is a hub of activity in the village with programs for all ages.  I played games with the kids; laughed and ate hot soup with a group of tiny elderly women; watched a group of brave women learning to read and write for the first time.  We started this centre a year ago and over 200 participants are attending programs. There is so much potential here to make a positive impact on this community, which faces multiple challenges with so few resources.   
There are some families that I have come to know over the past 3 years and I enjoy visiting with them.  I am humbled by their endurance and by their grace.  They continue to be very poor. But their warmth and friendliness is so genuine.   When I arrive, someone always brings a plastic stool for me to sit on, while everyone else sits on the dirt floor or stands.   Now, it is time to say goodbye. As I walk away, Freddy calls  "Buen viaje" . I turn and see this young boy looking at me wistfully, with the seat of his jeans hanging together by a thread.  "Gracias Freddy, Adios".                  
  
Linda Woodward Stanton

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mari Cruz has a dream ...

Mari Cruz was inspired when she visited the Social Centre in San Antonio Palopo last year, and had the idea to bring the same model to her community. Here is her story:
Hello, my name is Mari Cruz Arenales, an indigenous woman; I like to help the women in my small town, La Cruz San Lucas Toliman. For the last two years I have been a volunteer leader teaching health and social awareness classes to mothers. I present educational talks to the women in my sector of the town. They are very poor and live in small shacks in the coffee plantation. I help to measure and weigh the children and examine their nutritional health. All my work is volunteer. On Sunday in the Central Market I sell small items in order to obtain sufficient money to support my young daughter.

When Jacqueline came two years ago, she brought new life and hope for me, and my life has changed. Her group is very special and has helped for the last two years in projects with energy efficient stoves and work that benefits my community. The classes in health and nutrition and the smoke-free stoves have prevented respiratory illnesses and eye infections and brought better health. I am very comfortable to be able to help her, my leader, and to change the lives of the poor of my neighbourhood.

Also I have a grand dream ... I would like to start a centre of social work for the women here as their leader. I would like all of the women of the world to be able to live with gratitude. I thank Jacqueline for helping me to realize my dream for now and the future. I want to give friendship and many thanks to the group for the donations of 20 stoves this year and 20 stoves in 2010.

I am 30 years old with one child. I am Mari Cruz Arenales.
 ---------------------------------------------------------


Jacqueline translated Mari Cruz's story.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Kids, Dirt and Enthusiasm - a Photo Essay by Linda

The kids taking part in the Saturday morning program in the Social centre want to grow gardens. However land is at a premium in this densely populated village where the tiny casas are stacked almost on top of one another, up the mountain slope.
So Margaret and I and Felipa from the Social Centre went with 25 kids to collect some clean dirt. First, the kids all went home to collect plastic bags, sacks or buckets and then we headed out of the village on a dirt road which skirts along the lake.

Behind the ceramic workshop, up a steep path, was a pile of soil where everyone enthusiastically filled their containers and scrambled and slid down the hill to the road and back to the village.

Once back at the centre, we gave each child a small plastic bag, the kind used by nurseries to grow seedlings. They collected small stones to provide drainage in the bottom of the bags, and loved getting muddy while stirring water into the dirt until it was nice and moist.
Everyone took great care to transplant their seedlings of beans and cucumbers and took them home to look after them until the garden space is readied at the school.  It was such a fun time, full of enthusiasm and hope.
Linda Woodward Stanton

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Some Project Pics from Felipa

A picture for Kathy (by Nelson)
Linda helps the women try on donated glasses.
Margarita is tracing feet in preparation for buying new shoes
  Jacqueline hands out sets of pots to a stove recipient.        
Jacqueline is gifted a new huipil by the stove recipients. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Such Beauty, Such Heatbreak - from Linda Woodward Stanton in San Antonio Palopo


I took a break this afternoon and walked past the washed out road caused by the landslides in September - up the hill that leads to the Ceramic workshop. I bought  some lovely little bowls with beautiful fish painted inside each one. As I left to walk back to the hotel, I heard Hola Linda being called out.  I turned, and there was Francisca and her daughter and little boys walking back into town with huge loads of wood sticks on their heads. The boys had bare feet and were using head straps - the wood hung down to their ankles. The women just balanced the huge piles on their heads. They cannot afford to buy wood, so they had picked up cut branches from the roadside. They were hot and tired, yet remained cheerful and pleasant to me. I felt so sad to think of the fun we had together yesterday and realized what a happy diversion it must have been from the grinding poverty they live with every day. They had the electricity connected today so at least they will have some light tonight. I said goodbye and walked home as the most magnificent sunset that I have ever seen changed colours behind the volcanoes. This is such a place of contrast; I feel very priviledged to experience all of it ... the beauty, and the heartbreak. 


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Donations needed for our Dental Health and Education program

There is a great need for Dental Health improvement in San Antonio Palopo. Some of you who have read the blog post below from Dr. John Snively have expressed that you would like to donate to Dentistry specifically.  As described by Dr. John: "We regularly see young children, age 3 and younger with all teeth decayed to the gumline. We have a very rudimentary set up - no drills, chair, light, water or suction." If you want to make sure your donation goes to a specific initiative (e.g., dental health or education), here's how:
To donate by cheque, make out your cheque to ICO Foundation, and on the memo line write specific instructions, including the village name (San Antonio Palopo). Send the cheque to:
ICO Foundation, Box 8300, Stn. Central, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada,  V8W 3R9.
To donate online, go to the ICO website:
(http://www.innovativecommunities.org). When you select the fund/designation, choose San Antonio - Education/Community. In the Message/instructions box, write a comment about where you want your money to go. We'll make sure it gets there!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dental Update from Juan Jose (Dr. John Snively)

I wanted to bring you up to date on the dental service as we are currently able to provide it.  In addition I wish to extend my deepest appreciation to those of you who have offered financial support to this most valuable project.  It is a well known fact down here that, unlike the norm in North America, someone can die from a dental infection, yet the ignorance of such basic knowledge continues throughout rural Guatemala.  Through my work as a "biological" dentist I understand the powerful impact of the dental component on whole health.
Click here to view photos of the Dental Project
Early on in my career I worked as an itinerant dentist in the Canadian Arctic, flying into remote Inuit settlements with portable equipment, but never have I seen such widespread infection, loss of teeth and unavailability of both service and education.  We are truly overwhelmed by the need. We are working in very primitive conditions. 
This photo shows you the "Sterilization Centre" in the village Health Clinic where we have been graciously provided the use of the Doctor's office for our days in the clinic.  That's an ancient aluminum pressure cooker atop a gas range! A single sterilization cycle requires almost 1 hour, not to mention constant monitoring to prevent it from "blowing up".  Understandably, we are called up to perform primary surgical service through extractions; some cases are very challenging with deep and widespread infections.  We see mostly women and children as men are working in the fields or elsewhere. We regularly see young children, age 3 and younger with all teeth decayed to the gumline. It's so tragic! We have a very rudimentary set up, no drills, chair, light, water or suction, so we go through a ton of gauze during/after surgery.  We hope to somehow fundraise for a basic and simple dental treatment centre that can provide more services including an ongoing "basic cleaning" and education centre by training a local young woman to provide these services in our absence.  There is also the potential of attracting other foreign dentists to come and provide service if a clinic is available.
The key is, of course, "Education", for one cannot take responsibility without being properly informed. Toward this end we have begun offering classes to groups of women in several villages, and soon will be doing dental health education presentations through the local school.  It is so gratifying to see the light go on in their eyes through our presentations.We are feeling both inspired and compelled as the need is obvious as is the gratitude of the indigenous people.  What a gift in both directions!
I would like to personally thank all those who have contributed to this, our first dental service visit.  In particular, the Nelson morning Rotary Club, whose generous donation of a "Dental Pack" through HPI contained sundries without which none of this would be possible. In addition, monies were made available through the scarf sales to purchase additional surgical instruments.  Thanks to you as well. And to all of you who are supporting us with your prayers, I am truly grateful.  My heart continues to open in the most magical ways here, and all of you reading this are "making an enormous difference" simply by sending your love.
Mil gracias
Juan Jose