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

Monday, February 7, 2011

Progress in San Antonio Palopo: New volunteers arrive to meet the challenge

I am so delighted to introduce our newly arrived team of volunteers.  How easy it is to fall in love with the people here and quickly find yourself involved in an intensive project.  This lively team from British Columbia, Canada, is involved in some exciting new efforts that truly make a difference.

Greg Lawrence (above) from Nelson BC, was warmly greeted by Mari Cruz, our stove rep in La Cruz.  His reputation as stove installer, photographer and his friendly nature is well respected and remembered from the year before.  This year we have 110 more stoves to monitor in three communities.  He is taking a critical look at the temporary school and taking action to make necessary improvements.  His objective view on the disaster is most helpful.
Greg's wife, Marilyn Lawrence (below), a skilled teacher and Rotarian from Nelson, BC, is presenting helpful and innovative teaching methods for our social centre's teachers to observe.  She is working with groups from 3-13 years of age.  Her creative presence and ideas have the centre alive with colorful visuals and learning toys.  In the evenings people will benefit from her English classes.  Her passion for these needy people touches my heart. 
 Dr. John Snively (below), from the Oak Bay Rotary Club in Victoria BC, has been here for a month presenting the dental initiative.
Long line ups appeared outside the health center with people wanting to have their teeth pulled.  The need is so great as little or no service or education has ever been offered.  I had my first opportunity to take a look at some of these amazing mouths and was shocked to the core by the negative effect of overuse of sugar/junk food and lack of dental education.  In March every classroom will receive dental hygiene/health instruction by John and Carmen (photo with John, above), an indigenous hygienist in training.  He is truly dedicated to addressing cause/prevention while he is here.
 Bob Hargreaves (above), also a Rotarian from Nelson, has already made an impact with his managerial skills in getting clear estimates from local welders, along with input from the mayor, for the construction of a playground.  There are over 1000 children here without a dedicated place to play.

Bob's wife, Cathy Hargreaves (above) is organizing a group of women from the poorest barrio of Chocruz to be instructed in sewing on the two newly donated machines in the centre.  There is real enthusiasm here.

From this you will begin to see the wonderful contribution we can make as we share our various gifts.  I am looking forward to Friday when we greet our first group of widows for the hot lunch and conversation weekly initiative.  Due to crowded conditions of space and time these are the most marginalized and needy group, according to Santo, the mayor.
There is much I have left out but I would have to say my greatest delight comes in visiting the homes and spending time with the families.  They have so little but are so generous; they welcome us in with open hearts and pride.  I have come to love so many of the people here over the years and our presence is deeply appreciated.  Truly our experience here gives back to us far more than we can ever provide for them.