Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Update from Jacqueline

Nutrition Classes in San Antonio Palopo and Santa Caterina Palopo

Marie Cruz Arenales with the women of La Cruz, in their new "digs".
Having completed three weeks here in Guatemala, my enthusiasm for this great work has not dwindled. Our dental clinic concluded last week allowing time for me to concentrate more fully on other projects. Tricia is now with family in Rio Dulce and John is enjoying Tzununa. As an important  followup to the dental work, I enjoyed presenting lively participatory courses in nutrition and dental hygiene to 1000 school children in elementary classes last week. I was delighted when many little ones stopped me on the street to express their enthusiasm of the presentation. To change the health of a community we need, of course, to start with the children. Being an artist, I am drawn to the bright coloured threads of the weavers. Over  fifteen family groups are busily weaving the new scarf designs which you will see in the spring. Nothing draws us closer than creating the colourful patterns together with  passionate zeal. 

Nevertheless, my main focus this year is a new initiative in La Cruz, San Lucas Toliman, a coffee plantation village of 13,000. Probably the poorest village on the lake, these folk are ready to improve their destiny after years of neglect and abuse. The ramshackled wooden  shacks are bulging with very large families and no sanitation. These rented homes serve all year round, but employment on the plantation covers only two months of the year. Last year the women asked to have a centre; this year it is fast becoming a reality. 

I began with the objective of sustainability by igniting the power from within the group. With the generous help of your donations via ICO we have rented a cement block house central to all which will serve the expressed needs of the women. Each family that receives one of the efficient ONIL stoves contributes a moderate amount of quetzales to buy essential furnishings so that they may begin to call it theirs. The new centre is run by ten dedicated women who have already registered as a cooperative. They express their true intentions in these words:

1. The will to live freely day by day.
2. To be a successful  group of women.
3. To create a peaceful sanctuary for all women.
4.  To work together for the betterment of all by providing needed courses.
5. To be a leading example of ecological conservation.
6. To provide a place and equipment for women to sew marketable products.
7. To include women of all ages and status.

This is a profound beginning. I am engaged in helping to organize activities and to suggest  good designs for marketable products, both sewn and painted, plus some essential accounting advice.  We are installing inverted  plastic water bottles in the roof lamina to refract the sunlight. Hopefully this will be a model  that others will follow. We are looking for funding to house the outdoor "biffy" and to buy an industrial machine and overlocker. The finishing always makes the difference.With this strong motivation for success, these women will do well indeed, and will soon be independent of outside assistance. 

I gladly offer all the support required until I return to Canada at the end of March.                                             
Dental Education

 Submitted by Jacqueline Mealing

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