Sunday, March 4, 2012

February Roundup at Lake Atitlan (Kathy)

Waiting for a new ONIL stove - and perhaps a block house.
Belated greetings.  Time flies!  Needless to say there has not been a dull moment.  First of all, the ever changing Canadian characters: Jacqueline Mealing arrived on the 5th of February and jumped right into the fray helping with the dental team, engaging weavers in making scarves for us, and growing an initiative that includes stoves, in La Cruz, which is a very poor part of San Lucas Toliman (see Jacqueline’s blog below). Then new University graduate Robin Lattimer arrived. She is writing up a report on all our activities here on behalf of ICO. She followed us around for a few days and took lots of notes before continuing her 2-year adventure in Latin America.  

On the 10th, Margaret Gray and Suzanne Hamilton arrived. They are also visiting 2 other ongoing (and separate from San Antonio) ICO scholarship programs in San Pedro and Solola.  In San Antonio they are using their expertise in teaching English as a foreign language to work with some of our high school scholarship students. Best of all, they are here for a month and are involving themselves wherever needed.
Dianne Perry (above), our adventure coordinator, who pitched in and made herself indispensable, left last Sunday after 3 weeks of full-on activity.  The First Aid `course´ for teachers was a hit and the school now has a well stocked First Aid Kit as does the Centro Qawinaq.  Dianne will be especially remembered for the Ancianas´ Beauty Salon. All the wonderful elders who come for lunch and social time on Mondays were offered a shampoo and massage of the scalp.  They jumped at the offer and a great time was had by all. [Below: two of the lucky recipients of Dianne's beauty treatment.]

Maria Consalvo (below), our very entertaining, extremely dedicated, professional dental assistant departed on the 14th after donating 6 weeks of her time and much needed skills to the dental initiative.  She held her own admirably in this sea of aging volunteers!!

Maria and Ursula provide piezo cleaning service, using the Rotary donated Mobile Dental Unit 
Tricia Timmermans just left yesterday, after 6 weeks of being an integral part of the dental team, teaching English twice a week, attending Board meetings (below) and giving invaluable advice on that subject and much more. And John Snively, el dentista, without whom none of that program would have happened, has now retired to his home across the Lake for some well-earned vacation time (see his blog entry below).

In the meantime our local 'staff' has been going full tilt organizing the ONIL stove deliveries in 4 different locations. We've hired Beatriz (below, interviewing a possible stove recipient), a young high school graduate, to head up the project here in San Antonio and she is doing an amazing job of organizing this. The others are old hands at it, thankfully. A couple of weeks ago we went to a village above Santa Catarina where we will place 25 stoves. I love the trips to these places where the population is small, there is much more land and lots of it is fairly flat and the village is more spread out. Each family has room for chickens, pigs and can grow vegetables. However the families are large and poor so this may not last very long as they divide the property up among the children. 

Another amazing thing that is happening for us here is the donation of a lovely piece of property with a small stone and wood house and beautiful garden on it.  It was purchased and built 24 years ago by 3 men from the U.S. who have recently come to realize that their infrequent visits to San Antonio (the last one nearly 10 years ago) don’t justify keeping a house here. Having formed heartfelt connections in the community here they didn’t want to merely sell the property. When they heard about our program the donation process started (with negotiations being handled by Owen, a delightful young nephew of one of the owners) and the house is to be used for our Centro Qawinaq. In order to do this I had to be given power of attorney on behalf of ICO and we are in the process of finalizing this. Owen and I met in the lawyer’s office in Guatemala City on the 29th of February (photo below) and did a preliminary signing. I will have to go back again to sign one more thing but it is basically done. In the meantime the keys have been handed over and we have taken possession. One of the Directiva members, Cristobal, has leapt into action using all his skills to organize the purchase and installation of a pump and water pipes so we can get water from the lake for the garden (a major production), install ‘balcones’ or gates on the doors and windows, pull up the old tile floor and replace it with cement, and treat the wood in the building for bugs that are eating it!  Francisco is talking to the municipality to see about getting hooked up to drinking water, and before that happens we need to clean out the never-used water tank and the taquacin that are living in the structure surrounding the tank.  These are animals that look like a cross between a rat and a possum and make a lot of noise on a corrugated metal roof.

Owen and Kathy signing the legal papers.
Before we started digging things up the Friday morning, pre-school children came for a visit to inspect the house and then sit on the grass and draw pictures of flowers and trees.  The scene was perfect and they were awfully cute. All the Maya involved with the Centro are thrilled about this gift and eager to help do whatever is needed. It has been very rewarding to work on it together. Francisco commented at a meeting that many times in the past groups have formed to try to do something in San Antonio for the benefit of the village in whatever form BUT they hardly ever get anywhere for lack of funds.
Gate to the property
Outside deck of the casita
The tutoring program seems to be a great success.  Our scholarship students who go to high school in another town are working hard for their transportation money. Each one tutors a small group of students from the primary school, who, according to their teachers, are not doing very well and could use some extra help. Often in the homes there are too many children, or the parents can neither read nor write, so doing homework gets completely neglected and the children suffer in school.  Felipa (below, entertaining the kids in the new centre), our Centro Qawinak coordinator, has met with all the parents to explain the program and they are thrilled. 

It is amazing to be a part of all this thanks to your amazing support.  We are growing a program and hope you will grow with us and know you are a huge part of it and that without you it wouldn’t happen. Thank you and know that you have been blessed many times by those who are benefiting from your generosity.

Kathy Coster, March 3, 2012

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