Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Stoves Transform Lives - posted by Linda

In San Antonio Palopo, people spend many hours gathering wood, or precious dollars buying it. Everywhere, wood is carried up the hill to burn for cooking and warmth. ONIL stoves burn 70% less firewood than open hearth fires and stop homes from filling with health destroying smoke.  This young woman lives alone in a tiny space made of rough boards and metal sheets.  Inside it is filled with a few simple possessions and cages of chickens and turkeys, which she raises.  She sleeps on a rush mat on the dirt floor, in front of her ONIL stove, which she received last year.  She was so happy to show us her new stove, and thanked us with an offer of a couple of fresh eggs, carefully brought out of a little basket. Such a sweet and generous gesture.  

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Scholarship students

Our scholarship program allows students to continue beyond Grade 6, and to finish High School.  For many families, the additional costs associated with Jr and Sr. High are prohibitive.  These costs include school uniforms, school supplies, and transportation into Panajachel for High School students.  In exchange, the "Becados"  must keep up their grades, and volunteer at the Centre.  These boys dug a compost pit one Saturday, and the girls were cleaning, organizing the office, and making new posters.  On Saturdays, they also mentor younger students who are struggling with their school work.  These hardworking students are the future for San Antonio Palopo.   

Posted by Linda

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A new school is on the way!

This new wood has been purchased and is stacked in the town plaza to dry before the construction starts.  Every night several men stay up in the cold wind, to guard it.  Groups of volunteers are ready to start the construction in another week, and it is hoped that this temporary school will be ready by the end of Easter week.  500 primary school children will use this space, in two shifts. 

The town of San Antonio Palopo is very thankful to everyone who has contributed to this project and the future of their children's education.  

Posted by Linda.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A note from Mary Lynch

Hi friends and supporters of our Guatemala project.

I am finally back after 8 years to work on our project here in  San Antonio Palopo on the shores of Lake Atitlan. I am so happy to be back in this village that I love so much - in spite of the extreme poverty, it is beautiful and the people have been so warm and welcoming.

We have been very busy with our  projects, especially working with the centre in the little casita, where we have programs for women and children in great need. One of my favourites is the lunch we serve once a week to a group of 17 ancianas - elderly women, some of whom  have only this one full meal a week. Most of them are barefoot and have only a few teeth left, but they are delightful to  spend time with; even though they speak little Spanish (they speak their indigenous language), we somehow communicate beautifully. Yesterday, we all danced together after lunch - lots of smiles and chuckles and some tears.

One of our concerns is that the temporary school in the basement of the church, established after the school was damaged by the mudslides 5 years ago, is being forced out of the church on March 31st. As the government  won't build a proper school, another temporary school for 500 students is being built by the parents on top of the mercado and as, again, there was no  government help, we are financing it. And we think our government is bad!

We only have a week left - it will be hard to leave - and we have so much more to do.

Much love to all of  you and a heartfelt thank you for your interest and support,


The Casita - posted by Linda

Every Monday a group of up to 17 elderly women come to the Casita for a hot lunch and some social time together.  These women are all widows, and live on their own with very little. They have experienced a lot of grief, losing husbands and children.  Their lovely smiles show their appreciation of this time together and they always begin their meal with a prayer.   Yesterday Brenda played  some traditional music off her computer  and we danced with these women, who giggled with delight. 

The preschool program runs 3 mornings a week and currently there are 14 four year olds attending. They are served a nutritious snack and enjoy playing games and making friends, like children do everywhere.  

The Casita is such an inviting space for all ages to come and enjoy !  

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Colectiva

The Women's Collectiva has been working with Magdelena  (in red dress below)

and together they have discussed the principles of teamwork, and their aspirations for the group. Brenda (in the boat below)
is hardworking and enthusiastic about her job as the coordinator of the ICO Centre. Together  these women want to contribute  to the betterment of their community. They have lots of ideas about future programs that could be offered in the "Casita", our affectionate name for the lovely property where the Centre is located.  The Colectiva is a concept that fits well for these women, who have had little opportunity to demonstrate their potential and develop leadership skills.    It is an exciting time to be in San Antonio Palopo.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Volunteers in San Antonio Palopo

Kathy, Linda and Mary have been in San Antonio Palopo now almost 2 weeks.  This is a place of spectacular beauty and immense poverty.  We have had a productive time and have been very busy in meetings with the Colectiva and our staff person, Brenda.  We were incredibly lucky to make  a connection with a Guatemalan woman who works with indigenous women's groups and she has volunteered her expertise and skill to assist in the ongoing training and support of the Colectiva and Brenda.  Magdalena has already met with them for two workshops; she is inspiring.  Walking on the many footpaths through the village always brings a surprise, like watching the women wash chickens in preparation for a special feast, 

or talking to these men (below) resting from packing heavy loads up the hill.  

Riding pickup trucks is the way to get in and out of town and is quite an adventure.  It is a privilege to be here, where we are welcomed with friendly smiles and are feeling positive about our work.  More on that in the next entry.